Rishi Sunak has appointed “Red Wall Rottweiler” Lee Anderson as the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party.
The pro-Brexit MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire was brought in as deputy to Greg Hands, the new chairman, who backed Remain in 2016.
Mr Anderson, a former miner, has attracted controversy over his criticism of England footballers for taking the knee and remarks that food bank users “cannot budget”.
The appointment followed the sacking of Nadhim Zahawi as party chairman last month after he was found to have breached the Ministerial Code in relation to his tax affairs.
Mr Anderson retweeted the surprise announcement from the official Conservative Twitter account, writing:
The 56-year-old is a former Labour member, having represented the party as an Ashfield District councillor until his suspension in February 2018.
He was suspended for receiving a community protection warning from Ashfield District Council “after placing boulders to deter travellers from setting up camp at a site in the area”, according to the Mansfield Chad newspaper.
Mr Anderson defected to the Tories a month later, blaming a “takeover” of Labour by the “hard-Left” under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
He took the Ashfield seat from Labour in 2019 as part of Boris Johnson’s success in Red Wall constituencies, traditional heartlands of Labour support in the Midlands and the North.
Mr Anderson has become known for his outspoken views during his three years in Westminster, and last May suggested that people in the UK use food banks because they “cannot cook properly” and “cannot budget”. He said people coming to collect a food parcel in his constituency were being shown how to cook meals for “about 30 pence a day”.
In 2021, when the men’s Euro 2020 football tournament was taking place, he vowed to boycott England matches in protest at the players’ anti-racism stance of taking the knee before games.
In a video on Facebook in July that year, he said “I don’t like the taking the knee business” because it was associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mr Sunak chose Mr Anderson as deputy chairman despite the MP apparently criticising the Government’s approach to unlawful immigration. In messages reportedly leaked from a WhatsApp group, he is said to have stated that ministers were acting “like the band on the Titanic”.
The alleged comments came after a Sunday Express story claimed Whitehall officials were trying to “scupper” the Prime Minister’s plans to tackle small boats crossing the Channel.
Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, retweeting the Titanic remarks and wrote: “Update: he’s been handed a deckchair.”
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