LIVE – Updated at 09:24
Latest updates: CCHQ and government say they do not endorse Anderson’s view.
Good morning. When Lee Anderson was appointed Conservative party deputy chairman on Tuesday, it was widely assumed that his stance as a rent-a-quote reactionary would soon create awkward headlines for the Tories and it has happened already. Anderson gave an interview to the Spectator before his appointment and it has been published this morning. In it, asked if he would support the return of the death penalty, he replied:
Yes. Nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed. You know that, don’t you? 100% success rate.
The death penalty was abolished in the 1960s, in part because of concern that miscarriages of justice meant innocent people were sometimes killed by the state. Anderson told the Spectator that he could see the problem, and that he would only want the death penalty used where there was no doubt about guilt. He said:
Now I’d be very careful on that one (the return of the death penalty) because you’ll get the certain groups saying: ‘You can never prove it’.
Well, you can prove it if they have videoed it and are on camera – like the Lee Rigby killers.
I mean: they should have gone, same week. I don’t want to pay for these people.
Of course, restoring the death penalty is not remotely Conservative party policy (and it would require the UK to leave the European convention on human rights, which is not Rishi Sunak’s policy, but is a move favoured by some Tories, including Suella Braverman, the home secretary). CCHQ and the government have not endorsed Anderson’s view. The Conservative party said that the interview took place before Anderson became deputy chair, and that his view on the death penalty wasn’t the government’s.
And Claire Coutinho, the children’s minister who was doing a media round this morning, said that Anderson was “a very good thing for the party”, even though she did not agree with him on this.
In his Spectator interview Anderson said that comments deemed outrageous at Westminster were often popular with voters. He said:
If I say something that is supposedly outrageous in that place [the Commons], I get back to Ashfield on a Thursday, people will come out the shops and say, “You say what I’m thinking.”
As Tory deputy chair, Anderson is not a member of the government, and he is certainly not in charge of penal policy, and so in one sense his views don’t matter. But that does not mean they are not important. Rishi Sunak did not appoint him despite his hardline and illiberal views on crime, welfare, immigration etc. He appointed him because of them. Anderson is supposed to show working class Ukip and Brexit party voters that their views are represented in the Tory party.
But if, as soon as Anderson does something likely to appeal to this constituency, government colleagues say they don’t agree, then at some point the man in the Ashfield shopping centre might feel he’s being strung along.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: Kemi Badenoch, the new business and trade secretary, takes questions in the Commons.
9.45am: Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, gives evidence to the Commons Treasury committee.
Morning: Sunak is on a visit to a family hub in the south-west of England to promote the family hubs and start for life programme.
10.30am: The former MP Jared O’Mara is due to be sentenced after being convicted of expenses fraud.
11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.
There is also a byelection today in West Lancashire, a safe Labour seat.
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