Lee Anderson, former Tory Chairman and MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, has abandoned The Conservative Party in favour of joining Reform UK. Reform, a party that was created in a split from UKIP, is a right wing party with hard Eurosceptic views. Anderson will be the only current member of Reform in the House of Commons. 

Anderson prior to his defection had the whip removed after making Islamophobic comments on GB News. The former Tory made unproven statements about ‘Islamists’ having control of the government, in particular control over Keir Starmer and London Mayor Sadiq Khan:

“I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London, and they’ve got control of Starmer as well.”

Shortly after these comments were made Anderson was suspended. Little less than a month later he announced his defection to Reform UK. Commenting on the decision to join Reform, Sadiq Khan seemed little surprised and highly critical both of Anderson, and the Prime Minister:

“This is a man who said things that were clearly Islamophobic, anti-Muslim and racist…The Prime Minister hasn’t got the guts or the backbone to call them what they were.”

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in an interview, was full of praise for Lee Anderson’s character stating, “the comments he made were wrong, unacceptable and ill judged…” Yet, he then reached the somewhat counter-logical view that: “I don’t believe Lee is a racist person or an Islamophobic person.”

This comes from the leader of a party who’s predecessor in his own column in the Daily Mail referred to veiled Muslim women as “letterboxes” – a comment and article which contributed to a significant rise in anti-Muslim acts. This we should remember is a party which has had their largest donor, Frank Hester who has given ten million pounds to the party, making comments about hating people of colour. This followed an interview in which he said “you see Diane Abboton the TV, and you’re just like I hate, you just want to hate all black women because she’s there, and I don’t hate all black women at all, but I think she should be shot.”

Tory Peer, Lord Marland told LBC that these comments could not be racist because Hester does business with people in Malaysia, Jamaica and Bangladesh.

In an interview with Sky News, Keir Starmer also seemed reluctant to ascribe the word ‘racist’ to Lee Andersons comments. In fact the Labour Leader seemed more concerned with “division” within the Conservative Party. Seeming to pick up on what the Labour Leader was unwilling to comment on was Zarah Sultana, who in a thread on X noted that Anderson’s comments were systemic of a larger issue within the Conservative Party and the UK.

“Just this week, Suella Braverman wrote an article saying “the Islamists are in charge”. Robert Jenrick told Parliament “we have allowed our streets to be dominated by Islamist extremists.” These absurd claims by Tory MPs whip up anti-Muslim hatred, stoking far-right ideas about Muslims “taking over” and being “an enemy within”.

However, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch was clear that the remarks were not simply inappropriate but racist. Perhaps the Conservative Party could donate the £10 million to Reform where racism is not only tolerated, but racists are welcomed with open arms.

With division in the Labour Party on such issues and a divided Conservative Party unclear what constitutes racism, the coming general election will surely see Islamaphobia play its part. Neither the Conservatives nor Labour have spotless records in this regard and who could blame Black and Muslim voters for seeking alternative candidates. Were that to happen the biggest losers would certainly be Labour who have tended to take those votes for granted.


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