Politics

Tice says he will be ‘surprised’ if Reform UK does not get more Tory MPs joining – UK politics live


Tice says he will be ‘surprised’ if Reform UK does not get more Tory MPs joining before election

Richard Tice claims he will “surprised” if Reform UK does not get more Tory MP joining before the general election (although he accepts that is unlikely if the election is called this month, for a poll in May).

Share

Updated at 

Key events

Lee Anderson’s defection to Reform UK press conference – summary and analysis

The last time Richard Tice, the Reform UK leader, held a press conference at Westminster, it was a bit of a flop because journalists were expecting Nigel Farage, the party’s honorary president, and he was a no-show. This time Tice did have a biggish personality with him, and a news story. According to the Guardian’s poll tracker, support for Reform UK have gone from 9% at the start of the year to 11%. Today’s announcement confirms the party has some momentum behind it, and it may provide a futher boost. But support at this level is way behind what Ukip was getting at the height of its popularity, and it almost certainly would not be enough for the party to win any seats at the next election.

Apart from the fact that Reform UK now has an MP, here are other things we learned.

I will be surprised if there are no more other MPs from other parties who don’t join Reform before the general election.

Tice accepted this forecast would not apply to an election in May, but very few people at Westminster now expect it that early. There are claims that up to nine Tory MPs are in talks to join the party. (See 10.24am.) Defections on this scale would be a huge blow to Rishi Sunak, but there is a long history of smaller parties making claims about potential defections that never actually happen.

When I find myself suspended for speaking my mind, and by the way speaking up on behalf of millions of people up and down the country who agree with me, that for me is unpalatable. It’s a shocker, if I’m honest.

I cannot be a part of an organisation which stifles free speech, and many of my colleagues in that place, in the Conservative party, do back back me on this privately.

Yet, after he lost the whip over his comments, Anderson put out a statement saying he accepted No 10 had no option but to do this. Anderson later said that his words had been “clumsy”, and he even wrote an article for the Daily Express accepting his use of the word “Islamist” had been problematic. Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the Commons, commended what he said in that article, telling MPs it represented Anderson’s more measured, “genuine view”. Today Anderson implied that it didn’t, and that he had no regrets about his original outburst.

It is no secret that I’ve been talking to my friends in Reform for a while. And Reform UK has offered me the chance to speak out in Parliament on behalf of millions of people up and down the country who feel that they’re not being listened to.

People will say that I’ve took a gamble. And I’m prepared to gamble on myself, as I know from my mailbag how many people in this country support Reform UK and what they have to say. And like millions of people up and down the country, all I want is my country back.

  • Tice confirmed that immigration, “gender ideology” and net zero would be key election themes for Reform UK. (See 10.39am.) On migration, he claimed that mass immigration was making the country poorer – even though mainstream economists generally say the opposite.

  • Tice claimed that the conduct of people on the pro-Palestinian marches was creating “genuine fear” amongst people in the Jewish community and he cited this as further evidence that Britiain was “broken”. He even claimed that many Jewish people were “thinking about leaving London to go back to Israel”. Mike Katz, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, described his comments at antisemitic and wrong.

“Many [British Jews] are thinking about leaving London to go back to Israel?”

No @TiceRichard. Height of ignorance (& casually antisemitism); most British Jews were born here and like living here.

Stop using Jews as a political football. Get yourself educated and do one.

— Mike Katz (@mikekatz) March 11, 2024

“Many [British Jews] are thinking about leaving London to go back to Israel?”

No @TiceRichard. Height of ignorance (& casually antisemitism); most British Jews were born here and like living here.

Stop using Jews as a political football. Get yourself educated and do one.

To be clear, in his scripted remarks Reform leader @TiceRichard, in his scripted remarks, said that Jews here are thinking of *going back* [my emphasis] to Israel.

Ignorant antisemitism, when he purports to support Jews who worry about growing antisemitism. We see you.

  • Anderson defended his decision not to resign and trigger a byelection – even though in the past he backed a bill that said a byelection should happen if an MP defected to another party, as he has done. This is from the Mirror’s Ashley Cowburn.

Asked why he was not willing to trigger a byelection, Anderson said that it would be reckless to hold a byelection when there could be a byelection in May. He also said a byelection would be expensive.

My parents have been saying to me for weeks now, you cannot win, we can’t vote for you being in the Conservative party.

If my parents are saying that, what chance have I got?

Richard Tice (left) and Lee Anderson at their press conference. Photograph: James Veysey/REX/Shutterstock
Jessica Murray

Jessica Murray

Lee Anderson has represented the Nottinghamshire seat of Ashfield as a Conservative MP since 2019, having previously served as a Labour councillor on Ashfield district council.

Jason Zadrozny, the leader of the council who is vying for Anderson’s seat as an independent candidate at the next election (see 12pm), described his defection as the “worst kept secret in Ashfield”. Zadrozny said:

Ashfield people do not want the continuing soap opera of Lee Anderson. The fact that he is defecting to another ramshackle, right-wing political party is the worst kept secret in Ashfield.

People in Ashfield just want an MP to speak up for their concerns and deliver results for them. Living standards in Ashfield have plummeted since Anderson became the MP and these shenanigans do not help a single struggling family here. If Lee Anderson truly cared about local people, then today’s announcement would have been his resignation.

Owen Winter from the Economist points out that, when Lee Anderson seeks reelection as a Reform UK candidate in Ashfield, he will be up against not just the main parties, but also Jason Zadrozny, a local independent who came second last time. At the recent Rochdale byelection another independent came second, behind George Galloway.

Ashfield is a very interesting constituency. Zadrozny is running again, having swept the council elections last year. Labour and Reform will both be targeting it. Wonder if Conservatives could slip to fourth pic.twitter.com/i6qN1WIgLM

— Owen Winter (@OwenWntr) March 11, 2024

Ashfield is a very interesting constituency. Zadrozny is running again, having swept the council elections last year. Labour and Reform will both be targeting it. Wonder if Conservatives could slip to fourth

Labour says Lee Anderson’s defection to Reform UK shows Tory party ‘too extreme to be led’

Labour says the defection of Lee Andereson shows that Rishi Sunak’s judgment is flawed and that the Conservative party is “too extreme to be led”. This is from Pat McFadden, Labour’s national campaign coordinator.

While the Conservatives are falling apart, Labour is focussed on turning the page on 14 year of Tory failure.

What does it say about Rishi Sunak’s judgement that he promoted Lee Anderson in the first place?

The truth is that the prime minister is too weak to lead a party too extreme to be led, and if the Tories got another five years it would all just get worse.

In his response to one of the questions at the press conference, Lee Anderson said that a lot of the current Tory MPs won’t be in the Commons in a year’s time. I misheard what he originally said, and have updated and corrected the post at 10.59am. You may need to refresh the page to get the update to appear.

Lee Anderson leaving the Reform UK press conference. Photograph: James Veysey/REX/Shutterstock

Hope not Hate, which campaigns against racism and fascism, has said that Lee Anderson’s defection to Reform UK is an indictment of Richard Tice’s party. Its director of campaigns Georgie Laming said:

Lee Anderson is one of the most extreme and divisive MPs in Parliament. He’s said immigrants should ‘fuck off back to France’ and made Islamophobic comments about Sadiq Khan.

Joining Reform UK tells us all we need to know about Anderson and his new party.

Two months ago the Conservative party posted a video message on X showing Rishi Sunak and Lee Anderson banging on together about how awful it was that Bristol University no longer plays the national anthem at graduation ceremonies. Anderson was deputy Tory chair at the time, having been appointed in February last year in a surprise move by Sunak that designed to show voters that he was comfortable with the sort of GB News, reactionary populism represented by Anderson.

Sunak has now joined the long list of Conservative leaders with mainstream inclinations who have learned that trying to accommodate rightwingers tends not to work. Anderson’s defection would have been a story in any circumstances, but is a bigger event than it otherwise would have been because he joins Reform UK as a former Tory deputy chair.

Tories say they regret Anderson’s defection, but that voting Reform UK will only help Labour

Commenting on Lee Anderson’s defection, a Conservative party spokesperson said:

Lee himself said he fully accepted that the chief chip had no option but to suspend the whip in these circumstances. We regret he’s made this decision. Voting for Reform can’t deliver anything apart from a Keir Starmer-led Labour government that would take us back to square one – which means higher taxes, higher energy costs, no action on channel crossings, and uncontrolled immigration.

Q: What was the turning point for you?

Anderson says he has done a lot of soul searching. When he had the whip withdrawn for speaking his mind, and saying many people agreed with him, that was “a shocker”, he says. And he claims many Tory MPs agree with him.

And that is the end of the press conference.

Q: Has Anderson been offered money to defect?

No money has been offered, says Anderson.

Q: What is your message to colleagues?

Anderson say it is a sad day leaving his colleagues.

Tice says Reform UK will be working to get Anderson re-elected.

UPDATE: This post originally reported Anderson as saying that in a year’s time a lot of Tory MPs would be sitting with him (ie, in Reform), but in fact he said a lot of Tory MPs would not there then (ie, not in the Commons). He said:

Yes, and I feel a little bit bruised as well because I sit with my colleagues on a daily basis looking at the opposition benches, and, quite frankly apart from maybe some of the DUPs, there’s nothing I’ve got in common with anybody over there.

So I’ve got to go and sit with them, I’ll probably be sat with George Galloway who I completely oppose. But I respect his right to be there, he was democratically elected.

I’ve got a lot of friends that sit on the benches with me, who have shown me a hell of a lot of support by private messages and phone calls and stuff like that, and the odd text and WhatsApp message.

So I’ll be sad to leave them, but if I’m honest, unfortunately, a lot of my colleagues won’t be there in a year’s time.

Share

Updated at 

Tice says when he was growing up people were taught they could trust the government, the police and the Post Office.

But now collapse in all three has collapsed, he says.

He says if an election is called for May, Reform UK are ready.

Tice says all extremism is bad, but the most frightening extremism on the streets now is coming from people who are putting the Jewish community in fear, he suggests.

Anderson says he agrees with most of what Rishi Sunak said in his speech in Downing Street.

But people want action, he says.

He says he does not feel safe outside parliament; sometimes he has to use a different exit from the building.

He says he recalls the miners’ strike. At the time the police ensured working miners could still go to work.

He says he blames Sadiq Khan for the problems in London. Politicians keep saying things are unacceptable. But action is needed.

Tice says at the weekend someone was arrested for holding a placard saying Hamas are a terrorist group – even though that is government policy.

The Met police said at the weekend that this was not true.

Share

Updated at 

Tice says he will be ‘surprised’ if Reform UK does not get more Tory MPs joining before election

Richard Tice claims he will “surprised” if Reform UK does not get more Tory MP joining before the general election (although he accepts that is unlikely if the election is called this month, for a poll in May).

Share

Updated at 

Q: Why won’t you call a byelection?

Anderson and Richard Tice say the general election will be taking place soon, so there is no need.





READ SOURCE