Lee Anderson refuses to apologise for migrant comment
As far as “interviews” go it was a pretty brief one but the impact is still reverberating around the political and media classes.
On Monday, as the row was raging over whether illegal migrants should be forced to live on a large barge moored in Portland Harbour near Bournemouth, the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, Lee Anderson, was taking his parents on a tour of Parliament.
The Ashfield MP, a regular and popular contributor to Express.co.uk, spotted me across Portcullis House and came over to say hello.
The question was quickly asked: “What do you think of this barge business?”
Without hesitation he answered: “If they don’t like barges then they should f*** off back to France.”
“Can I quote you on the record?”
Within half an hour the story was online and Mr Anderson had, not for the first time, blown up the political discourse for the next 48 hours.
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READ MORE: Lee Anderson tells anti-barge illegal migrants to ‘f*** off back to France’
This is, of course, why Rishi Sunak made the surprise but very wise decision to appoint the ex-miner and former Labour councillor and activist as his party’s Deputy Chairman on February 7 this year.
In fact, of all the appointments Sunak has made, Anderson’s elevation may have been his most controversial but it has certainly been his best.
The 56-year-old had already won a reputation as a straight speaking anti-woke working class hero among Tory MP colleagues.
He is a popular guest speaker for MPs events only asking for a donation to the charity to tackle male suicide that he collects for.
While he is seen as the face of the sort of voter who abandoned Labour in the Red Wall and has hero status among many Conservatives, he is equally loathed by Labour and the left who like to portray him as “far right” or similar insults.
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Anderson has embraced his role which is why he has ended up with his own GB News show which even includes a “left in the corner” politician from a leftwing party.
But it is his no nonsense clarity and bluntness have what endeered him to many and made him a hated figure for others.
Telling illegal migrants (he refuses to call them asylum seekers) “to “f*** off back to France” (if they don’t like the Bibby Stockholm barge) was exactly what needed to be said.
But the more refined members of the government, including Mr Sunak, cannot bring themselves to say it and frankly would not get away with it in the same way.
In saying what he said, Anderson really was speaking for the silent majority in Britain who are fed up with the whole illegal migrant show and the way Labour and the left have tried to thwart all efforts to stop the small boats.
The outrage by leftwingers in the broadcast media including the BBC and on social media only amplified Mr Anderson message and reinforced him.
That is why Mr Sunak felt comfortable coming out in support of him instead of sacking him as did Justice Secretary Alex Chalk.
“He may be salty but he speaks for Britain,” said Chalk.
Tony Blair and John Prescott proved in a way that every posh leader needs a working class man of the people by his side.
Sunak has found his in Lee Anderson who seems to be all too happy to say what most of Britain is thinking and in so doing reconnecting with many voters.
It was similar when he told Express.co.uk that “the BBC is a safe haven for perverts” during the Huw Edwards crisis.
That comment caused former BBC journalist Jon Sopel and current BBC veteran John Simpson to both have meltdowns.
Neither his BBC or migrant comments will have harmed the Tory’s dire showing in the polls and may well help to start to turn things around.
But there is an issue, according to friends of Mr Anderson, which is that he feels increasingly alone in having to take on these fights.
The technocrat ministers around him, almost all from middle class or wealthy refined backgrounds, are unwilling or unable to sully themselves with such course outbursts or straight speaking.
The only others willing to do it are fellow Red Wallers on the back benches like Brendan Clarke-Smith, Marco Longhi and Jonathan Gullis.
If the Tories are to embrace their identity as a champion of ordinary British people then maybe there needs to be others like Anderson willing to put their heads above the parapet going forward.
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