Nigel Farage’s new right-wing party bags its first Tory defector

LONDON — The former Conservative Deputy Chairman Lee Anderson has defected to Reform U.K., the right-wing populist party set up by Nigel Farage.

Anderson’s defection is a major scalp for the party, which gains its first MP, and a major blow for British PM Rishi Sunak — whose Conservatives expect a major challenge from Reform on its right flank at the next election.

Speaking at a press conference Monday, Anderson — who was suspended by the Conservatives after he claimed “Islamists” have “got control” of London Mayor Sadiq Khan — said he has “done a lot of soul searching” over his political journey.

“I want my country back,” Anderson said. “I don’t expect much in politics other than to be able to speak my mind.”

His defection was announced by Richard Tice, Reform’s current leader. After founding the party in 2021, Farage stepped back from frontline politics months later — though speculation is rife that he will return to the party in some form before the general election. He remains the party’s honorary president.

“I have found that champion of the ‘red wall’ for Reform U.K.,” Tice said, referring to the historic northern Labour heartlands won en-masse by the Conservatives — and MPs like Anderson — in the 2019 election.


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Anderson is a well-known and controversial figure in Westminster. Sunak appointed Anderson to the Conservative deputy chairman role in February last year, but he was sacked from the role after he rebelled in a vote on the government’s Rwanda asylum policy.

Sunak and his ministers left the door open for Anderson to return if he apologized — while several Conservatives rallied around the MP.

MPs from the Tory’s populist New Conservatives grouping blamed the current party leadership for Anderson’s defection, tweeting on X that the leadership had “failed to hold together the coalition of voters who gave us a 90 seat majority …”