Lee Anderson says he regrets not backing Rwanda bill and would take his old job back

Politics

Lee Anderson has said he regrets not voting for the Rwanda bill and would take back his old job as deputy Tory party chairman if asked.

The outspoken MP told The Telegraph he should have been “brave” and sided with Rishi Sunak instead of abstaining.

His plan had actually been to vote down the bill and he resigned from his government position in order to do so.

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But it later emerged he had abstained, with the Ashfield MP saying he walked out of the “no” lobby because Labour MPs were laughing at him.

Mr Anderson, who believed the bill needed to be strengthened, told the newspaper that with hindsight he should have “accepted democracy” and voted in line with the government.

He previously said that he ended up abstaining because, when he went to vote against the legislation, “the Labour lot were giggling and laughing and taking the mick and I couldn’t do it”.

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Elaborating on the moment he changed his mind, he said: “It wasn’t anything to do with running away or being scared.

“It was a reminder that actually I was letting my colleagues down and I’m not going to give you the satisfaction, that sort of stuff.”

Mr Anderson, a former coal miner, was once a Labour councillor before switching his allegiance to the Tories during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

He quit his party role last week alongside fellow deputy chairman Brendan Clarke-Smith, saying he was unable to vote for something he did not “believe in”.

He said he was “acting on a point of principle” when he quit – but that he would “of course” return to his old role if approached by Mr Sunak.

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Sir Simon Clarke should keep quiet’

In the interview, he also weighed in on the recent infighting sparked by Sir Simon Clarke’s broadside against the prime minister.

The former cabinet minister has told Mr Sunak to stand down or risk a “massacre” at the next election, but senior Tories have lined up to criticise his remarks.

Mr Anderson said there was “no chance” of the prime minister being replaced before the next election, playing down reports that “several” no confidence letters had been submitted.

He told colleagues plotting against the PM to “stop being silly”, saying “our only chance to win the next election is by keeping Rishi in Number 10”.

He went on to say he would not “knife the Conservatives in the back” by joining Reform UK, which is to the right of the Tories.

And he said he would vote for Donald Trump in a US election if he was American, because he “couldn’t vote” for Joe Biden.

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