Sadiq Khan reacts to Lee Anderson joining Reform UK

Anderson has yet to apologise for comments last month that “Islamists” had “got control of London”, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Lee Anderson MP (left) and London mayor Sadiq Khan (right)
Lee Anderson MP (left) and London mayor Sadiq Khan (right)

Sadiq Khan has played down the significance of former Tory MP Lee Anderson announcing his defection to Reform UK – as he dismissed both parties as “basically the same”.

Anderson sparked outrage and was stripped of the Conservative whip after claiming on GB News in February that “Islamists” had “got control of London” and its mayor, Khan.

Reacting to the news on Monday (11th) that Anderson had joined the party founded by Nigel Farage, the mayor told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “This is a man who more than two weeks ago, said things that were clearly Islamophobic, anti-Muslim and racist.

“The leader of his [former] party, the prime minister, hasn’t got the guts and the backbone to call them what they are, can’t utter the word ‘Islamophobia’.

“Frankly most Londoners will conclude that the Conservative Party and the Reform Party are basically the same, both seeking to divide our communities rather than bringing them together.”

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Asked whether it was still his view that the Tories have a problem with Islamophobia, Khan said: “Clearly. More than two weeks on, the fact that [Rishi] Sunak, [deputy prime minister Oliver] Dowden, the cabinet, nobody in a senior position can utter the word ‘Islamophobia’, can call Anderson out for what he said, shows the Conservative Party seems to be more interested in playing on people’s fears, rather than addressing them.”

Anderson’s defection ends weeks of speculation about the Ashfield MP’s future. Speaking at a press conference announcing his move, the former Tory party vice-chairman said he had been given the chance to “speak out in Parliament on behalf of millions of people up and down the country” who support Reform.

Anderson said he had done a lot of “soul searching” to defect, having previously said that he would not “knife the Conservatives in the back” by joining Reform.

But he ruled out a by-election in his Red Wall seat, despite in 2020 voting for a bill that would require any MP who switched parties to call an immediate poll in their constituency.

Reform leader Richard Tice, who has previously been described by Anderson as a “pound shop Nigel Farage”, welcomed the MP to his party. Announcing the defection, he hailed Anderson as a “champion of the red wall”.

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