‘No cash or money’ offered to Tory deputy chairman to defect, says Reform
Reform UK leader Richard Tice has said that “no cash or money” has been offered to Tory MPs to defect to his party, denying claims reportedly made by Lee Anderson.
The Sunday Times reported that Mr Anderson, an outspoken MP who has represented Ashfield since 2019, claimed last month to have been offered “a lot of money” to join the Nigel Farage-linked party.
Mr Tice on Sunday rejected the claim – reportedly made by Mr Anderson at a South Cambridgeshire Conservative Association event last month.
“Let me make it absolutely clear, no cash or money has in any way been offered, what has been offered is the chance to change the shape of the debate,” Mr Tice told BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme.
According to the paper, which has obtained a recording, Mr Anderson told activists: “Now there is a political party that begins with an R that offered me a lot of money to join them. I say a lot of money, I mean a lot of money.”
Mr Tice told the BBC: “I’m very happy to confirm that I’ve had numerous discussions with a number of Tory MPs, ministers, former ministers, who are absolutely furious with the complete betrayal of the Government’s promises, furious with the failure to stop the boats, furious with opening the borders to mass immigration.
“What’s really happened here is that Lee Anderson has used the threat of defecting to Reform to negotiate himself the deputy chairmanship of the Tory party because this story first appeared almost exactly the same, in the time back in February when coincidentally, he was made deputy chairman of the Tory party.”
A high-profile MP, Mr Anderson has attracted criticism for a range of remarks on everything from food banks to illegal migration.
Earlier this month, after the Supreme Court struck down the Government’s landmark Rwanda asylum plan, he suggested ministers should “ignore the law” and start sending asylum seekers to the east African nation.
But he is a favourite of activists and MPs on the right of the party, keeping his post in the Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle this month.
Mr Sunak earlier used an interview with the Mail on Sunday to warn dissatisfied voters against abandoning the party, amid fears among some Tory MPs about the electoral threat of Reform UK.
“A vote for everyone who is not a Conservative is a vote to put Keir Starmer into office,” Mr Sunak said.
Those remarks were echoed by Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Laura Trott, who told Sky News she was not worried about Reform UK outflanking her party.
It was reported by The Times, earlier this year, that Mr Hart had reported Reform UK to the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle over allegations that the party had offered MPs who defected a full salary for five years – even if the politicians lost their seats.
Mr Tice had, at the time, labelled the claims as “nonsense”.
The PA news agency has contacted the Conservatives whip’s office, as well as Mr Anderson.
The allegations come as Nigel Farage, the party’s honorary president, appears in the latest series of ITV’s I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here.
Mr Farage, who led Reform UK during its previous incarnation as the Brexit Party, has been seeking to win over viewers with his stint on the reality show.
Reform UK has only taken small proportions of the vote in recent by-elections.
But that has not stopped some Conservatives fearing that Mr Tice’s party could exploit voter unhappiness over small boats and immigration at the next general election.
Tory chairman Richard Holden announced a slew of new deputy and vice chairpersons for the party on Saturday, including ex-housing minister Rachel Maclean and the “no nonsense” Brendan Clarke-Smith, a 2019 MP representing the “red wall” seat of Bassetlaw.
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