Rishi Sunak has made Lee Anderson, the outspoken Tory MP with a long history of controversial comments, the party’s new deputy chairman.
The MP for Ashfield has become one of the best-known and most-criticised backbenchers at Westminster after he frequently questioned if poor people have a genuine need for food banks.
But the right-wing red wall MP is popular with the Tory grassroots, and was recently named as the favourite backbencher of members regularly surveyed by the website Conservative Home.
Mr Anderson will now be working under chairman Greg Hands – a Sunak loyalist now tasked with saving dozens of Tory MPs seats at the next general election – after he replaced Nadhim Zahawi.
Tory MPs have expressed dismay at the appointment. One former minister told The Independent Mr Anderson would be a “walking embarrassment” in the job.
The deputy chair’s feelings on food banks first made headlines last May, when he claimed there’s not any “massive use for food banks in this country” – and insisted many poor people “cannot budget”.
Mr Anderson has continued to cast doubts over the necessity of food banks for many users – despite soaring demand – this year, insisting that striking nurses did not need handouts.
The Tory MP also raised eyebrows when he described a well known anti-Brexit protester as a “parasite” during a verbal altercation in Westminister.
Confronting activist Steve Bray – who branded him “30p Lee” in a nod to the MP’s claims about budgeting – Mr Anderson said: “You’re a scrounger. Why are you here dressed like a tramp?”
Before even entering the Commons in 2019, Mr Anderson sparked anger by posting a video on Facebook arguing that “nuisance tenants” should be forced to live in tents and pick potatoes.
“Let’s have them in the field picking potatoes or any current seasonal vegetables, back in the tent, cold shower, lights out, six o’clock, same again the next day. That would be my solution,” he said.
Rival parties compared the idea to “forced labour camps”, accusing Mr Anderson of “entrenching division”.
In another strange 2019 campaign moment, Mr Anderson forgot he was wearing a microphone as he got one of his friends to pose as an anti-Labour swing voter in a bid to impress a journalist.
“Make out you know who I am… you know I’m the candidate, but not a friend, alright?” Mr Anderson was recorded telling his friend minutes before bringing a journalist to his door.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner scoffed that Mr Anderson had been “handed a deck chair” on a sinking ship, while Mr Bray said he was “so happy” to see his old nemesis get a job because “the scandals can’t come quick enough”.