UK's Sunak says focused on job after speculation about Tory defections

(Alliance News) - UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has brushed off suggestions that Reform UK is ...

Alliance News 27 November, 2023 | 9:57AM
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(Alliance News) - UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has brushed off suggestions that Reform UK is trying to lure some of his MPs.

Lee Anderson has claimed he was offered a "guaranteed" job for five years on the same GBP80,000 salary as an MP if he defected.

It comes after leader Richard Tice denied that any "cash or money" has been offered to Tory MPs to join the right-wing party but said he has held "numerous discussions" with Conservatives who are concerned about Sunak's approach.

The prime minister was asked about the situation as he attended a major investment summit at Hampton Court Palace.

Asked if he is concerned about the prospect of his MPs defecting, he said: "I'm focused on delivering for the British people.

"We've had a very positive autumn statement where we're now cutting taxes for 28 million workers across the UK – that's going to come in in January to ease the burden on the cost of living.

"We're cutting taxes for businesses so that they can invest in our future growth and create jobs.

"And this summit represents the enormous positive momentum behind the UK economy, and that's what I'm focused on."

The Sunday Times reported that Anderson, a Tory deputy chair who has represented Ashfield in Nottinghamshire since 2019, claimed last month to have been offered "a lot of money" to join the Nigel Farage-linked party.

Tice on Sunday rejected the claim, reportedly made by 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," Tice told BBC's Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme.

According to the paper, which has obtained a recording, 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."

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."

He suggested Anderson has "used the threat of defecting to Reform to negotiate himself the deputy chairmanship of the Tory Party".

On Sunday night, Anderson hit back at Tice.

"From time to time politicians do meet other politicians from different political parties," he said in a statement issued to GB News.

"At one such meeting I was offered the chance to join another party for the following deal – I join within a few months and stand for this party at the next election.

"If I lost my seat I would be guaranteed a job with the party for five years on the same salary as an MP.

"To falsely claim that I used this as leverage to get the position of deputy chairman is an insult to me and my party."

A spokesman for Reform UK declined to comment on Anderson's statement.

A high-profile MP, 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 Sunak's reshuffle this month.

Reform UK has only taken small proportions of the vote in recent by-elections.

But that has not stopped some Conservatives fearing that Tice's party could exploit voter unhappiness over small boats and immigration at the next general election.

By David Hughes, Dominic McGrath and Ted Hennessey

Press Association: News

source: PA

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