Leader: Voters ought to know truth of bribery claim

As a general election looms, politicians must behave responsibly both in their actions and in their rhetoric

Whatever one’s political allegiances, an allegation from Lee Anderson, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, should concern us all.

In a leaked recording published yesterday, Mr Anderson claimed he was offered “a lot of money” to join “a party which begins with an R”.

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However Richard Tice, leader of Reform UK, rejected the claim, saying he had held “numerous discussions with Conservative MPs”, but that no money had been offered.

Mr Anderson reportedly contacted Tory Party officials with the allegation in February, who in turn contacted the party’s chief whip, before House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle was informed.

Mr Tice has strenuously rejected the allegation, and accused Mr Anderson of using the threat of defection in order to gain promotion within the Conservative Party.

He said: “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.”

The electorate has a right to know who to believe in this row.

At a time when faith in politics and our political system seems to be at a particularly low ebb, it is of crucial that this claim is investigated thoroughly.

The allegation comes amid concerns within the Conseravative Party that Reform UK, which was founded with the support of former Ukip leader Nigel Farage in 2018, could grow in popularity because of concerns over record levels of migration.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used a newspaper interview yesterday to warn disaffected voters against abandoning the party, saying: “A vote for everyone who is not a Conservative is a vote to put Keir Starmer into office.” In a similar vein, Mr Anderson said: “If you vote Reform, you give the Labour Party a chance to win.”

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The debate surrounding immigration is only likely to intensify as a general election looms next year. It is more important than ever that those at the forefront of this debate are behave responsibily both in their actions and in their rhetoric.