Reform leader says no bribes were offered for Tories to defect as minister insists no cabinet split on immigration

Lee Anderson had claimed he was offered money to defect.

The leader of Reform Richard Tice has insisted “no cash or money” has been offered to Tory MPs to defect to his party, following allegations made by the Conservative deputy chairman, Lee Anderson.

An outspoken MP who has represented Ashfield since 2019, Mr Anderson was recorded last month claiming to have been offered “a lot of money” to join the Nigel Farage-linked party.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, Mr Tice has now outright rejected the allegation, and accused the Red Wall MP of using the claim to get a job within the Tory party.It comes amid an ongoing spat within the Government over how to handle immigration, with a minister forced on Sunday to insist there was no split over the Rwanda policy.

Reform UK leader Richard Tice denied offering money to Lee Anderson to defect.Reform UK leader Richard Tice denied offering money to Lee Anderson to defect.
Reform UK leader Richard Tice denied offering money to Lee Anderson to defect.

Mr Tice told BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “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.

“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.”

According to Sunday Times, 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.”

The claims were allegedly aired by Mr Anderson at a South Cambridgeshire Conservative Association event last month.

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. His intervention was slapped down immediately by the new Home Secretary, James Cleverly, but in a sign of the Prime Minister’s struggles to placate the right of his party, Downing Street refused to criticise his comments.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sunday also saw ministers move quickly to play down suggestions of a split between Rishi Sunak and James Cleverly over the Rwanda asylum plan, after the Home Secretary said it was not the “be all and end all”.

The remarks, which came amid a separate row within the Tory party about record levels of net migration to the UK, raised eyebrows among some in the party.

But Chief Secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott, a recently promoted ally of Mr Sunak, insisted the pair were on the same page. Mr Cleverly had insisted that the initiative is not the “be all and end all” to stopping Channel crossings.

“My frustration is that we have allowed the narrative to be created that this was the be all and end all,” he said.

Mr Sunak, in contrast, used an interview with The Mail On Sunday to stress the importance of the scheme, after the Supreme Court ruled it unlawful earlier this month.

Speaking to the Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips programme on Sky News, Ms Trott said: “They’re both actually saying the same thing, which is that Rwanda is part of our plan.

“Both saying it is part of the plan, it is not all of the plan.”

Mr Sunak has pledged not to let a “foreign court” stop flights to Rwanda, with plans for a new treaty and emergency legislation to ensure the plan is legally watertight. However, this would mean it could face a tricky battle to get through the House of Lords.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It was the UK Supreme Court, rather than “a foreign court”, that dealt the latest blow to the Government’s hopes of sending asylum seekers who arrive in the UK on a one-way trip to Rwanda.

But Tories are keen to ensure that the ECHR and the Strasbourg court that rules on it will not prevent the policy, first announced in 2020, from being implemented.

Ms Trott said: “We have successfully in the last year bought the numbers of people coming over here illegally down by a third.

“That is at a time when the numbers coming into Europe are up by 80 per cent.

“This was not a foregone conclusion.”

The Cabinet minister declined to spell out any new steps the Government might take to reduce overall net migration, another preoccupation of Tory MPs.

The figure peaked at 745,000 in the year to December 2022, according to revised estimates published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Thursday.

The data places migration levels at three times higher than before Brexit.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick is understood to have worked up a plan designed to appease calls from right-wing Tories for the Government to take action.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He is pushing for a ban on foreign social care workers from bringing in any dependants and a cap on the total number of NHS and social care visas.

His plan would also scrap the shortage occupation list, a programme that allows foreign workers to be paid 20% below the going rate in roles that suffer from a lack of skilled staff.

But Ms Trott, who said immigration levels are “too high”, declined to shed any light on what potential measures could be introduced.

“This year we brought forward a £600 million plan to train more people to do social care in this country.

“So we are taking concrete steps, I’m not just saying here I want it to come down, I’m saying that we are taking concrete steps to bring it down,” she told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.