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‘He’s very controversial, isn’t he?’: how Lee Anderson’s constituents reacted to his comments about Sadiq Khan | Conservatives

IIn the Nottinghamshire constituency, Lee Anderson has long been seen as a Marmite character, attracting fervent supporters and ardent critics alike, and the reaction to his latest comments was similar.

Some felt Mr Anderson had been unfairly punished for Friday’s comments about London’s mayor, which were labeled Islamophobic and led to Mr Anderson losing his Conservative Party whip. Others said they were appalled by his words and believed his suspension from the Conservative Party was long overdue.

“It was a huge breakdown. He’s embarrassed,” said James Bond, 40, who was out shopping for supplies for his recent job building a play area for a nearby SEN children’s centre. “We need proper adult politics and I think his time in power is about over here. I’m definitely not going to vote for him and in my opinion , it took a long time for this to happen.”

James Bond: “It was a terrible situation. He’s an embarrassment.” Photo: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

On Friday, Mr Anderson sparked outrage by claiming on GB News that “Islamists have taken control of London and Mayor Sadiq Khan”. He rejected his apology, saying his own comments were “correct” but the phrasing “might have been awkward.”

“It was not my intention to offend anyone. I believe in free speech and have 100% respect for people of all backgrounds,” he said in a statement.

When he refused to apologize, the whip was withdrawn. Rishi Sunak said his words were “wrong” but did not call them Islamophobes and the party has not ruled out allowing Anderson to return.

Extra police patrols have been introduced around Mr Anderson’s constituency office in the heart of the former ‘red wall’ seat of Sutton-in-Ashfield. But there were still many people on the streets of Kirkby-in-Ashfield, a former mining town in his constituency, who supported the MP and felt his comments resonated with many.

“We’re not allowed to say anything, are we?” He made a comment, but I don’t know if it’s right or wrong. He’s just saying his opinion and it’s not getting the right ears and it’s upsetting people,” said Michael Swain, 72, who formerly worked in engineering.

He doesn’t think his words will do much damage, as Anderson has a roughly 50-50 approval rating in his district. “I think the people who have supported him in the past will still support him,” he said.

There are still many supporters of the MP on the streets of Kirkby-in-Ashfield and he feels his comments will resonate with many. Photo: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

A woman passing by, who did not give her name, expressed strong support for Mr. Anderson. “I agree with everything he said. At least he’s telling the truth that many people won’t open their mouths about. But they call him a racist. . I think what they did to him was wrong,” she said.

But there were also signs that the tide was starting to turn against Anderson, with some people who previously voted for him saying they would no longer vote for him.

Caroline Katz: “His dog whistle politics have attracted a certain number of people in the region, but I don’t think he’s going to live long.” Photo: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Caroline Katz, 56, said Mr Anderson’s outspoken opinions, particularly his frequent appearances on GB News, were part of what was “stirring things up”, as well as his dissatisfaction with the Conservative Party as a whole. He said he had changed his vote.

“He’s a very controversial person, isn’t he? I won’t vote Conservative next time,” she said, adding that while she doesn’t know if Anderson meant to be racist, his comments He added that it was “so spot on.”

“I used to like him, but lately he’s been a little distant. I thought he was doing pretty good things, but now I’m not so sure,” she said.

Mr Bond said: “I think he was only voted out in the aftermath of Brexit.” His dog-whistle politics appeal to a certain majority in this region, but I don’t think he’ll be around for long here either, as people are just fed up with the Tories. I think I’ll see him next in the Reform Party. ”

The 95% white constituency, according to the 2021 census, has high levels of poverty in some areas, and 70% of the population voted to leave the European Union in 2016.

Julie, 57, who asked that her last name not be used, said she attended the same school as Anderson for many years as a child and was never a big fan of his.

“I think he deserves it.” [the suspension] To be honest, for what he said. “I think if you’re in power, you have to behave a certain way,” she said. “I don’t think he represents everyone else’s feelings.”

He said he felt Mr Anderson still lacked credibility following his previous switch from Labor to the Conservative Party. “I feel like he’s been sold because he’s gone from place to place,” she said. “When you hear that, you can’t believe what he represents.”

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