Rishi Sunak’s controversial new deputy party chairman said he would support the return of the death penalty because “nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed”.
Outspoken Ashfield MP Lee Anderson was handed the senior government position during the prime minister’s reshuffle on Tuesday.
The move raised eyebrows given his history of controversial comments, including questioning if food bank users have genuine need and criticising England football players for taking the knee in protest at racism.
In an interview with The Spectator magazine a few days before his surprise appointment, Mr Anderson said he would back the return of capital punishment.
Asked whether he would support the return of the death penalty, Mr Anderson told the weekly magazine: “Yes.”
He added: “Nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed. You know that, don’t you? 100% success rate.”
The death penalty for murder in the UK was outlawed permanently in 1969 and then totally abolished for all crimes in 1998.
The last people executed in Britain were Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans on 13 August 1964.
The UK has signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits the restoration of the death penalty.
But Mr Anderson argued that heinous crimes where the perpetrators are clearly identifiable should be punished by execution.
He pointed to the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013 by Islamist extremists Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale.
The former was given a whole life term, meaning he will die in prison, and the latter was jailed for a minimum of 45 years for running over and stabbing the British Army soldier in southeast London in broad daylight.
Mr Anderson told the magazine: “Now I’d be very careful on that one [the return of the death penalty] because you’ll get the certain groups saying ‘You can never prove it’.
“Well, you can prove it if they have videoed it and are on camera – like the Lee Rigby killers.
“I mean: they should have gone, same week. I don’t want to pay for these people.”
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Mr Anderson, who has compared the government to “the band on the Titanic” for its handling of small boat crossings, also said migrants arriving unlawfully in Britain should be returned the “same day” to where they came from.
The former miner said he visited Calais last month and met migrants referring to Britain as “El Dorado”.
“They are seeing a country where the streets are paved with gold – where, once you land, they are not in that manky little f****** scruffy tent,” he said.
Asked for his solution, he replied: “I’d send them straight back the same day.
“I’d put them on a Royal Navy frigate or whatever and sail it to Calais, have a stand-off. And they’d just stop coming.”
A former Labour councillor before converting to the Tories, Mr Anderson said that despite facing criticism in some quarters for his opinions, he found voters often agreed with him.
“If I say something that is supposedly outrageous in that place [the Commons], I get back to Ashfield on a Thursday, people will come out the shops and say ‘You say what I’m thinking’,” he added.
“Maybe some of my colleagues think I’m a little bit too divisive.
“But I’m of the mind that half the population will hate you, whatever colour you wear.”
Mr Anderson is popular among grassroot party members and was voted favourite backbench MP of 2022 in a survey by Conservative Home.
He will work under Greg Hands, who is replacing Nadhim Zahawi as chairman after he was sacked over his handling of his tax affairs.
One Tory MP had choice words over the appointment, telling Sky’s deputy political editor Sam Coates that Mr Anderson is “everything that is wrong with the Conservative brand presently”.
The MP added: “He seems to rejoice in deliberately provoking and making aggressive simplistic statements that fail to recognise the complexities of the issues facing the country.
“If this is the new Tory party, many will be forgiven for deserting it.”
Another added: “We thought Liz Truss had killed the right of the party.
“Nobody knew Rishi had an ace card up his sleeve by making Lee Anderson the face of the right, putting the final nail in its coffin.”
Labour also attacked the appointment, with Zarah Sultana saying the Conservatives were “scraping the barrel” to fill government appointments.
But Nigel Adams, the Tory MP for Selby and Ainsty, hailed the decision as a “clever appointment” by the prime minister adding: “He understands why people voted Conservative in 2019 and what makes them tick.”