Tory MP Who Said ‘Poor People Can’t Cook’ Used To Be A Labour Politician

Lee Anderson who made even worse comments on Facebook, defected from Labour to the Tories in 2018

Bywire - Claim your free account nowBywire - Claim your free account now

LONDON (Bywire News) - Lee ‘poor people are too stupid to cook’ Anderson MP’s comments have enraged people. But these weren’t the ramblings of an entitled Conservative. Because before becoming a Tory MP he was a Labour councillor and former coal miner, who predictably quit under Jeremy Corbyn.

Stupid Poor People

Anderson has hit the headlines. After the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday, May 10, there was a two-day debate in the House of Commons about it. As the Evening Standard reported, on Wednesday, May 11:

Asked by a Labour MP if it should be necessary to have food banks in 21st century Britain, the MP for Ashfield said there is not “this massive use for food banks” in the UK, but “generation after generation who cannot cook properly” and “cannot budget””.

After people kicked off and the corporate media reported on his comments, Anderson hit back. He said on Facebook:

Gutter Press Again. I did not say poor people cannot cook or there is no need for food banks. I said there is not the need currently being parrotted [sic] out by the MSM (mainstream media).

Today I challenged the whole Parliamentary Labour Party to come to Ashfield to visit the food bank I work with. The give food parcels away on the condition the enrole [sic] for cooking and budgeting lessons.

I have done several events at the food bank where we batch cooked food on a budget. My offer stands. Come to Ashfield”.

Foodbanks: The Reality

Where to begin with Anderson’s initial, classist comment and then his equally loathsome reply? Well:

  • Foodbank use has exploded in the UK since the financial crash of 2008. 
  • There use is not based on a person’s ability to cook. People can only get access to them generally after a referral from an organisation like the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Citizens Advice. And this only happens after the organisation does an assessment.  
  • Organisations already give budgeting advice as part of foodbank referrals. 
  • Does Anderson seriously think people want to go to foodbanks anyway as opposed to cooking at home?

Research from 2014 backs this up. A group of organisations including the Trussell Trust found [p5] that:

foodbank use was generally due to an ‘immediate, acute financial crisis – either a complete loss of income or a very significant reduction in their income’. The report found that a majority of the people spoken to were in crisis due to an issue with the benefits system, such as a delay in the receipt of a payment”.

The report also said that 42% of people were referred to foodbanks because of problems with social security payments. 

Anderson: a ‘gutter’ politician

Fast-forward to 2019, and the situation was even worse. Trussell Trust data showed that:

  • 70% of people were referred to foodbanks because of social security payment problems. 
  • The average weekly income of households at food banks is only £50 after paying rent.
  • One in five have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred for emergency food.
  • 94% of people at food banks are destitute.

Not that any of this should have to be explained to defend Anderson’s comments, anyway. 

Then, his Facebook response was actually even worse. As if the shame of having to go to a food bank wasn’t bad enough – he and his local one force already distressed people to take cooking classes as a condition of giving them enough food so as not to starve? This is as low as it gets: ‘do as you’re told or you and your children will go hungry'. There’s something inherently evil and almost Dickensian in terms of an aggressive workhouse approach to people’s poverty - that which the system causes in the first place. Moreover, his comments also represent a worrying uptick in the ‘scrounger’ narrative that successive governments have driven in recent years.

At Home in Labour

But if all that wasn’t enough – Anderson used to be a Labour politician and miner, too - and is from a family of coal miners who took part in the major strikes of 1984. He served first as a Labour councillor, also working for Citizens Advice (the irony), worked for a former Labour MP and then quit the party under Jeremy Corbyn in 2018 – defecting to the Tories. But his move came against a backdrop of alleged racism. As Chad reported, his local Labour Party suspended him:

after placing boulders to deter travellers [the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community] from setting up camp at a site in the area”.

His appalling behaviour continued in the Tory Party – from getting a mate to pretend to be a swing voter as part of a campaign to saying that "nuisance [council estate] tenants" were "making people's lives a complete misery" and:

These people, who have to live somewhere, let's have them in a tent, in the middle of a field. Six o'clock every morning, let's have them up. Let's have them in the field, picking potatoes or any other seasonal vegetables, back in the tent, cold shower, lights out, six o'clock, same again the next day".

Little wonder Anderson left Corbyn’s Labour - although he might feel more comfortable back in the party under Keir Starmer, now. 

(Writing by Steve Topple, editing by Cléo Celeste)

Bywire will email you from time to time with news digests, stories & opportunities to get involved. Privacy

Bywire - Claim your free account nowBywire - Claim your free account now