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‘People in Ashfield are Sick of Hearing Our Community Mentioned Every Time Lee Anderson Makes a Prejudiced Comment’

Arran Rangi, who lives in Lee Anderson’s Ashfield constituency, explores his MP’s effect on his home town – and the racism he thought was in the past

MP for Ashfield, Lee Anderson. Photo: Jeff Gilbert/Alamy

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The ex-mining town of Sutton-in-Ashfield was often a tough place to grow up – particularly if, like me, you came from a South Asian background.

Racism was an ever-present issue in my childhood. But I noticed as I grew up that it became less prevalent as the area, and country, became more diverse and tolerant. In my adulthood, the majority of people in Ashfield would treat me just like anyone else.

Since the election of Lee Anderson in 2019, I have witnessed a reversal of the progress on racism.

Anderson – who has had the Conservative whip suspended after claiming that London’s Muslim Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has allowed “Islamists” to take over the city – has a long history of prejudice.

This includes blocking travellers from using a park. Being an active member of a Facebook group that supports George Soros conspiracy theories. Boycotting the England men’s football team as they took the knee to raise awareness of racial injustice.

‘The Normalisation of Politically Expedient Racism: Rishi Sunak Cannot Call Out Something He Has Been Complicit In’

Lee Anderson’s claims that the Muslim Mayor of London has handed the city to Islamists is another unsurprising example of the political culture the Conservative Party has normalised, writes Hardeep Matharu  

In fact, a quick search online of ‘Lee Anderson racism’ will bring up a plethora of news stories and incidents from both his time as a Labour councillor and as a Conservative MP. One such incident, when he told asylum seekers to “f*** off back to France” brought back memories of people telling me to “go back to where you came from”. 

What has made it worse is the deafening silence from the Conservative Party.

Rather than being reprimanded for such comments, Anderson was rewarded with the role of Deputy Chair. By doing this, Rishi Sunak gave racists and Islamophobes in this country a sense of vindication. It is something that strikes fear into people like me, who understand the devastating effects racism can have.

There has also been a vocal backlash against Anderson within the constituency, which has been heartening.

I have found great solace in various highly active Facebook groups that constantly call out his rhetoric for what it is. More recently, we have set up the Stand up for Ashfield campaign, which is part of the MP Watch network, to hold Lee Anderson to account and fight for a better Ashfield. People here are sick of hearing our community mentioned every time Lee Anderson is in the news for another controversial statement. 

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Anderson’s comments about Sadiq Khan came in a week in which former Home Secretary Suella Braverman claimed the UK was run by “Islamists”; and when ex-Prime Minister Liz Truss stood silent as Tommy Robinson was described as a “hero” by far-right activist Steve Bannon.

Lee Anderson has refused to apologise for his comments. He has since described his words as “clumsy” – but they were not “clumsy”. They were targeted and specific. He intentionally set out to cause division and stoke hatred, as he has done consistently since becoming an MP. 

At times of heightened tension around issues of racism, I always put myself in the shoes of a 10-year-old version of me going to school. How will I be treated in class? Will the racist rhetoric trickle down yet again? Will I have racist abuse hurled at me on my way home?

Rishi Sunak must expel Lee Anderson and those others who have weaponised racism in the Conservative Party. I have experienced first-hand how devastating it can be to grow up in an area facing racist abuse. I thought those times were in the past. But it feels as if coming from an ethnic minority background is becoming increasingly dangerous in Britain today.


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