Eastwood MP faces calls to resign over Gypsy and Traveller comments

Eastwood’s MP, Lee Anderson, is facing calls to resign after being accused of making ‘extremist’ comments about the travelling community.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 2:20 pm

The Conservative has been urged to stand down after he branded travellers as thieves during a debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in Parliament – which has seen MPs debating plans to give local authorities and police more powers to evict illegal camps and issue hefty fines.

He said: “Gypsy encampments in places such as Ashfield are not the traditional, old-fashioned gypsies sat there playing the mandolin, flogging lucky heather and telling fortunes. The travellers I’m talking about are more likely to be seen leaving your garden shed at three o’clock in the morning, probably with your lawnmower and half of your tools.”

Mr Anderson, recently appointed to Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee, said anyone who thought the camps were ‘not a public nuisance’ should speak with residents. But his comments sparked a furious response from the Friends, Families and Travellers charity, which helps gypsy, Roma and traveller communities, and said he should be ‘ashamed’ and resign.

Ashfield MP Lee Anderson
Ashfield MP Lee Anderson

Sarah Sweeney, the charity’s policy and communications manager, said: “Anderson assumes all travellers to be criminals, and by that token would have all travellers locked up simply for existing.

“This is an extremist view, Anderson should be ashamed of himself. There are tried and tested ways to ensure harmony between settled and nomadic communities, including negotiated stopping, allowing travellers to buy land to build sites upon and more. Politicians should work to identify solutions to support communities live happily alongside one other – not fan the flames of racial tension. Lee Anderson should resign – he’s clearly not fit for a role in Parliament.”

But speaking to the Advertiser, Mr Anderson stood by his comments.

“I feel extremely honoured to have been selected to sit on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which allows me to scrutinise this new legislation to ensure we give extra powers to the police and courts to bring an end to the problems caused by illegal camps,” he said.

“Anyone who thinks these camps are not a public nuisance has obviously not had a camp set up close by. I suggest they chat with residents who have had a terrible time.”