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More Tory MPs in talks to defect, Reform UK leader hints

The leader of Reform UK has hinted at further defections to his party following the high-profile move of former Conservative deputy chair Lee Anderson.

The Ashfield MP – who was once a Labour councillor – confirmed on Monday that he was joining Reform’s ranks, weeks after he was kicked out of the Tories over his refusal to apologise for saying London mayor Sadiq Khan was controlled by “Islamists”.

He will take his seat in the Commons as Reform UK’s first MP later today.

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Now part leader Richard Tice has warned that more sitting MPs will follow him if a general election isn’t set for May.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Tice said: “There are conversations going on [with MPs]. We’re not going to give any details of those.

“I didn’t give a running commentary. They can be assured the discussions are completely confidential.

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“But let me say this. Unless the prime minister calls an election by next Friday, for 2 May, I would be surprised if when we come to the general election, there are not more than one reform MP in the House of Commons.”

Lee Anderson and Richard Tice
Image: Lee Anderson and Richard Tice stood on stage together to announce the defection. Pic: Sky News

Reform UK, which was first founded in 2018 as the Brexit Party, pitches itself as a growing threat to the Conservatives, with the latest polls putting it at around 10%.

It achieved its best election performance last month, taking 13% of the vote in Wellingborough – a seat that was won by Labour.

But it is yet to be seen what impact the party will make at a general election.

Asked about Mr Anderson’s defection by Sky News, energy minister Graham Stuart said it was “a shame” the MP had made the decision, but added: “I wish him well”.

Pointing to the fact the ex-Tory was now on to his third party, the minister said his focus was on keeping Rishi Sunak in Downing Street.

“A vote for anyone else… simply makes it more likely that we will see Keir Starmer in Number 10,” he added.

Sky News Source