Former Tory party deputy chair Lee Anderson has defected to Reform UK.

At a press conference on Monday morning, he said he was joining the Nigel Farage-led party because "I want my country back."

Mr Anderson lost the Conservative whip last month for refusing to apologise after being accused of making Islamophobic comments about Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.

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At the time, the MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire told GB News: “I don't actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they've got control of Khan and they've got control of London... He's actually given our capital city away to his mates.”

He refused to apologise saying to do so “would be a sign of weakness.”

Speaking at the press conference, Mr Anderson said his mum and dad had told him they wouldn't be able to vote for him unless he joined Reform. 

He said Reform UK would allow him to speak on behalf of people “who feel that they’re not being listened to”.

“It is no secret that I’ve been talking to my friends in Reform for a while. And Reform UK has offered me the chance to speak out in Parliament on behalf of millions of people up and down the country who feel that they’re not being listened to.

“People will say that I’ve took a gamble. And I’m prepared to gamble on myself, as I know from my mailbag how many people in this country support Reform UK and what they have to say. And like millions of people up and down the country, all I want is my country back.”

When asked what his message would be to Tory MPs and colleagues who may feel their electoral chances could be damaged by his actions, he replied: "Country, constituency, then party. Next question please."

He told journalists: “I had 4,000 emails last week in my emails, I had a sack full of mail, not just from my constituency, from all round the country. And when my friends and my family, my staff are telling me to join the Reform Party, then I have to listen.”

He added that “my country comes first”.

Asked about the possibility of a by-election, Mr Anderson said: “You’re talking about reckless, it would be pretty reckless for me to suggest a by-election when we could have a general election in May. There’s your answer.”

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Mr Anderson said he could not be a member of a party that “stifles free speech,” saying it was “unpalatable” and a “shocker” that he was disciplined for “speaking my mind.”

He said there had "not been a turning point."

"We all know that sometimes politicians are about as trustworthy as journalists in what they say and do.

“But it’s been a gradual journey, and I think there’s been several tipping points over the past few months. Like I said in my speech, I’ve had to a lot of soul-searching about where I am, what I’m doing.

“And when I find myself suspended for speaking my mind, and by the way speaking up on behalf of millions of people up and down the country who agree with me, that for me is unpalatable. It’s a shocker, if I’m honest.

“I cannot be a part of an organisation which stifles free speech, and many of my colleagues in that place, in the Conservative Party, do back back me on this privately.

“Obviously they won’t put their head above the parapet, I don’t expect them to, but more importantly people around the country and around the world have been messaging me, sending me emails saying stick to your guns Lee, we agree with you.”

Reform UK leader Richard Tice said he had found a "a person of great integrity" who was “champion of the Red Wall for Reform UK.”

He said he would be "surprised" if other MPs didn't defect to his party before the general election. He also insisted his party will stand in every seat in the UK, including all 57 in Scotland

Mr Anderson has previously been scathing about Mr Tice, branding him a “pound shop Farage.”

He also derided Reform as “not a proper political party”.

Mr Farage is the honorary president of Reform UK, which is seeking to attract disillusioned 2019 Conservative voters over the issue of immigration.