Laurence Fox

What Jack Monroe has in common with Lee Anderson

What Jack Monroe has in common with Lee Anderson
Jack Monroe (Credit: BBC)
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In 1966, during the Republican primaries for the Californian gubernatorial race, the internecine fighting amongst the GOP candidates had grown so vicious – and particularly targeting a disruptive actor turned politician (whatever happened to those?) – that the state Republican chairman, Gaylord Parkinson, proposed an eleventh commandment: ‘Thou Shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.’ The actor, a certain Ronald Reagan, loved it, and adopted it as a personal maxim; sticking to it, he would go on to win that election. In time it came to be known as ‘Reagan’s eleventh commandment’ and its meaning more broadly paraphrased as ‘thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow conservative.’

I thought of this edict often during the recent furore over Lee Anderson’s comments about how his local food bank, to which he donates his time and money, makes its meals conditional on cooking lessons. To me, such a policy, which did not originate from Lee, encapsulates the values of communitarianism, voluntarism and the imparting of self-respect and sufficiency that characterises British conservatism.

It was unsurprising when Jack Monroe, something of a self-appointed spokesperson for our nation’s disenfranchised, lashed out at Lee, describing the former coal miner as a ‘rich, privileged white' man and ‘a man who looks like Prince Andrew after an all-expenses-paid all-nighter at a Pizza Express.’ Taking aim at someone’s skin colour and appearance, with the worst possible insinuation and innuendo, is par for the course amongst our Twitter leftists, who are lauded with publishing deals and sympathetic interviews on Radio 4.

But the response among the Conservative party was shocking. Monroe, who once accused David Cameron of using his dead son as cover to privatise the NHS, faced little resistance, while Lee’s fellow MPs gave him barely any support at all. The government quickly sought to distance itself from Lee, sending out a junior minister to try and make the whole thing go away. Amongst the conservative media, it was worse than silence and in these pages Stephen Daisley appeared to side with Monroe, calling Anderson’s food bank remarks ‘foolish’, ‘objectionable’ and ‘unconservative’.

The irony is that Anderson and Monroe are doing the same thing: teaching people on low incomes that they can cook delicious, nutritious meals on an extremely restricted budget. And what more noble cause could there be? However, Monroe proselytises using the machinations of capitalism, through her book deals, whereas Lee mentioned his charity work on the floor of the House of Commons. Yet it is Lee that has suffered the inquisitional rage of the left, while Monroe’s process of beatification continues unencumbered. 

So I felt it only fair to provide Lee with a right of reply on our media channel, Reclaim the Media. My deputy, Martin Daubney, struck up a friendship with Anderson after losing to him in Ashfield during the 2019 general election. Lee Anderson is a good man, a good conservative, and I would encourage any of our supporters in Ashfield to vote for Lee. We will not be standing against him.

It was also saddening to see a journalist, in the manner of a school milk monitor, seem to try to snitch on Lee for appearing on our show, complaining about lack of party discipline – a discipline that does not extend to supporting Conservative MPs in the face of leftist abuse. In any case, what’s wrong with speaking to other parties? No one seems to mind MPs of different stripes colluding when it comes to muzzling the press or stopping Brexit. I am very happy to reach out across the aisle, speak to other MPs about the things that voters actually care about, and I regularly encourage my supporters to vote for good Tories. I would even encourage my supporters to vote for good Labour and Lib Dem candidates though they are sadly thin on the ground.

Stephen Daisley’s article also missed the point of what Reclaim is trying to do with our media output. I see Reclaim as a movement: one part is electoral, another is focused on media, and we will be adding a third spike to our trident in the area of law, which I look forward to telling you more about in June. Our media wing, Reclaim the Media, is not a political party and never will be. Our shows are not party-political broadcasts. It is a place where we can have conversations sadly absent in the mainstream, in addition to podcasts, infographics, a new YouTube channel and an exciting roster of documentaries which we will roll out in the second half of 2022.

As the legacy media behemoths continue to stick to ever more political editorial lines, they are becoming political entities themselves. I am simply honest about it. And, in the spirit of the conservative value of liberal economics, I am responding to a gap in the market. A Vice for the right, if you will. What’s more, conservatives seem to like it. Our Facebook page, the platform we are initially focused on, has the best engagement pound for pound of any British political party, comfortably beating the Tories, whose followers and advertising spend dwarfs ours. It turns out that Conservative voters don’t particularly like having statues torn down, Net Zero and politicised police forces running away from left wing mobs, virtual or otherwise. It has not gone unnoticed that the police brutally suppressed anti-lockdown protests but took the knee to BLM and sent out their liaison teams to gently talk down the apocalyptical cultists of Extinction Rebellion.

I have assembled a small but very talented team at Reclaim, and our followers, views and supporters grow every day. In 2024, we will not be standing 650 candidates in 650 seats. But we will be placing good people in places where we have a decent shot. As our media output expands, we will change the conversation, and I know we have an audience who wants to take part.

Good MPs, like Lee Anderson will have nothing to fear, but our social media air war will target those MPs who do not stand up for British values and seek to make people’s lives more expensive, and their speech less free. And that will decide who gets elected. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Written byLaurence Fox

Laurence Fox is leader of the Reclaim party

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