Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

Video caption, Farage on Reform’s candidate controversies

  • Author, Becky Morton
  • Role, Political reporter

Reform UK has dropped three of its candidates following reports they had made offensive or racist comments, a spokesman has said.

Edward Oakenfull, who is standing in Derbyshire Dales; Robert Lomas, a candidate in Barnsley North, and Leslie Lilley, standing in Southend East and Rochford, will still appear on the ballot paper as Reform candidates as it is too late for them to be removed.

A Reform spokesman said if any of the three were elected they would sit as independent MPs.

However, he said people should still vote for the candidates if they wished to register support for Reform.

It comes after leader Nigel Farage disowned the candidates during an appearance on BBC Question Time on Friday evening, when their remarks were put to him.

Mr Farage told the programme: “I want nothing to do with them.”

Asked what Reform would say to voters in the constituencies where the candidates had been dropped, the party spokesman said he would “encourage them to vote for the party, by voting for these people on the ballot paper”.

This way, he said people could still vote for Reform’s “policy platform”.

He added: “I’m not saying the situation is ideal, but the size of the Reform vote share nationally is what matters.”

Warning: This story contains language that may offend

Mr Oakenfull posted derogatory comments about the IQ of sub-Saharan Africans on social media last year. He previously told the BBC the remarks had been taken out of context.

Mr Lomas reportedly said black people should “get off [their] lazy arses” and stop acting “like savages”. The comments were reported by the Times on 8 June, with Reform at the time claiming they were “out of context part quotations” and it needed more time to respond.

Mr Lilley reportedly described people arriving on small boats as “scum” in a social media post, adding: “I hope your family get robbed, beaten or attacked.”

However, he argued this was partly the consequence of having to find candidates quickly following the surprise announcement that there would be a general election in July.

Since the start of the election campaign, Reform has faced persistent questions over its selection of candidates, after numerous examples of offensive social media posts emerged.

All the main parties have had to drop potential parliamentary candidates over inappropriate comments, however this has been the case for more Reform candidates than other parties.

The party has blamed a company it hired to conduct background checks on would-be candidates, claiming it failed to carry out vetting before the election was called.

Mr Farage also faced angry questions from the Question Time audience about a recording broadcast by Channel 4 which showed Andrew Parker, a canvasser for Reform UK, using a racist term about Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Mr Farage described the comments as a “tirade of invective abuse” but suggested the man may have been paid and claimed it was “a political setup of astonishing proportions”.

Reform UK said it had reported Channel 4 to the elections watchdog, the Electoral Commission, for alleged election interference.

The party said it would also be demanding an investigation by media regulator Ofcom.

On Friday, Channel 4 News said it stood by its “rigorous and duly impartial journalism”, adding that it met Mr Parker for the first time at Reform UK party headquarters and had not paid him any money.

In a statement, Mr Parker said he wanted to “apologise profusely to Nigel Farage and the Reform Party if my personal views have reflected badly on them and brought them into disrepute as this was not my intention”.

Essex Police had said they were “urgently assessing” comments in the programme “to establish if there are any criminal offences”.

In a later statement, Hertfordshire Police said they arrested a man in his 60s on Friday “on suspicion of causing a public order offence. Following further review and liaison with Essex Police he is being released with no further action”.

A Reform spokesman confirmed that another individual filmed in Channel 4’s undercover report, George Jones, was a genuine party volunteer.

In the footage, Mr Jones, a longtime party activist who organises events for Mr Farage, calls a Pride flag on a police car a “degenerate flag”.

He repeatedly suggests members of the LGBT+ community are paedophiles and criticises police attending Pride.

The spokesperson said “you can’t sack a volunteer” but that Mr Jones was “no longer involved in the campaign”, adding: “He’s gone.”

Asked if Reform UK and Mr Farage would also say they wanted nothing to do with Mr Jones in the light of his remarks, the spokesperson said there was a “difference” between Mr Jones’ case and that of Mr Parker.

Both individuals were no longer part of the campaign, he said, but Mr Jones was previously known to Reform UK and his remarks were “much more banterish”, while they had no idea who Mr Parker was and his comments were “far beyond the pale”.

Mr Farage has previously described Mr Jones’s comments as “vulgar, drunk and wrong”.

Both Labour and the Conservatives criticised Mr Farage’s leadership of Reform UK on Saturday.

Security minister Tom Tugendhat told Times Radio there was a “pattern of racist and misogynistic views” within Reform UK, and said Mr Farage had “clearly done almost no due diligence on who he’s asking to carry his message”.

Sir Keir Starmer praised the prime minister’s public criticism of Mr Farage and said “I share his disgust”.

The Labour leader said Mr Farage had failed to address the “tone, the culture and the standards” of his party.

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