‘Cobblers’ that voters support Nigel Farage for his ‘provocative’ politics

Nigel Farage has said it is “cobblers” that people support him because of how “divisive and provocative” he is.

The Reform UK leader appeared on the BBC’s Panorama Interviews on Friday, following similar broadcasts featuring presenter Nick Robinson and the leaders of other political parties including Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer and Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

During the half-hour broadcast, Mr Farage repeated his accusation that Mr Sunak – the country’s first non-white Prime Minister – “doesn’t understand our culture” and claimed western governments “provoked” Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

He also said “it makes sense” for patients to pay their GP and claim the money back afterwards, when quizzed about his party’s approach to the NHS.

When asked about the “really extreme and unpleasant views” expressed by some Reform UK candidates, Mr Farage said: “(We have) had an awful lot of candidates being stitched up in the most extraordinary way with quotes being taken out of context.”

North West Essex candidate Grant StClair-Armstrong, standing against Conservative Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, resigned from the party after it emerged he previously called on voters online to elect the BNP.

Reform UK also dropped Hugo Miller, standing in Horsham, after he posted photos on social media of a van in Miami bearing a racial slur, which he described as “funny”, and Andrea Whitehead, standing against Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves in Leeds West and Pudsey, whose social media feed Channel 4 News described as a “litany of offensive comments”.

Mr Farage claimed before he got involved “there was no national party structure”.

He said: “No, they’re not there because of me. No, no, no.”

The Reform UK leader, who served as the party’s honorary president between 2021 and June this year and has been listed as one of its directors on Companies House since 2019, added: “These candidates were recruited before I said I was going to play an active role in the party and frankly, they were so desperate for people to stand that people stood and then we employed a big vetting company that didn’t do the job.”

Asked whether he had said “divisive and provocative things” which had spurred on candidates to stand, Mr Farage said: “Cobblers, absolute cobblers.

“You know, I talk about things that are worthy of debate.”

He earlier said other parties “have got betting scandals – the others in the last parliament were exposed as perverts, weirdos”.

Facing questions about his views on Russian president Vladimir Putin, Mr Farage said: “I said I disliked him as a person, but I admired him as a political operator because he’s managed to take control of running Russia.”

Mr Putin has served continuously as either Russian president or prime minister since 1999, with elections which have been described as “rigged”.

An image of Vladimir Putin is projected onto studio walls as Nigel Farage and Nick Robinson discuss
Nigel Farage faced questions about his views on Russian president Vladimir Putin, projection, during the interview (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

Mr Farage, a former member of the European Parliament, also said: “Right, I’ll tell you what you don’t know, I stood up in the European Parliament in 2014 and I said, and I quote, ‘there will be a war in Ukraine’.

“Why did I say that? It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of Nato and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say ‘they’re coming for us again’ and to go to war.”

Mr Farage went on to say he had been making similar comments “since the 1990s, ever since the fall of the (Berlin) Wall” and added: “Hang on a second, we provoked this war.

“It’s, you know, of course it’s his fault – he’s used what we’ve done as an excuse.”

Mr Robinson asked Mr Farage about the French healthcare system, where patients face a 25-euro charge to see their GP and can get most or all of the cost reimbursed through their insurance.

“Well, it costs you nothing to go to the doctor, right, because you get it back.

“And the reason they do that – and by the way, British GPs have this problem – is people book appointments and don’t turn up, so actually, thinking about it, it makes sense.”

On Mr Sunak, Mr Farage said: “He doesn’t understand our culture, otherwise he would have stayed at D-Day (80th anniversary commemorations earlier in June) to honour the remaining remnants of that generation.”