Election campaign day 41: Reform hit by second defection over ‘racism’ in ranks

Reform UK has been hit by a second defection to the Tories amid accusations of racism among the party’s election candidates.

– Farage’s defection blow

With two days to polling day, Nigel Farage has become embroiled in a fresh row over racism and misogyny among the ranks of Reform UK.

Georgie David, the party’s candidate for West Ham and Beckton, has said she is quitting Reform for the Conservatives citing the “bigoted” views of the “vast majority” of her fellow parliamentary hopefuls.

She is the second Reform candidate to defect to the Tories within the space of just two days.

In a statement, Ms David said that while she did not believe the senior leadership of the party was racist, she had been frustrated in their failure to tackle the issue, instead tying to “brush it under the carpet”.

“However, as the vast majority of candidates are indeed racist, misogynistic, and bigoted, I do not wish to be directly associated with people who hold such views that are so vastly opposing to my own and what I stand for,” she said.

In response, party chairman Richard Tice, accused the Tories of planting fake candidates to deliberately discredit Reform, warning that such “corruption” would be punished by voters at the ballot box.

“Desperate toxic Tories sent us some Trojan horse candidates by offering jobs, safe council seats etc to spread lies,” he posted on social media.

It comes as a further setback for the party after Channel 4 News last week screened undercover footage apparently of Reform campaigners in Clacton, where Mr Farage is standing, making racist and homophobic comments.

– Picture of the day

Sir Keir Starmer standing behind the counter of a snack bar
Sir Keir Starmer serves drinks during a visit to Hucknall Town FC in Nottinghamshire (Stefan/Rousseau/PA)

– Three breakfasts Sunak

So what are the prospects of Rishi Sunak enjoying a triumphal return to Downing Street on Friday? Rather less than the chances of “lightning striking twice in the same place” according to the polling guru, Professor Sir John Curtice.

After such a withering assessment from such an Olympian authority, the Prime Minister could be forgiven if he felt just a little downhearted.

Rishi Sunak seated at a wooden table with four other people with a mug of tea and a plate of food in front of him
Rishi Sunak, with attorney general Victoria Prentis, left, enjoys another breakfast during a visit to Wykham Park Farm in Banbury (Jonathan Brady/PA)

But as he entered the final lap, he insisted the result was not a “foregone conclusion” and that he would carry on fighting “until the last minute” of the campaign.

“That’s his view,” he snapped back at a BBC Breakfast presenter when told of Sir John’s verdict on the likelihood of him succeeding.

“That’s not going to stop me from working as hard as I can over these final few days to talk to as many people as possible about the choice.”

In fact, so intent was he on gaining every last vote, he said that he had been up since 4 o’clock in the morning, and was taking on extra fuel to keep going.

“I’m on my third breakfast already today. Like, how often do you get to have three breakfasts before 10 o’clock? That’s only good news,” he told reporters.

– Quote of the day

– Starmer to play on

Ardent footie fan Sir Keir Starmer has said he is determined to carry on playing in his weekly five-a-side matches if he is prime minister after Thursday.

The Labour leader, who is an Arsenal season ticket holder, also made clear that he intends to continue going to support his team when they play at the Emirates regardless of the election result.

“I’m determined to continue playing football, maybe not as regularly. I’m determined to continue to go to watch Arsenal play with my son and my friends,” he said.

“I’ve played football pretty well every week since I was 10 years old and I’m not planning on stopping now.”

The Labour leader also brushed off Tory claims that he would only be a “part-time prime minister”, after he said he would still try to keep Friday evenings free to spend time with his family.

Sir Keir’s wife, Victoria, is Jewish and Friday night Shabbat dinners are important in the Jewish faith.

Lord Mann, the Prime Minister’s antisemitism adviser, warned that any criticism of him for seeking to observe that tradition was “so dangerous”.

– Royal Mail hits back

The Royal Mail has hit back at claims by ministers that it is to blame for delays in getting out postal votes, amid growing complaints that people are not receiving their ballot papers in time.

A Royal Mail sign
Royal Mail has said it is not to blame for delays in delivering postal ballots (John Giles/PA)

The postal affairs minister Kevin Hollinrake said it was “not acceptable” that ballot packs were piling up in sorting offices and that the Royal Mail needed to employ more staff.

“There’s a resourcing issue. They have recruited extra people and I welcome that but they’ve got to make sure they’ve got the right number of people to deliver the mail at busy times like this,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

However, a spokesman for the Royal Mail insisted that there was “no backlog” and that ballot packs which reached them on time would be delivered before polling day.

In a statement, the spokesman hinted that the real reason for any hold-ups lay with Rishi Sunak’s unexpected decision to call the election for July.

“We would welcome a review into the timetable for future elections with all stakeholders to ensure that the system for printing and administering postal votes before they are handed to Royal Mail works as smoothly as possible,” the spokesman said.

-Social media moment

Count Binface, the independent candidate hoping to unseat Mr Sunak in Richmond and North Allerton has posted his own party election broadcast on on X.

The self-described intergalactic space warrior, begins the video with images of outer space before showing the area’s train station, town hall, shopping arcade and level crossings.

In a voiceover, Count Binface said: “In my 5702 years, I’ve done a lot of travelling but finally I think I’ve found the greatest place in the entire Omniverse.”

– What the polls say

Two opinion polls have been published in the last 24 hours, both showing Labour maintaining a large lead over the Conservatives with Reform in third place.

A line chart showing the seven-day rolling average for political parties in opinion polls from March 2 to July 2, with the final point showing Labour on 40%, Conservatives 21%, Reform 16%, Lib Dems 11% and Green 6%. Source: PA graphic
(PA Graphics)

The surveys by Savanta and by JL Partners both give Labour a 15 percentage point lead over the Tories.

An average of all polls with fieldwork completed during the seven days to July 2 puts Labour on 40%, 19 points ahead of the Conservatives on 21%, followed by Reform on 16%, the Lib Dems on 11% and the Greens on 6%.

The Tories are up slightly on the figures for the previous week while Labour are down.

– What’s happening tomorrow

The parties make a last push for votes as the  campaign enters its final 24 hours.