Farage ‘dismayed’ by campaigners’ comments as election push enters final week

A campaigner for Nigel Farage has been filmed saying small boats migrants should be used as “target practice”, as the General Election campaign enters its final week.

An undercover Channel 4 reporter recorded one canvasser calling for migrants crossing the English Channel to be used as “target practice” and another describing the Pride flag as a “degenerate” ensign and suggesting members of the LGBT+ community are paedophiles.

Mr Farage said he was “dismayed” by the comments, describing them as “appalling sentiments”.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has warned his campaigners they have “one week to save Britain from a Labour government” in an “urgent” plea for support, sharing his fear that his opponents would “shunt our politics to the left”.

He faced questions on Thursday about his party’s new attack line “don’t surrender your family’s future to Labour”, after a Tory poster bearing the line featured a picture of a man, woman and child holding their hands in the air in surrender.

Sir Keir Starmer also faced scrutiny about the extent of his ambitions after claims the Labour Party has eased its support for Clacton candidate Jovan Owusu-Nepaul and “seconded” him to support a West Midlands campaign.

At a £5-a-head event on the campaign trail in Boston, Lincolnshire, Mr Farage said: “We’ve had one or two candidates that have said things they shouldn’t have said. In most cases they’re just speaking like ordinary folk.

“They’re not part of the mainstream political Oxbridge speak, we understand that. In some cases one or two people let us down and we let them go.

“Well, compare that to the international price fixing and betting ring that is the modern day Conservative Party.”

He made his remarks moments after Channel 4 News broadcast an undercover investigation into Reform UK’s Clacton campaign, where Mr Farage is contesting the seat against Conservative incumbent Giles Watling.

The broadcaster recorded canvasser Andrew Parker saying army recruits should use migrants arriving by small boats in Kent as “target practice”, as well as using a racial slur against the Prime Minister and labelling Islam a “disgusting cult”.

General Election campaign 2024
Rishi Sunak said Conservatives ‘can’t let Britain sleepwalk’ into a Labour government (Danny Lawson/PA)

In a statement sent to Channel 4 News, Mr Parker said: “I would like to make it clear that neither Nigel Farage personally or the Reform Party are aware of my personal views on immigration.”

He added: “I have never discussed immigration with either Nigel Farage or the Reform Party and that any comments made by me during those recordings are my own personal views on any subject I commented on. At no time before I was sent out to canvass did I discuss my personal views with any representative of the Reform Party UK or Nigel Farage.

“I would therefore like 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.”

Mr Farage said: “I am dismayed by the reported comments of a handful of people associated with my local campaign, particularly those who are volunteers. They will no longer be with the campaign.

“The appalling sentiments expressed by some in these exchanges bear no relation to my own views, those of the vast majority of our supporters or Reform UK policy.

“Some of the language used was reprehensible.”

On the same day, the Guardian reported that Reform UK withdrew support from its Basingstoke, Hampshire, candidate Raymond Saint, who allegedly appeared on a list of BNP members published on the website WikiLeaks more than a decade ago.

Mr Farage has previously said he had an “absolute rule” to block anyone linked to the BNP or similar organisations from being a member of the party.

General Election campaign 2024
Sir Keir Starmer was quizzed about the extent of his ambitions (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Meanwhile, during a speech in Leeds on Thursday evening Mr Sunak said: “Friends, we have urgent work to do.

“We have one week to save Britain from a Labour government – now, a Labour government that would raise everyone’s taxes by £2,000, that would shunt our politics to the left, that would change the rules so that they’re in power for decades.

“We can’t let Britain sleepwalk into that.”

The Prime Minister also defended his party’s latest attack advert which shows people holding their hand up as if surrendering in an interview with GB News: “I don’t want people to surrender to Labour, I don’t want them to surrender to their tax rises.

“I don’t want people to surrender our borders to Labour, our welfare system to Labour, our national security to Labour.

“Alright? I’m up for the fight. I want people to join me in that fight. We should not surrender our country to this. We can do better.”

Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer was quizzed about the extent of his ambitions and whether a landslide victory could be a “wasted opportunity” in an interview with Sky.

He said: “The first steps are down payment. They’re not all what we want to do, but until we get the waiting list down, frankly, we’re going to struggle with the change that we need because we can’t get our economy going. We need to stabilise our economy.”

Sir Keir defended his campaign against Nigel Farage in Clacton on Thursday and denied his party had weakened support for its candidate Mr Owusu-Nepaul, who has received significant press and social media attention throughout the General Election campaign.

The party leader said: “We want to take the fight to the Tories and Reform wherever they are, we are not backing down in Clacton, we are not backing down anywhere across the country.”

He added: “The chief of operations tells people where we most want them to go and fight, but we have got to fight in Clacton, of course we have.

“We have got an excellent candidate there, he actually works for me, he is fantastic, so I’m very supportive of him and the campaign that he is running, and he is doing something incredible in Clacton which is being that positive candidate in difficult circumstances.”