Reform UK drops three candidates as racism row continues to engulf party

Reform UK has withdrawn support from three of its parliamentary candidates as the racism row engulfing the party continues to grow.

The party led by Nigel Farage is no longer supporting Edward Oakenfull, who is standing in Derbyshire Dales, Robert Lomas, a candidate in Barnsley North, and Leslie Lilley, standing in Southend East and Rochford, after alleged comments made by them emerged in the media.

It comes as party leaders from across the political spectrum have lined up to condemn Reform UK, and told Mr Farage he needs to "get a grip" of his party.

Oakenfull has been suspended after reportedly having written social media posts about the IQ of sub-Saharan Africans - which he told the BBC were "taken out of context".

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Meanwhile, Lomas said black people should "get off [their] lazy arses" and stop acting "like savages", The Times reported.

Lilley, according to the newspaper, described people arriving on small boats as "scum", adding: "I hope your family get robbed, beaten or attacked."

As the registration deadline for candidates has passed, all three candidates will remain on the ballot paper, despite no longer being endorsed by Reform UK.

Racism row

The decision to drop these candidates comes amid a vast row about racism in the party after Channel 4 news aired footage filmed undercover that showed Andrew Parker, an activist canvassing for Mr Farage, using the racial slur "P***" to describe the prime minister, describing Islam as a "disgusting cult", and saying the army should "just shoot" migrants crossing the Channel.

Reform UK was condemned by party leaders across the political spectrum, and Rishi Sunak reacted furiously to the comments, saying Mr Farage had "some questions to answer".

He said: "My two daughters have to see and hear Reform people who campaign for Nigel Farage calling me an effing P***. It hurts and it makes me angry and I think he has some questions to answer.

"And I don't repeat those words lightly. I do so deliberately because this is too important not to call out clearly for what it is."

Parker has told Sky News he was a "total fool", that he has learned his lesson, and there was "no racism" in what he said.

Reform UK has said it has reported Channel 4 to the elections watchdog for alleged "scandalous... interference" over what the party claims was a fake rant planted by the broadcaster.

The broadcaster has rejected the allegations out of hand, saying: "We strongly stand by our rigorous and duly impartial journalism which speaks for itself. We met Mr Parker for the first time at Reform UK party headquarters, where he was a Reform party canvasser.

"We did not pay the Reform UK canvasser or anyone else in this report. Mr Parker was not known to Channel 4 News and was filmed covertly via the undercover operation."

The Electoral Commission said they were "aware of reports" that Reform UK had asked them to investigate.

But the commission said it had "not received such a letter", adding that it would "consider [the letter's] contents" if it did.

A spokesperson for the commission said Channel 4 News was exempt from its regulation as it is a licensed broadcaster.

They said any laws surrounding the potential defamation of candidates would be a matter for the police.

Questions to answer

Mr Farage faced a slew of questions on the row during a BBC Question Time Leaders' Special on Friday night, during which he said he was "not going to apologise" for the actions of people associated with his party.

Asked why his party "attracts racists and extremists", the former UKIP leader claimed he had "done more to drive the far right out of British politics than anybody else alive" - claiming he took on the British Nationalist Party (BNP) a decade ago.

He also appeared to throw his predecessor Richard Tice under the bus when read racist and xenophobic comments made by Reform candidates, saying he "inherited a start-up party" and has "no idea" why the people who said those things had been selected.

Mr Farage has today lashed out at the BBC as well, saying he is refusing to appear on the broadcaster's Sunday morning politics show with Laura Kuenssberg until they apologise for their "dishonest" audience, accusing the broadcaster of having "behaved like a political actor throughout this election".

But the right-wing firebrand has been condemned by all party leaders.

Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News Mr Farage must "set the tone" for his party, adding: "It's no good Nigel Farage after the event saying that he doesn't agree with certain comments."

The Labour leader went on to insist Mr Farage is "not a spectator" - but is the leader of Reform UK.

He added: "Leaders have to set the tone, set the standards and take the action so that people know in advance what is acceptable and what's not acceptable.

'Get a grip'

Labour's shadow defence secretary told Sky News Mr Farage should "get a grip" of his party amid the racism allegations.

John Healey said: "To some extent, I see him fuelling a row over this Channel 4 film to distract, really, from the fact that there are officials and there are candidates right at the heart of the Reform party, that have been responsible for racist, anti-gay, and other deeply offensive statements.

"And it's for Farage to take action on them. And in the end, the culture and the standards of any political party are set by the leader and Nigel Farage wants to be seen as a leader.

"He needs to get a grip of his own party and he's failing to do that at the moment."

Scotland's first minister, John Swinney, said of Reform's politics: "I deplore it. I deprecate it. I want nothing to do with it."

"We will always rail against racist and homophobic comments, and I can't believe that there's a single thing Nigel Farage can do to control a problem that he himself has started," he said.

The SNP leader went on to claim that this is not a case of bad apples, but "an ingrained problem of Reform".

Read more:
Police 'urgently assessing' racist comments by Reform activists
Reform candidates accused of 'antisemitic' posts
Reform canvasser says he was 'a total fool'

He said: "Nigel Farage has set this all up. He has stoked it all. With every word over all these years, he has incited all that intolerance and prejudice in our society.

"I want to have nothing to do with it. And I don't think there's anything Nigel Farage can do to stop it, because he created it."

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, said his members and candidates "share no values with Mr Farage".

"He can sort himself out. My job as a Liberal Democrat leader is to tell you what we're about."

Here is the full list of candidates standing in the Derbyshire Dales constituency:

  • Kelda Boothroyd, Green Party

  • Robert Court, Liberal Democrats

  • Sarah Dines, Conservative Party

  • Rachel Elnaugh-Love, Independent

  • Edward Hudson Oakenfull, formerly Reform UK

  • Helen Wetherall, True and Fair Party

  • John Whitby, Labour Party

Here is the full list of candidates standing in Barnsley North:

  • Penny Baker, Liberal Democrats

  • Tony Devoy, Yorkshire Party

  • Neil Fisher, Independent

  • Tom Heyes, Green Party

  • Dan Jarvis, Labour Party

  • Tamas Kovacs, Conservative Party

  • Robert Lomas, formerly Reform UK

  • Janus Polenceusz, English Democrats

Here is the full list of candidates standing in Southend East and Rochford:

  • Bayo Alaba, Labour Party

  • James Joseph Allen, Liberal Democrats

  • Lee John Clark, Confelicity

  • Simon Cross, Green Party

  • Gavin Haran, Conservative Party

  • Bianca Eleanor Isherwood, Heritage Party

  • Leslie Lilley, formerly Reform UK