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Reform needs to get its act together

If it doesn’t get a grip on these racism scandals, voters will begin to think twice.

Rakib Ehsan

Rakib Ehsan
Columnist

Topics Politics UK

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The Conservatives are on the verge of one of their worst UK General Election results in their history. Hoping to capitalise on this, Nigel Farage is presenting his Reform UK party as the ‘real’ opposition to a seemingly inevitable Labour government. Reform certainly taps into the current popular feeling that both Labour and the Tories are two sides of the same establishment coin. But can it really be an effective, organised and popular force in British politics?

Over the past few weeks, Reform has been embroiled in several race-related scandals that cast some doubt on this. Most notable has been the scandal involving Reform campaigner Andrew Parker, who was filmed making truly vile comments about UK prime minister Rishi Sunak. Last Thursday, a Channel 4 undercover investigation showed Parker referring to Sunak as a ‘fucking Paki’. While out canvassing in Clacton (the constituency where Farage looks odds-on to win and finally be elected as an MP), Parker also suggested that young military recruits should be deployed to shoot illegal migrants on the English south coast.

Farage and Reform rightly condemned Parker’s comments, at first. But soon after, they sought to present the investigation as a ‘stitch-up’. They have argued that Parker is a part-time actor, who may have been planted by Channel 4 in Clacton in an apparently extraordinary act of electoral interference. Needless to say, the evidence for this theory is incredibly thin.

In any case, this is hardly an isolated incident. Reform keeps finding itself in hot water over its candidates’ controversial comments. Just last week, the party suspended four parliamentary candidates after their racist remarks were brought to light. Robert Lomas, who is standing in Barnsley North, said that black people needed to ‘get off [their] lazy arses’ and stop acting like ‘savages’. Leslie Lilley, standing in Southend East and Rochford, had Reform’s support withdrawn after describing migrants arriving on small boats as ‘scum’. Edward Oakenfull, in Derbyshire Dales, made some nasty comments about the intelligence of sub-Saharan Africans on social media and had his party support swiftly removed. Raymond Saint, standing in Basingstoke, was also dropped last week after it emerged he was once recorded as a member of the far-right British National Party (BNP).

Incredibly, there are yet more Reform candidates who may be dropped before Thursday. That includes Ben Aston, who is standing in Bournemouth West. It recently came out that Aston was a believer in the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory. In the wake of Hamas’s 7 October attack, he wrote on social media that ‘powerful’ Jews were ‘agitating’ to import ‘third-world Muslims’ into Britain. Meanwhile, Lee Bunker, standing in Exeter, called for the deportation of Labour MP Diane Abbott during the Windrush scandal in 2018.

No doubt the speed with which candidates needed to be selected for the snap July election has allowed some obviously unsuitable people to get through the vetting procedures. Farage has even threatened legal action against the company Reform hired to vet its candidates, claiming that even the most basic of background checks were not completed. This may well be true, but Reform’s reaction to the Channel 4 report suggests that the party is not dealing with accusations of racism seriously enough. To blame them on an establishment ‘stitch-up’ looks evasive and dishonest.

Certainly, Reform is not the only party to have been rocked by multiple race scandals this election. Just look at the Green Party. The Greens have been forced to suspend candidates left, right and centre, largely over incidents of anti-Semitism. As is to be expected, however, this has attracted much less mainstream-media attention than Reform’s scandals have. The media are clearly biased against Farage, but they aren’t inventing these race scandals out of thin air.

The tragedy of Reform is that Britain needs a party that truly challenges the political establishment – something that Farage has proven he is capable of. Reform’s relative success in the polls so far indicates that the voting public wants that, too. People are sick and tired of having wokism shoved down their throats, being told they’re not allowed to be upset about mass migration and having their history, heritage and traditions constantly assaulted. If Reform could get its act together, it could well be the party to stand against all this.

Reform must do more to root out the racists and bigots in its midst. Otherwise, it will be limiting its potential. Farage, by his own admission, has said that the selection of unquestionably racist candidates has hurt Reform in the polls.

Voters deserve a serious and credible populist alternative to the mainstream parties. Unless Reform gets its act together, it will struggle to play that role.

Rakib Ehsan is the author of Beyond Grievance: What the Left Gets Wrong about Ethnic Minorities, which is available to order on Amazon.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics UK

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