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The fake news about Reform’s ‘fake’ candidates

Supposedly sensible centrists have fallen for another batsh*t conspiracy theory.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Deputy editor

Topics Politics UK

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The wing of politics that identifies as ‘sensible’ has fallen for yet another unhinged conspiracy theory.

Remoaner, centrist types like to claim that populists use fake news and disinformation to hoodwink the supposedly feeble-minded masses. Yet it is they who are most prone to seeing conspiracies everywhere and falling for any old nonsense they see online.

The Liberal Democrats have made the extraordinary allegation that Nigel Farage’s Reform UK fielded a number of fake, non-existent candidates. #FBPE Twitter is ablaze with accusations that some of Reform’s prospective MPs were actually AI-generated bots. Apparently, because these candidates did not visibly campaign in their local patch, are not active on social media and did not show up to their counts, they therefore do not exist. Which is a bit of a stretch, to put it mildly.

Strikingly, the mainstream media have entertained the harebrained theory, too. A Guardian headline states that Reform is ‘under pressure to prove all its candidates were real people’, although the article acknowledges that there is ‘no evidence’ whatsoever that they are not real. ITV’s Robert Peston was also Just Asking Questions on his show last night, as he grilled Reform chairman Richard Tice on the fact-free claims about fake candidates.

The mundane truth is that these were no-hoper ‘paper candidates’ in unwinnable seats. So of course they were unlikely to be pounding the pavements every day. Still, they were placed on the ballot in order to maximise Reform UK’s national vote share. This is standard political practice.

Among the candidates accused of being fake is Mark Matlock. He won 1,758 votes in Clapham and Brixton Hill in London, but he did not show up to the count on Thursday evening. Last night on GB News, he was forced to protest that he does indeed exist. The real reason he was absent from the count was that he was suffering from pneumonia.

Admittedly, Matlock’s glossy campaign leaflet does feature some very dodgy photoshopping, making him appear slimmer and with a healthier head of hair than in his GB News interview. There is certainly an uncanny quality to the photo. But politicians have long used digital trickery to enhance their image. This has never before been grounds for doubting a person’s very existence until now.

The ‘fake candidates’ story shows, yet again, that it is the Remoaners who are most easily duped by daft conspiracy theories. In recent years, these allegedly sensible centrists have claimed that Nigel Farage arranged to have milkshake thrown on himself – twice. That Boris Johnson faked the birth of his child, faked a camping trip in Scotland and faked a phone call with US president Joe Biden. And, of course, they still think Brexit was a plot orchestrated by Russians, hedge-fund managers and data-mining companies. All without a shred of actual evidence.

Seven years on from our vote to leave the EU, their brains remain fundamentally broken. Even now that one of their own is in charge, in the form of Remoaner prime minister Keir Starmer, they have not yet restored their grip on reality. It’s high time they logged off and took a long, hard look at themselves.

Fraser Myers is deputy editor at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on X: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: Matt Matlock.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics UK

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