Labour and Tories turn fire on Reform UK and Farage

Nigel Farage has been criticised by both the Tories and Labour for failing to show leadership over tackling allegations of racism within Reform UK.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he shared Rishi Sunak’s “disgust” at the use of a racial slur by an activist campaigning for Mr Farage in Clacton which was recorded by an undercover journalist.

And security minister Tom Tugendhat said there was a “pattern of racist and misogynistic views” within Reform UK.

Campaigners for Mr Farage’s party Reform UK in the Clacton seat in Essex he hopes to win were recorded by an undercover journalist from Channel 4 making racist comments, including about the Prime Minister who is of Indian descent.

The footage showed Reform campaigner Andrew Parker using a racist term about Mr Sunak and suggesting migrants should be used as “target practice”.

Another canvasser described the Pride flag as “degenerate” and suggested members of the LGBT community are paedophiles.

Sir Keir accused Mr Farage of not doing enough following the incident, and added that it is the leader who sets the “tone, the culture and the standards” of a political party.

Speaking to reporters on a campaign visit in Hampshire, he said: “I don’t think (Mr Farage) has shown the leadership he should’ve shown. There’s no good condemning remarks after the event.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer sits at a table and talks to people during a visit to a veterans’ coffee morning in Hampshire
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to a veterans’ coffee morning in Hampshire (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“If you lead a party you set the tone, and the culture, and the standards of your party, and I don’t think he’s done enough in terms of leadership.”

In response to the incident, Mr Sunak talked about the impact on his family: “To know my girls may have heard their dad be called a ‘f****** P***’ by someone campaigning for Reform is shocking. We are better than that as a country.”

Asked if he sympathised with the Prime Minister, Sir Keir said: “I do, and I thought what he said about his daughters in particular was very powerful.

“And I’m glad he said it and I share his disgust at the comments that were made.”

Reform UK has written to the Electoral Commission, claiming Mr Parker, who is an actor, was a “plant” in the Channel 4 news item.

Mr Tugendhat said it was just the latest incident involving candidates or activists associated with Reform.

He told Times Radio: “There’s many decent people vote for every political party and there’s many decent people who will vote for Reform.

“But what we’re trying to do is to remind people, to try to make clear to people, what it is that Reform really is.”

He said Mr Farage has “clearly done almost no due diligence on who he’s asking to carry his message”.

“There is a real pattern of racist and misogynistic views in the party. I think it’s absolutely right to call it out,” he added.

In a Times interview, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said wavering Tories considering backing Reform should think again.

She said: “What I am asking those people who are Reform voters, or considering voting Reform, is that you are good people, I know that you feel some disappointment with our party, but don’t let these people who claim to be like you get in.

“They are not like you all. They are a totally different thing.”

She said Reform was made up of “people who are not fit to make the decisions about your life”.

She rejected calls from some of her colleagues to join forces with Mr Farage after the election and let him into the Conservative fold.

“Why is he getting a special pass? He is like the wolf in the three little pigs story. He wants to blow your house down. The wolf is coming to destroy you. He’s not coming for a cup of tea,” she said.

Mr Farage said the Clacton expose was “a political set-up of astonishing proportions”, highlighting Mr Parker’s background as an actor.

He added he was “not going to apologise” as what had happened was a “set-up, a deliberate attempt to smear us”.

Mr Parker told the PA news agency that his volunteering for Reform was separate from his acting job, adding that he had been “goaded” into making the comments caught on camera.

Channel 4 hit back at the claims Mr Parker was a paid actor, with a spokesperson for the broadcaster saying: “We met Mr Parker for the first time at Reform UK party headquarters, where he was a Reform party canvasser.”

Mr Farage also claimed the audience on BBC’s Question Time on Friday, during which he was questioned about his party’s supporters, “was rigged” and he is refusing to appear on the flagship Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show unless the corporation apologises.

The BBC has denied Mr Farage’s claims.

Meanwhile, Reform has confirmed it has dropped support for candidates Leslie Lilley in Southend East and Rochford; Edward Oakenfull in Derbyshire Dales; and Robert Lomas in Barnsley North.

On Question Time, Mr Farage was challenged on comments made by the three and said “in most cases, they’ve been disowned”.

The three will still appear as Reform candidates on the ballot paper because nominations for the July 4 poll have closed.