Reform UK candidate drops out and backs Tories amid racism row

A Reform UK candidate has criticised a “failure of leadership” amid allegations of racism within the party as he stepped down and backed the Conservatives in another blow to Nigel Farage’s campaign.

Liam Booth-Isherwood, who was standing in the seat of Erewash, announced he was dropping out of the race and would instead be endorsing Tory contender Maggie Throup to “stop Labour”.

The candidate said he had become “increasingly disillusioned” with the behaviour of the party, which he suggested pointed to a “significant moral issue” within its ranks.

Because nominations for the July 4 poll have closed, Mr Booth-Isherwood will still appear on the ballot paper.

But he has urged voters in the Derbyshire constituency to support the Conservative candidate Ms Throup, who has represented Erewash since 2015.

Mr Booth-Isherwood said in a statement: “I am today announcing my decision to leave the Reform Party and have suspended my campaign as the Reform candidate for Erewash with immediate effect.

“Over the past few weeks, I have been increasingly disillusioned with the behaviour and conduct of Reform.

“Whilst I have campaigned alongside many decent, honest and hardworking people during the course of the General Election campaign in Erewash, the reports of widespread racism and sexism in Reform have made clear that there is a significant moral issue within certain elements of the party, and the failure of the party’s leadership to not only take this matter seriously, but also to fundamentally address it, has made clear to me that this is no longer a party I want to be associated with.

“As a result, I am announcing my endorsement of the Conservative Party candidate, Maggie Throup, for Erewash. Only she can stop Labour.”

Party chairman Richard Tice claimed the switch in support suggested that Conservatives were offering jobs and inducements to Reform candidates “to persuade them to talk badly of Reform, stand down and then endorse the Tory candidate”.

“This shows dark forces at play by desperate Tories,” he wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

It comes after Mr Farage faced accusations from across the political divide of failing to tackle allegations of racism within Reform which have engulfed the party in recent days.

Addressing a rally in Birmingham earlier on Sunday, the party leader insisted that “the bad apples are gone” after withdrawing support for three candidates over the row.

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage speaking to the media after the rally for his party at Birmingham’s NEC
Nigel Farage has faced accusations from across the political divide of failing to tackle allegations of racism within Reform (Matthew Cooper/PA)

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

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

Mr Farage has suggested that the Channel 4 footage is a “set-up” – a claim the broadcaster strenuously denies.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was hurt and angered by the racist term used about him (Joe Giddens/PA)

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.

They will also appear on the ballot paper but have lost party backing.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he shared Mr Sunak’s “disgust” at the use of the slur, which the Prime Minister has condemned as “vile” and “racist”.

Channel 4 hit back at the suggestion it had paid Mr Parker to be in the footage, 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.”

The Tories said that if 130,000 voters joined the Reform UK candidate who switched to back the Conservatives “it would be enough to stop Labour’s supermajority”.

“Mr Booth-Isherwood knows a vote for Reform is a vote for Keir Starmer,” a party spokesman said.

“There is no doubt, only a vote for the Conservatives can prevent an unaccountable majority for Labour, and the ruin this would bring for the country.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “This is further proof that the only way to get the change we need is to vote Labour on July 4.

“After 14 years of Tory chaos, Labour is the only party with a plan for economic security, secure borders, the NHS back on its feet, cheaper bills, safer streets and better opportunities for our children.”

Ms Throup said she was “delighted” that Mr Booth-Isherwood was backing her campaign, saying in a post on X: “He has taken the brave step to make a stand agaist some of the serious issues we have seen within certain elements of the Reform Party, and I commend him for this.”