Posted on July 2, 2024

Racist and Homophobic Comments Unsettle U.K. Election Campaign

Stephen Castle, New York Times, June 28, 2024

Last year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a speech that he was proud to be Britain’s first prime minister of Asian heritage, but “even prouder that it’s just not a big deal.”

On Friday, Mr. Sunak said he was “hurt” and “angry” after a man campaigning on behalf of Reform U.K., an anti-immigration party, was recorded on video using a racist slur to describe him. The same man also called for migrants to be used as target practice.

The comments appeared in an exposé by Channel 4 News, in which an undercover investigator secretly filmed Reform campaigners in Clacton, a seaside area north east of London. The party’s leader, the veteran political disrupter Nigel Farage, hopes to win his first parliamentary seat there.

The investigation, broadcast on Thursday night, raised uncomfortable questions about Reform, which has shaken up the country’s general election campaign ever since Mr. Farage reversed an earlier decision not to stand for Parliament.

In the weeks since, the insurgent party has risen in the polls, at one point threatening to overtake Mr. Sunak’s Conservatives as the second-most-popular party, before recently falling back. But it has also come under fierce criticism after a number of its candidates were found to have made incendiary statements.

Mr. Farage initially said he was “dismayed” by the comments broadcast in the Channel 4 News investigation, adding, “Some of the language used was reprehensible.”

But on Friday, after it emerged that the man at the center of the furor, Andrew Parker, was a part-time actor, Mr. Farage claimed that his party had been the victim of “a total setup,” an allegation that Channel 4 News strongly rejected.

The investigation also recorded homophobic comments being made by George Jones, an activist closely linked to Reform U.K.


The comments broadcast in the TV exposé prompted anger from lawmakers across the political spectrum. The strongest condemnation, however, was for Mr. Parker, who described Islam as “the most disgusting cult out,” suggested army recruits should carry out “target practice” by shooting at migrants arriving on the British coastline and used a racial slur to describe the prime minister.

On Friday, Mr. Sunak told broadcasters that “it hurts and it makes me angry” that his two daughters “have to see and hear Reform people who campaigned for Nigel Farage” using such offensive language directed at their father.