Election campaign day 38: Farage at centre of media storm

Nigel Farage has been picking fights with Channel 4 and the BBC, while Labour and the Tories sought to land some blows on him.

– Farage against the machine

Nigel Farage appearing on BBC's Question Time
Nige Farage on Friday night’s Question Time (Peter Byrne/PA)

Nigel Farage’s Reform UK is involved in high-profile spats with two major broadcasters.

The Reform leader said he is refusing to appear on the BBC’s flagship politics show Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg unless the broadcaster apologises for the “rigged” audience he was confronted with on Friday night’s Question Time.

The BBC said the audience was made up of “broadly similar levels of representation from Reform UK and the Green Party” – Green co-leader Adrian Ramsay was the other guest – “with other parties represented too”, along with some voters still making up their minds.

In the other row, Reform has written to the Electoral Commission calling for an investigation into Channel 4’s undercover report on Mr Farage’s campaign in Clacton.

The party said activist Andrew Parker, who is a “jobbing actor”, was filmed saying “exclusively racist and bigoted remarks” and it was “entirely evident that Mr Parker was a plant”.

The broadcaster said it did not pay the Reform UK canvasser and “Mr Parker was not known to Channel 4 News and was filmed covertly via the undercover operation”.

– Quote of the day

– Blow the house down

Both Labour and the Tories turned their fire on Reform, in a sign they were both considering how to deal with the threat Mr Farage’s party could pose beyond the election.

Sir Keir Starmer criticised Mr Farage’s handling of the Reform racism rows: “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.”

For the Tories, security minister Tom Tugendhat told Times Radio: “There is a real pattern of racist and misogynistic views in the party.”

BCC Global Annual Conference 2024
Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch warned against letting Nigel Farage into the Conservative Party (Lucy North/PA)

And Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch rejected calls for Mr Farage to be welcomed into the Tory fold after the election, telling The Times: “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.”

– Picture of the day

General Election campaign 2024
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking to veterans at a cafe on Armed Forces Day in his Richmond and Northallerton constituency (Scott Heppell/PA)

– Going nuclear

Sir Keir said it was “ridiculous” and “desperate” for senior Tories to suggest it would be dangerous to entrust the security of the country to Labour.

On Armed Forces Day he stressed his commitment to Nato and the nuclear deterrent and said the Government had trusted him with briefings on issues such as the Ukraine war.

“They have given me high-level sensitive briefings, so much do they trust us on national security,” he told reporters during a visit to Aldershot.

Veterans’ minister Johnny Mercer said a vote for Labour would “put us all in danger” while Mr Tugendhat told the BBC “I think that the choices that Labour will make will make us more vulnerable to foreign pressure”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was also on an Armed Forces Day visit, drinking tea and eating cake with veterans in his North Yorkshire constituency.

– Post? Traumatic, stress, disorder

Scotland’s First Minister John Swinney warned the public could become disenfranchised because of problems with postal votes.

“I’m inundated in my inbox. I suspect there’ll be effects on all political parties,” he said.

“But I think the crucial point is the disenfranchisement of individuals.”

Edinburgh City Council and Fife Council have taken the unusual step of setting up emergency centres where residents who have yet to receive their ballot can have one reissued, or can even cast their vote ahead of July 4.

The issue is a particular problem in Scotland, where many families will be away on polling day because schools have broken up for the summer.

– A prayer for peace

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby urged people to avoid “personalised abuse” in the closing stages of the election campaign as he encouraged voters to go to the ballot box.

He said: “Let us encourage courteous and kind debate and not use personalised abuse.

“Let us carefully consider issues and the common good, and above all vote.”

– What comes next?

Attention is already focusing on what comes after the election, with Mr Tugendhat declining to rule out a leadership bid.

“What we need to do is to make sure that Conservatives across this country win their seats and that’s exactly what I’ve been focused on,” he said when asked if he would consider running if Mr Sunak quit after a defeat on July 4.

For Labour, the questions are more about who will get the top jobs in Sir Keir’s cabinet if the polls are correct and he finds himself in No 10.

David Lammy received no guarantee that he would be the foreign secretary in the first Starmer administration.

Asked if the shadow foreign secretary would be in King Charles Street, Sir Keir said: “I’m not going to announce anybody who may be in a cabinet after Thursday if we win.”

– Social media moment of the day

As campaigning reaches its final weekend, the parties are making a last push with their efforts on social media to drive home their message.

The Labour Party shared a post on X, formerly Twitter, of an edited image of Rishi Sunak walking across a road lined with palm trees, hinting at speculation that the Prime Minister could relocate to California if he should find himself out of the top job next week.

Text over the photo read: “Make this weekend his last as Prime Minister. Change will only happen if you vote for it.”

 – What’s happening tomorrow?

The Prime Minister is the big name on BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden, SNP leader and Scottish First Minister John Swinney and a certain Mr Farage will be on Sky’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips.

Barring a change of heart, Mr Farage appears unlikely to follow that up with an appearance on the BBC.