‘Get real, wakey wakey, red pill time’: Reform candidates in their own words

<span>A YouTube video in which party candidate Mark Butcher outlined some of his theories was described by Reform as ‘some very late-night philosophical ramblings’.</span><span>Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian</span>
A YouTube video in which party candidate Mark Butcher outlined some of his theories was described by Reform as ‘some very late-night philosophical ramblings’.Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

While opinion polls have shown rising support for Reform UK during the general election campaign, the party has been dogged by revelations about some of its candidates.

These have ranged from comments that the UK should have remained neutral in the fight against the Nazis and admiration of Hitler’s “brilliant” ability to inspire action, to a conspiracy theory about King Charles being under the control of a shadowy global elite.

Challenged on Good Morning Britain earlier this week, the Reform leader, Nigel Farage, said: “Most of our candidates are not political sophisticates … Like the Green party, like other parties, we’ve had one or two slip through the net that shouldn’t have done”

Farage later told the Telegraph that Reform had paid a “large sum of money” to a vetting company to investigate its candidates, but claimed the party has been let down.

Below, we examine some of the most controversial Reform candidates.

Reform and the candidates were approached for comment.

Jack Aaron, candidate for Welwyn Hatfield in Hertfordshire

Aaron, who is standing against the defence secretary, Grant Shapps, tweeted in 2022 that Hitler “was basically incoherent in his writing and rationale” but was “brilliant” at using specific personality traits “to inspire people into action”.

Questioned by the Times, Aaron defended his comments: “Yes, Hitler was as brilliant as he was utter evil. How is that controversial to say, given that he was able to turn the Germans to such destructive acts, including killing many members of my own family?”

Aaron told the Guardian that his comments had been taken out of context. “It’s been incredibly insulting to me and my family, and risible to the Jewish community I am part of and volunteer in.”

The psychologist, who founded the World Socionics Society, which promotes a pseudoscientific theory of personality types, also described the Syrian dictator President Bashar al-Assad as “gentle by nature” in a post on the online forum Reddit last year.

In the post, Aaron said he believed that Assad was not “some bloodthirsty tyrant … with an iron fist” like his father, Hafez, but was more of a figurehead of the regime he had inherited.

He told the Guardian: “That in no way excuses the many thousands of deaths in his name, but it is relevant and important in the context of trying to understand his personality, which is what I had been trying to do all along.”

Related: ‘He’s for English people’: Farage’s populist pitch gains traction in Clacton

Lee Bunker, candidate for Exeter

An account in the name of Bunker asked in 2018 when they would “be deporting Diane Abbott”. The tweet, deleted after it was flagged by the BBC, came in response to a tweet by the then Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, about immigration deportation targets.

The same account also tweeted in 2022 that “migrants are bringing in diseases”, in reaction to a Sky News story about a man who died after staying at the Manston migrant processing centre in Kent.

David Burgess-Joyce, candidate for Wallasey, Merseyside

Burgess-Joyce resigned from the Conservative party after posting a tweet in 2019 in which he claimed that Tottenham’s Labour MP, David Lammy, had done “more damage to community cohesion than any KKK member”.

In his post, which was later deleted, the then Tory Wirral councillor, appeared to accuse Lammy of racism and “virtue signalling”.

He told the Guardian: “The tweet I made five years ago as a Conservative councillor was inappropriate, I apologised for it and I was rightly sanctioned. I returned to politics following a short suspension, and an independent body led by a QC found that I had not been racist.”

Mark Butcher, candidate for Blackpool South, Lancashire

Butcher expounded on a number of conspiracy theories in a video posted on his YouTube channel in 2018, urging his followers to “get real people, wakey wakey, red pill time”.

According to the Mirror, in the clip Butcher warns viewers to “do your research, folks” about issues such as Agenda 21, a UN sustainability resolution that conspiracy theorists claim is intended to create an eco-totalitarian regime, and the Kalergi plan, a debunked far-right, antisemitic, white genocide theory.

The paper reported that Butcher also outlined some of his own theories in the video, including a claim that the CIA made TVs to put people to sleep so they would not be alert to other conspiracies.

He urged his audience to recognise that “some of these theories … are true; there is no point burying our head in the sand”.

A Reform UK spokesperson told the paper Butcher’s comments were “clearly some very late-night philosophical ramblings”.

He added: [Butcher] raises questions about a number of matters, while accepting that they are all questionable and conspiracy theories.”

Angela Carter-Begbie, candidate for Queen’s Park and Maida Vale, north-west London

Carter-Begbie has promoted several conspiracy theories online, including claiming that King Charles was “weak” and under the control of a shadowy global elite.

In tweet on 23 April, she questioned the monarch’s loyalty to Britain, claiming he was “under the WEF”, meaning the World Economic Forum, which organises the annual meeting of world political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland.

According to the Times, she has also promoted other conspiracies online, including that the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers was an “inside job” and the Covid-19 vaccination programme was “like the Holocaust”.

Pete Morris, candidate for Melton and Syston, Leicestershire

In a local newspaper article last week, Morris described Covid19 as a “man-made” disease and railed against MNRA vaccines.

Writing in the Melton Times, the former local businessman promoted the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus had been manufactured and released so the pharmaceutical industry could make billions from “potentially harmful so-called vaccines”.

He also attacked “15-minute neighbourhoods”, a reference to a conspiracy theory that claims councils want to control how often residents can go shopping, ration access to roads and use CCTV to monitor this.

Asked for comment by the Guardian, Morris replied: “We are all entitled to our opinions you have mine I’d love to here [sic] yours.”