Reform UK candidate apologises for comments suggesting UK should have stayed neutral during Second World War

A Reform UK candidate has apologised for an old internet post which said that Britain should have "taken Hitler up on his offer of neutrality" instead of fighting the Nazis in the Second World War.

Ian Gribbin, who is standing in the East Sussex seat of Bexhill and Battle, told Sky News that he apologises and withdraws the comments "unreservedly".

He added that he is "upset" at how they have been "taken out of context", saying his mother was the daughter of Russian Jewish people who fled persecution.

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Mr Gribbin said: "I apologise for these old comments and withdraw them unreservedly. I further apologise for the upset that they have caused.

"I myself am upset at the way these comments were taken out of context especially when my mother was the daughter of Russian Jews fleeing persecution."

As first reported by the BBC, Mr Gribbin said in a post on the UnHerd website in 2022 that Britain should have "taken Hitler up on his offer of neutrality" during the Second World War.

The post, seen by Sky News, said: "Britain would be in a far better state today had we taken Hitler up on his offer of neutrality…. but oh no Britain's warped mindset values weird notions of international morality rather than looking after its own people."

In another post that year he also described women as the "sponging gender".

Asked about the comments, Reform UK leader Nigel Farage said his party "ran out of time" to properly vet candidates.

He claimed all parties "will suffer" from selection controversies because of the speed at which they had to pick people after the election was called.

Mr Farage said: "They've got a bigger problem in the Green Party. They've had to suspend 20 of their candidates for putting out pretty vile antisemitic tweets.

"Here's something, I think every party will suffer because it was a snap election. We've put in place a good vetting programme, but we've run out of time."

Party chairman Richard Tice added: "We're really pleased with all candidates. When people do inappropriate things, say daft things then of course we'll look at it and investigate it and that's what we do."

'Shocking lack of judgment'

But Veterans' minister Johnny Mercer said the comments from Mr Gribbin were "shameful" and showed "a shocking lack of judgment".

The Conservative said: "These comments ignore the millions murdered by the Nazis in their bid for European domination and the ultimate sacrifice paid by the men and women who stood up to Hitler in our darkest hour.

"Misusing appeasement to justify Nazi apologism is disgraceful and comments like this are deeply troubling coming from a political party."

'Juvenile identity politics'

Earlier a spokesperson for Reform UK hit out at the media for covering the issue, telling Sky News: "Millions of people who are struggling want journalists to discuss policy and ideas not juvenile gotcha identity politics.

"The snap election truncated vetting and post election these issues will be addressed. But the BBC and others need to grow up and debate ideas with those running the party."

It followed a different statement that was provided to the BBC, in which the spokesperson said Mr Gribbin's comment about Hitler was not an endorsement but a "conveniently forgotten truth", while his comment about women was "tongue in cheek".

They said: "Through offence archaeology the BBC has found that Mr Gribbin has made a series of comments about a number of subjects.

"They were written with an eye to inconvenient perspectives and truths. That doesn't make them endorsements, just arguing points in long distance debates.

"His historical perspective of what the UK could have done in the 30s was shared by the vast majority of the British establishment including the BBC of its day, and is probably true.

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"Again no endorsement, just pointing out conveniently forgotten truths.

"As for the feminism point, his tongue is so firmly in his cheek one should be able to spot it from 100 yards."

The controversy came as Reform UK announced its economic policy in Westminster.

This includes a plan to raise the threshold for paying income tax to £20,000, at the cost of £40bn, to be paid for by overhauling the Bank of England.

You can find a full list of candidates for the Bexhill and Battle constituency here.