UK's Reform party drops three election candidates over offensive comments

Labour and the Tories have accused Nigel Farage of not tackling allegations of racism in his party (HENRY NICHOLLS)
Labour and the Tories have accused Nigel Farage of not tackling allegations of racism in his party (HENRY NICHOLLS)

Britain's hard-right Reform UK party, led by Brexiteer Nigel Farage, has withdrawn support from three candidates for next week's general election over allegations they made offensive comments, local media reported Saturday.

Farage's anti-immigration group -- tipped to take support away from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Conservatives in Thursday's vote -- has been embroiled in a racism scandal as the election campaign enters its final days.

Reform no longer endorses Edward Oakenfull, Robert Lomas, and Leslie Lilley, but they will still appear on the ballot paper as Reform candidates since it is too late for them to be removed, said BBC and Sky News.

Oakenfull, standing in Derbyshire in the East Midlands area of England, is accused of having posted derogatory comments about the IQ of sub-Saharan Africans on social media last year.

Lomas, a candidate in Barnsley in north England, reportedly made offensive comments about black people.

Lilley, seeking to become an MP in Southend in southeast England, allegedly described irregular migrants arriving in Britain on small boats as "scum", adding: "I hope your family get robbed, beaten or attacked."

Appearing on BBC Television on Friday night, Farage disowned the trio, saying: "I want nothing to do with them."

The development came after Sunak, Britain's first leader of colour, denounced a racist slur used against him by a campaigner for Reform.

An undercover investigation by Channel 4 filmed campaigners making racist, homophobic and offensive comments in Clacton-on-Sea, eastern England, where Farage is hoping to be elected as an MP.

The supporter also called for Muslims to be kicked "out of mosques" and their places of worship turned into pubs.

Farage suggested that the comments were a "complete and total set-up", claiming without evidence that the man may have been paid to act in the video, possibly by opponents threatened by the party's popularity. He has complained to Britain's elections watchdog.

Channel 4 denied Farage's claims of fabrication.

In its report, another campaigner suggested members of the LGBTQ community are paedophiles.

Reform has come under growing scrutiny in recent weeks as it climbs up the polls.

According to the anti-racism organisation Hope Not Hate, Reform has withdrawn at least 166 candidates since the beginning of the year, many of whom have made racist or offensive remarks.

Farage, seeking to become an MP at the eight attempt, has tried to blame a vetting company for not properly scrutinising would-be candidates.

The Tories and the main opposition Labour party, which is expected to win the election, accuse Farage of failing to tackle racism in his party.

A new poll published by the Labour-supporting Mirror newspaper on Friday put Sunak's Conservatives on 18 percent, with Reform on 21 percent, both well behind Labour on 38 percent.

Support for Reform could split the right-wing vote, handing Labour a landslide, analysts say.