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Latest 27 April 2024

Reform UK drops candidate who spread racist and Islamophobic posts

Matthew Chattle / Alamy Stock Photo

After racist and Islamophobic posts on social media were found by Good Law Project, Reform UK has dropped a candidate standing in Yorkshire. But the party has declined to say whether it will act against three more.

Content warning: Islamophobia, racism, far-right tropes

Reform UK has dropped a candidate standing in Yorkshire, after Good Law Project revealed a slew of far-right content on his social media accounts. But the chaos surrounding Reform’s general election campaign continues, as it continues to back candidates who are regularly attacking migrants, Muslims and women of colour on social media.

Richard Brown was announced in March as the prospective parliamentary candidate for Harrogate and Knaresborough, despite press reports that in 2022 he called the Labour MP Jess Phillips a “bitch” and had shared the false claim that doctors refused to treat Boris Johnson because he wasn’t suffering from Covid.

Research from Good Law Project has now revealed Brown’s continuing pattern of far-right activity on social media. On Facebook he has shared content promoting the far-right agitator Katie Hopkins and Stephen Yaxley Lennon – the far-right leader also known as Tommy Robinson – as well memes from the “Enoch Powell Appreciation” page and accounts pushing vaccine conspiracies. He has also shared content from the far-right party Britain First and its leader Paul Golding on X, formerly Twitter. 

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Attacks on Muslims are a recurring theme in Brown’s social media posts. He is a member of a Facebook group called “Ban The Burka in the UK”, and has shared content referring to “Shariah Controlled Zones” in London – a meme featuring a manipulated image of Sadiq Khan which Brown posted with the comment “Are we really in England?” Other images attacking Muslims include claims that Muslims are “militants” who want to enact “strict Sharia law”, and “kill / subdue all infidels”. 

A screengrab from Richard Brown’s Facebook profile, showing a post featuring a manipulated image of Sadiq Khan

Brown has also shared multiple posts that frame migration in racialised terms, including asking “If Palestinians in London are so pro-Palestinian, why are they here?” and a cartoon showing people of colour hurrying towards a sign reading “White Countries” and a caption “Let’s go be oppressed”.

A screengrab from Richard Brown’s Facebook profile, showing a post of a cartoon that frames migration in racialised terms.

Other rightwing tropes circulated by Brown include anti-vaccine content suggesting that “members of the media” and “doctors and nurses” who “lied and misled the German people” during the pandemic should be hung, as well as claiming that “JABS ARE DANGEROUS”.

After Good Law Project contacted Reform UK about Brown’s activities on social media, the party confirmed that he has been dropped from the party’s slate.

Harrogate and Knaresborough is currently awaiting its new candidate, but Brown is hardly an outlier on the Reform UK list. The party said it had already parted ways with “about 13” candidates who have shared deeply offensive content online. And candidates still representing the party across the UK are actively spreading far-right content on social media.

Sandra Senior is standing in the Yorkshire constituency of Ossett and Denby Dale. Senior has shared content from far-right accounts including The American Nationalist, South Coast Patriot News and accounts promoting The Football Lads Alliance – a far-right-associated movement identified by the Premier League as “using fans and stadiums to push an anti-Muslim agenda”.

She also has a habit of sharing petitions targeting leftwing women of colour including Diane Abbott, Naz Shah and Gina Miller. Other petitions Senior has promoted have called for bans on “the Niqab and Burqa”, Halal meat, and attacking Sadiq Khan, “London’s Islamic Mayor”.

A screengrab from Sandra Senior’s Facebook profile, promoting a petition calling for Labour to ‘fire’ Diane Abbott.

Twenty miles further south, Adam Wood is currently Reform UK’s candidate for the constituency of Rawmarsh and Conisbrough. Wood has longstanding links with Matteo Salvini’s Italian rightwing populist party, Lega. He has been photographed speaking at their events, as well as being in communication with members of the French nationalist party, Rassemblement National. 

His Facebook feed includes a post captioned “One for my Italian friends” which compares an image of the French president Emmanuel Macron standing next to two shirtless Black men and one of Salvini with his arms around two blonde women. The image also brands Macron with a sexual slur and hails Salvini as a “chad” – a term used in far-right circles to express admiration.

A screengrab from Adam Wood’s Facebook profile, showing a post comparing Emmanuel Macron and Matteo Salvini.

Down in Somerset, the Reform UK regional organiser for Yeovil, Lee Bunker, has suggested on social media that Diane Abbott should be deported, migrants should be conscripted into the Ukrainian army and that they “are bringing in diseases with them”.

A screengrab from X, formerly known as Twitter, showing a post where Lee Bunker suggests migrants are ‘bringing in diseases’.

Reform UK spokesperson Gawain Towler said that the party “acts fast when it learns about comments and activities that go beyond what we believe to be reasonable in public discourse”.

“This is clear because when we spot attitudes that are, to us, beyond the pale, we remove people,” Towler said. “We do not wait months and hide behind extended suspensions like other parties. We act.”

He did not say if the party was taking action against Senior, Wood or Bunker, nor whether Reform UK considers the attitudes shown in their social media profiles “beyond the pale”.