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Latest 21 May 2024

Reform UK suspends candidate who shared video shot at far-right protest

By Max Colbert
Matthew Chattle / Alamy Stock Photo

A candidate standing for Reform UK in Derbyshire has been suspended, after using an official party account to spread a video shot by a far-right activist.

Reform UK has suspended a candidate standing in Derbyshire, after Good Law Project revealed he used the party’s official account supporting his election to boost a video shot at a far-right protest.

Andy Egginton, who was standing for Reform UK in north east Derbyshire, shared a post from a former organiser of the neo-Nazi group Patriotic Alternative, described by campaigners Hope Not Hate as “the largest and most active fascist movement operating in the UK today”. 

The video, shared by the Reform UK North East Derbyshire PPC account, was made by Darren Edmundson, who calls himself the “Pembrokeshire Patriot”. This live stream was filmed at the St George’s Day protest, which took place in central London on 23 April, where the keynote speaker was the far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – also known as Tommy Robinson. 

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Edmundson’s video featured speeches from Yaxley-Lennon, the former actor turned rightwing agitator Laurence Fox and others, and also promoted his new initiative, PTSD Camp Bath, recently exposed as a “far-right hub”, which has hosted antisemitic conspiracy theorists and “pro-white campaigners”.

A screenshot of Darren Edmundson's video shared by the 'Reform North East Derbyshire PPC Facebook' account.
The post from Reform UK North East Derbyshire PPC which shared Darren Edmundson’s video.

In the video, Edmundson mingles with a host of rightwing characters, at one point name-dropping Egginton’s account: “Reform UK North East Derbyshire is watching, thank you!” 

The event ultimately descended into violent clashes with police, resulting in multiple arrests on suspicion of assault, including against an emergency worker. 

Egginton’s account, which has nearly 5,000 followers, shared calls to attend the event on multiple occasions. In one post, he writes “St George’s Day March! Hopefully a good turnout? I’m going”.

 

A Facebook post from the Reform UK North East Derbyshire PPC account with the text: "St George's Day March. Hopefully a good turnout? I'm going" This was posted with an image of an AI-generated image of a St George's day march.
An AI-generated image of a St George’s Day march shared by the Reform UK North East Derbyshire PPC Facebook account.

When asked by Good Law Project about the event, Egginton said that he “did not attend the St George’s Day celebration”.

“The shout out was down to the fact I was viewing the event on his [Edmundson] link,” Egginton said, adding that he was “researching two-tier policing for a speech”.

The Facebook account, which has only been active since March, has also shared calls to attend other fringe events, including a post from the Enoch Powell Appreciation community page promoting an anti-ULEZ demonstration in Trafalgar Square on 27 April.

Egginton has also shared memes downplaying the climate crisis, attacking “illegals” and immigration, and promoting conspiracy theories, as well as friending several prominent leaders of the UK’s fractured fascist movement.

The account was friends with Alek Yerbury – a former Patriotic Alternative activist and open fascist who styles himself on Adolf Hitler, described by Hope Not Hate as “an extremist” who has made “violent statements” about political opponents. It was also friends with Kenny Smith, founder of the Homeland Party and formerly of Patriotic Alternative and the British National Party, as well as an account belonging to Gary Raikes.

Raikes is the leader of the New British Union of Fascists, a small collective whose membership has called for a “fascist revolution” and sees parliamentary democracy as an “obstruction” to be replaced with a dictatorship. The organisation style themselves after Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, and adopt his blackshirt uniforms and lightning bolt insignia. 

An image of Gary Raikes dressed in British Union of Fascists-inspired uniform.
Gary Raikes in a uniform inspired by the British Union of Fascists.

When informed by Good Law Project that his account was friends with members of the British far right, Egginton removed Alek Yerbury and Gary Raikes from his friendship list, even though he said he could not “find anything online in regards to them”. A simple internet search reveals extensive information about both Yerbury and Raikes’s political activities.

Our investigation has also found that 14 other Reform UK prospective parliamentary candidates are, at the time of writing, friends with Raikes on Facebook.

As with Egginton, some of these are official Reform UK pages. Pages promoting David Surtees, standing in Whitehaven and Workington, Craig Harwood, standing in Leicester South, and Grant Randall, standing in Rayleigh and Wickford, all use official Reform UK branding.

Reform UK candidates across Britain, from Thornbury and Yate in the southwest to Sunderland in the northeast, are following Raikes with their personal Facebook accounts, including Lee Stranders, Andrew Banwell, Paul Donaghy, Robert Kenyon, David Ayre, Mark Peart, Mike Rudkin, Dr George Woodward, Martin Baker, Devenne Kedward and Leslie Lilley.

Reform UK Leader Richard Tice has previously said it is “defamatory and libellous” to label the party as “far right”, even though there are multiple instances of candidates standing for the party who are associated with far-right groups.

After we approached Reform UK with details of Egginton’s activities online, the party suspended him pending an investigation, and removed his details from lists of prospective parliamentary candidates.

The party has already acted against one candidate after a Good Law Project investigation revealed he was spreading racist and Islamophobic posts. Reform UK spokesperson Gavin Towler said that it removes candidates “when we spot attitudes that are, to us beyond the pale.”

“We do not wait months and hide behind extended suspensions like other parties,” Towler said. “We act.”

He did not confirm whether the party will be taking action against three other candidates sharing offensive content previously identified by Good Law Project.

But Towler was unconcerned to find that many Reform UK candidates are following figures from the far right. “It is normal in politics to keep an eye on what one’s opponents are up to,” Towler said.

According to Georgie Laming, the director of campaigns at Hope Not Hate, these revelations raise important issues around the party’s role in British politics.

“Time and time again, Reform UK candidates are exposed for their extreme and hateful beliefs and then are promptly dropped by the party,” Laming said.

“It’s clear that Reform UK are not a credible party and do not take the vetting of candidates seriously. This poses the question of whether Reform UK are actually intending to stand a full slate of candidates at the next general election – or merely see the media attention as a platform to spread their hateful ideas.”