Farage blames vetting company after ITV News finds Reform candidates in offensive Facebook group

Reform UK Leader Nigel Farage has strongly criticised a company hired to vet their party candidates, ITV News Political Correspondent Harry Horton reports

Warning: this article contains offensive language

Reform UK Leader Nigel Farage told ITV News on Tuesday that a vetting company is to blame for failing to do background checks on his candidates.

His comments come after ITV News uncovered what appears to be racist social media posts by two candidates standing for Reform UK. Four other candidates were part of a Facebook group that regularly features Islamophobic and racist content.

Reform UK said it paid the company Vetting.com around £144,000 to vet more than 400 of its candidates in April - but claims the company failed to return any research.

When asked about the vetting process, Farage claimed that his party had been "stitched up", adding: "They literally did nothing, so there are one or two candidates who have slipped through the net who we would rather weren't there."

The deal with Vetting.com was supposed to cover background checks, including criminal records, social media posts, and adverse media checks on potential Reform UK candidates and donors.

Reform UK Chairman Richard Tice said: “They promised a deep dive, particularly on social media, and adverse press checks, received our candidate data but then delivered absolutely nothing."

A spokesperson for Reform UK added: “As we have already shown, if anything emerges that precludes a candidate from being a member of Reform UK, we will not hesitate to act, after a full and fair investigation."

Offensive posts on Facebook group

Four Reform UK candidates are members of a public Facebook group that regularly posts racist messages.

Some of the posts featured on the Facebook page include:

  • a post that states there should be "no race mixing" and that "the only thing black a white woman should have is black leather".

  • an image that portrays Islam as the devil arm wrestling against Jesus Christ

  • an image of Muslims praying on prayer mats with the caption: "The annual magic carpet race is about to start."

  • An image with the caption: "If Labour are red and Conservatives are blue, then Reform UK must be all white."

The above comments were not posted by the accounts of Reform candidates.

One Reform UK candidate had posted in the group in the past but the content was not offensive.

When contacted for comment, one Reform UK candidate in the group told ITV News: "I get many friend requests each day and sometimes I join to see what they are and even to see another point of view.

"I don’t think I ever liked or supported this page or ever took any notice of it’s content. Now you have alerted me, I will probably unfriend it."

Another candidate told ITV News that they had "no idea" what the Facebook group is about.

They said: "Being new to Facebook I often click on things without checking what they are all about, in an attempt to increase my online presence. I won’t anymore!

"Thank you for spending the time finding these errors and allowing me to correct them.

"I think it's in poor taste," Nigel Farage said when asked about the comments made by one Reform UK candidate online

Additionally, ITV News found what appears to be offensive messages posted by the accounts of two current Reform candidates.

In 2016, one candidate posted on X that "Hitler founded Israel".

He has also posted an image describing Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as a "traitor to the UK" and compared American businessman Bill Gates to Satan.

Another candidate standing for election posted a picture parodying the TV series Only Fools and Horses with a picture of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and London Mayor Sadiq Khan with the title "Dahl Boy".

In response to hearing about this particular comment, Farage told ITV News on Tuesday: "If we'd found that out, you know what, we'd have found somebody better."

When asked if it was an appropriate post to put online, Farage said: "Not particularly... Is it a capital offence? No. Is it in good taste? Not really."

"Our candidates may have a sense of humour that's a bit rough and ready - but you know what, we believe in free speech," he added.

The post, which also featured Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, includes references to "traitors" and "666" - a number often used to signify the devil or the antichrist.

ITV News has also seen evidence of offensive posts from multiple other Reform UK candidates.

This is not the first time Reform candidates have been criticised for their old social media posts.

In May, one candidate liked a post on X describing British Muslims as "foreigners living in Britain".

Another candidate has repeatedly shared posts by English Defence League founder and far-right figurehead Tommy Robinson, most recently on June 11.

When approached by ITV News, this particular candidate gave the following statement: "I do not support Tommy Robinson, neither does the Reform party. The tweets are retweets only and express views that are open to debate."

All of the candidates that feature in this piece were approached by ITV News for comment.

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Nigel Farage says he is "pretty angry" with how the process of vetting Reform UK candidates was handled

Vetting.com is co-owned by Colin Bloom, who was an adviser in Boris Johnson’s government, but the firm insisted it was “politically neutral”.

A spokesman for the firm told ITV News that Vetting.com approached "all the major UK political parties" "some months ago" to offer their "automated background screening services".

"We were delighted to be asked to help Reform. Everyone’s working assumption was that the election would be in the Autumn, giving us the Summer to complete this work," the company said in a statement.

"Given the explicit need for candidate consent, as well as our systems needing basic personal data like dates of birth, our automated software was not able process Reform’s candidates with the data that was provided when it was provided.

"We do not intend to litigate this in public, and we send Reform our best wishes as they shake up the UK political landscape. Mr Bloom has not had anything to do with the UK Conservative Party since 2022 and remains politically neutral.”

Farage has blamed some of the party's issues so far on not having time to prepare for the General Election.

He told ITV News last week: “This election’s been thrust upon us with almost no time to do vetting, to do any organisation.

"Of course, we’ll find people saying things they shouldn’t say," he added.

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