Reform canvasser in PM racism row says he was 'a total fool'

A Reform UK canvasser who used a racial slur against Rishi Sunak has called himself a "total fool" and said he has learned his lesson.

Footage from an undercover Channel 4 reporter showed Reform campaigner Andrew Parker using a discriminatory term about the prime minister, as well as saying the army should "just shoot" migrants crossing the Channel.

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Police are now assessing the comments to establish if an offence has been committed, while Mr Sunak said the insult directed at him "hurts and it makes me angry".

Mr Parker, who was canvassing in Clacton, where Reform leader Nigel Farage is standing, told Sky News the sting operation had "proper taught me a lesson".

He said: "There's lots of old people like me who are sick to death of this woke agenda… but on that particular day, I was set up and set up good and proper.

"It's proper taught me a lesson - I was a total fool."

Pressed on his use of the racial slur, he said he was an "old man" and "I still use old words".

"There's no racism at all in it. I am a decent guy to be honest", he added.

In the Channel 4 report, Mr Parker can be heard using offensive language about the prime minister and also discussing migrants arriving in small boats in Deal, Kent

He said: "Army recruitment - get the young recruits there, with guns, on the f****** beach, target practice. F****** just shoot them."

He also described Islam as a "disgusting cult".

Mr Farage said he was "dismayed" by the "appalling" comments and has sought to distance himself from the campaigner, saying he was simply "someone who turned up to help" and "has nothing to do with the party".

He has also used reports Mr Parker was a part-time actor to suggest the incriminating film was a "total set-up" - something Channel 4 has strongly denied.

Mr Parker himself says his volunteering for Reform was separate from his acting job - and claims he was "goaded" into making the comments.

A spokesperson for Channel 4 said: "We strongly stand by our rigorous and duly impartial journalism which speaks for itself.

"We met Mr Parker for the first time at Reform UK party headquarters, where he was a Reform party canvasser.

"We did not pay the Reform UK canvasser or anyone else in this report. Mr Parker was not known to Channel 4 News and was filmed covertly via the undercover operation."

The broadcaster's investigation also caught another canvasser describing the Pride flag as "degenerate" and suggesting members of the LGBT community are paedophiles.

A spokesman for Essex Police said the force is "urgently assessing" the comments "to establish if there are any criminal offences".

PM 'hurt and angry' over racial slur

Mr Sunak reacted furiously to the comments and said Mr Farage had "some questions to answer".

He said: "My two daughters have to see and hear Reform people who campaign for Nigel Farage calling me an effing P***. It hurts and it makes me angry and I think he has some questions to answer.

"And I don't repeat those words lightly. I do so deliberately because this is too important not to call out clearly for what it is.

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"As prime minister, but more importantly as a father of two young girls, it's my duty to call out this corrosive and divisive behaviour."

Asked later on the Mumsnet parenting forum if he thinks Mr Farage is racist, Mr Sunak said: "Racism stings. I've experienced it in the past and I've spoken about this recently.

"With regards to Farage, I won't put labels on people, but I will call out blatant racism when I see it, and there are clearly deep, deep problems in the party he leads."

Unrepentant Farage doubles down

Mr Farage faced a slew of questions on the row during a BBC Question Time Leaders' Special on Friday night, during which he said he was "not going to apologise" for the actions of people associated with his party.

Reform UK has faced a series of controversies relating to election candidates saying offensive or racist things.

Asked why his party "attracts racists and extremists", the former UKIP leader claimed he had "done more to drive the far right out of British politics than anybody else alive" - claiming he took on the British Nationalist Party (BNP) a decade ago.

He also appeared to throw his predecessor Richard Tice under the bus when read racist and xenophobic comments made by Reform candidates, saying he "inherited a start-up party" and has "no idea" why the people who said those things had been selected.

The other candidates in Clacton are:

  • Jovan Owusu-Nepaul, Labour;

  • Matthew Bensilum, Liberal Democrat;

  • Craig Jamieson, Climate Party;

  • Tony Mack, Independent;

  • Natasha Osben, Green Party;

  • Tasos Papanastasiou, Heritage Party;

  • Andrew Pemberton, UK Independence Party;

  • Giles Watling, Conservative.