Bigotry & Chaos: Why Reform Is Not Election Ready

Gregory Davis - 06 04 24

HOPE not hate reveals ANOTHER shameful Reform UK candidate – and lifts the lid on the party’s chaotic selection process

UPDATE: Reform UK has DROPPED Ian Harris as their candidate for Lewes. Read our full investigation below.

The incompetent selection of Reform UK’s candidates has been laid bare over the past fortnight, with the party forced to drop a string of candidates after racist statements were found on their easily-accessible social media feeds.

Now HOPE not hate can reveal ANOTHER Reform candidate with shocking views. Ian Harris, the Reform candidate for Lewes in East Sussex, frequently ‘likes’ hateful tweets including one calling for all Muslims to be deported and another that suggested a ban on Muslims standing in elections.

Harris has also liked a series of tweets that are highly disparaging about Reform UK’s leader Richard Tice and the party itself, including one from Tommy Robinson that said “fuck reform under his [Tice’s] leadership. Its establishment run”.

HOPE not hate can also debunk Reform’s false claims that they are ready for the general election, which could be just a few months away. As we detail below, there are still 197 seats that currently have no Reform candidate in place, including some of their top target constituencies.

We also reveal that the that publicised deselections of five Reform candidates in the last fortnight is just the tip of the iceberg: 57 other constituencies have seen their previously named candidates quietly dropped or swapped over the past six weeks.

Ian Harris, Candidate For Lewes

Ian Harris (far left) attends the Armistice Day protest called by Tommy Robinson, 11 November 2023

Reform UK’s candidate for Lewes, East Sussex, is a eccentric musician who plays with the Iron Boot Scrapers, an Edwardian-themed rock band from Brighton. Using a Twitter account under his band’s name, Harris has frequently ‘liked’ extreme Islamophobic posts from notorious far-right figures like Stephen Lennon AKA Tommy Robinson and former British National Party leader Nick Griffin. 

One of Griffin’s tweets ‘liked’ by Harris referred to the UK as a “bankrupt, crime-ridden, LGBTQ-obsessed, multicult shit-hole”, while he similarly endorsed a tweet from Lennon saying that “we need mass deportations”.

Harris also attended a demonstration called by Lennon on Armistice Day 2023, a disorderly event that saw protesters force their way onto Whitehall and quickly descend into drunken violence against police.

Other hateful posts endorsed by Harris on Twitter include one calling for all Muslims to be deported and another for Muslims to be barred from standing for election:

These tweets are not isolated accidents: on two successive days in December 2023 Harris ‘liked’ tweets calling for a ban on Islam in the UK:

Less hateful – but perhaps equally uncomfortable for the party’s leadership – Harris’ likes also show that he has a very low opinion of Reform UK itself. He has frequently liked tweets that condemn the party in strong terms, even those suggesting that the party deserves to win no seats. 

His recent likes reflect an animosity driven by the recent removal of other racist candidates, but even prior to that Harris had liked similar posts in relation to Tice’s support for Ukraine:

Election ready?

If the repeated public removal of scandal-hit candidates were not enough of a problem, we can reveal that there is an even greater level of upheaval behind the scenes.

Reform UK claimed as far back as January 2023 that it had already selected 600 candidates and would be fielding a full slate in England, Scotland and Wales at the General Election.

“It’s a 110%, cast-iron guarantee. We’ve already got 600 candidates, we will stand everywhere.”

Richard Tice quoted in Guardian, 4 Jan 2023

Richard Tice quoted in Guardian, 4 Jan 2023

A year later Tice would later downgrade this figure in an interview with LBC, saying in January this year that the party had “about 500 candidates”.  Yet when HOPE not hate went through the list of candidates announced on the Reform UK website on 15 February it had named candidates for just 416 of the 632 seats in England, Scotland and Wales that it had promised to stand in.

If the figures given to the Guardian in January 2023 and then LBC in January 2024 were correct, this would mean that the party had lost an astounding 100 candidates over the course of that year, and then shed a further 84 in the month to February 2024. 

When we checked again on April 4th, that figure had risen to 435 seats, meaning the party had filled 19 vacancies but still had 197 candidates to select. However, even the modest increase in named candidates over that seven-week period masks a chaotic level of churn behind the scenes. 

62 of the 416 named candidates assigned to a constituency by 15 February were no longer in place by 28 March; 33 seats having had their candidate replaced and another 29 still vacant. 

Seats currently without a named Reform UK candidate include Barnsley North and Doncaster North, two of three seats with the highest Reform vote according to the latest YouGov MRP poll.

It is not unusual for a party to still be running selection meetings at this stage in an election year; Labour and the Conservative Party are also in the process of selecting their last few candidates.

However, most political parties have an existing voter base and activist core who will pound the streets and campaign for whoever wins those selections. With neither of those assets – and no democratic selection procedures to slow down the process – it is hard to see why Reform would not have spent the last few years preparing a strong candidate list to begin campaigning in their constituencies as early as possible. 

Déjà vu, again

If all of this sounds familiar, it should: Reform UK’s predecessor the Brexit Party was on an almost identical track in the months leading up to the 2019 General Election

Then, as now, the media largely accepted then-leader Nigel Farage’s claims to have “600 candidates ready to go” in August 2019, but by the time of his 11 November announcement that the party would stand down in Tory-held seats – with just a month to go until the election -the party had named just 343 candidates. 

Nigel Farage grilled on hateful candidates by Andrew Neil, 5 December 2019

Then, as now, the candidates announced were an embarrassment. The Brexit Party dropped numerous candidates prior to the election and awkwardly stood by others; one lowlight of the campaign was when Farage faced a grilling from Andrew Neil on HOPE not hate’s research into his shameful candidates.

If Reform UK are unable to successfully vet their candidates or prepare for an election, it’s safe to say they’re far from ready to take on the momentous task of government.


With a General Election on the horizon, now is our chance to stand against divisive politics.

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