Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Reform UK defends candidate over Hitler neutrality comments

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Reform UK has defended one of its candidates who said Britain should have “taken Hitler up on his offer of neutrality”, saying the comments were “probably true”.

The row prompted the Conservatives to directly criticise Ian Gribbin, the party’s candidate in Bexhill and Battle, who was reported to have written on a website’s comment section: “Britain’s warped mindset values weird notions of international morality rather than looking after its own people.”

The BBC said Gribbin had written that Britain needed to “exorcise the cult of Churchill and recognise that in both policy and military strategy, he was abysmal”. He is also reported to have said that women were the “sponging gender” and should be “deprived of health care”.

Reform’s spokesperson told the BBC the views on Hitler’s offer were not endorsements but were “shared by the vast majority of the British establishment including the BBC of its day, and is probably true”.

He said they were written with “an eye to inconvenient perspectives and truths. That doesn’t make them endorsements, just arguing points in long-distance debates.”

The spokesperson also told the Jewish Chronicle the party would not sack the candidate and he had “done nothing wrong.”

The BBC later said Gribbin had apologised for the “old comments and withdraw them unreservedly and the upset that they have caused”.

He said his “mother was the daughter of Russian Jews fleeing persecution” and he had been “upset at the way these comments were taken out of context”.

The veterans minister, Johnny Mercer, said the comments were outrageous. “The suggestion from a Reform spokesperson that Britain would have been better off accepting the Nazis’ squalid offer of neutrality instead of standing against them is shameful and shows a shocking lack of judgment.

“These comments ignore the millions murdered by the Nazis in their bid for European domination and the ultimate sacrifice paid by the men and women who stood up to Hitler in our darkest hour. Misusing appeasement to justify Nazi apologism is disgraceful and comments like this are deeply troubling coming from a political party.”

The Reform leader, Nigel Farage, distanced himself from the comments and said the snap election had meant the party’s vetting programme had run out of time. “They’ve got a bigger problem in the Green party,” he told a press conference on Monday.

“They’ve had to suspend 20 of their candidates for putting out pretty vile antisemitic tweets. Here’s something I think every party will suffer because it was a snap election. We’ve put in place a good vetting programme, but we’ve run out of time.”

The party chair, Richard Tice, added: “We’re really pleased with all candidates. When people do inappropriate things, say daft things, then of course we’ll look at it and investigate it and that’s what we do.”

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