A Reform UK candidate has disowned the party and is backing the Conservatives amid a row over racism.

Liam Booth-Isherwood, who was standing in the seat of Erewash, announced he was dropping out of the race and would instead be endorsing the Tory contender Maggie Throup to “stop Labour”.

He said he had become “increasingly disillusioned” with the behaviour of the party and accused leader Nigel Farage of not taking it seriously.

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It follows the controversy over a Reform canvasser who was caught making a racial slur about the prime minister in an undercover investigation.

Reform UK has also had to drop several election candidates because of racist remarks they have made.

Mr Booth-Isherwood said in a statement: “I am today announcing my decision to leave the Reform Party and have suspended my campaign as the Reform candidate for Erewash with immediate effect.

“Over the past few weeks, I have been increasingly disillusioned with the behaviour and conduct of Reform.

“Whilst I have campaigned alongside many decent, honest and hardworking people during the course of the General Election campaign in Erewash, the reports of widespread racism and sexism in Reform have made clear that there is a significant moral issue within certain elements of the party, and the failure of the party’s leadership to not only take this matter seriously, but also to fundamentally address it, has made clear to me that this is no longer a party I want to be associated with.

“As a result, I am announcing my endorsement of the Conservative Party candidate, Maggie Throup, for Erewash. Only she can stop Labour.”

Mr Farage has faced criticism from across the political divide for failing to tackle accusations of racism within Reform, which have engulfed the party in recent days.

On Sunday he insisted the “bad apples are gone” from the party and denied “fanning the flames” of prejudice.

The row centres on an undercover investigation by Channel 4 last week which showed Reform activist Andrew Parker using the racial slur “P***” to describe the prime minister, describing Islam as a “disgusting cult”, and saying the army should “just shoot” migrants crossing the Channel.

Another canvasser described the Pride flag as “degenerate” and suggested members of the LGBT community are paedophiles.

Reform UK withdrew support on Saturday from three candidates over racist remarks, including one who allegedly said black people should “get off [their] lazy arses” and stop acting “like savages”.

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On Sunday Mr Farage defended his handling of the row, telling Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips: “Political parties attract all sorts of people. I always think politics brings out the best and the worst in people and I am not fanning the flames of anything. I want unity in this country.”

Pressed on why his party seems to attract people who hold extremist views, the former UKIP leader claimed it was because he had driven the British Nationalist Party (BNP) “out as an electoral force”.

“Ironically, destroying the BNP means people who are minded that way don’t any longer have a home to go to, and so some will gravitate in our direction,” he added.

He went on to say that “anybody who has a racist point of view, I don’t want to know”.

He added: “I want to live, Trevor, in a country that is literally colour-blind. I couldn’t care less what colour you are. I’m not interested in what sexuality you have. Let’s treat everybody equally. That is my agenda.”

‘Bad apples gone from Reform’

Speaking later, to a crowd of 5,000 supporters at his “biggest ever rally” this afternoon, Mr Farage repeated his claim Mr Parker is a “paid actor” and part of a “deliberate attempt to derail our campaign” – something C4 and Mr Parker has denied.

An attendee wearing a Nigel Farage mask ahead of the Reform UK party's rally.
Pic: Reuters
An attendee wearing a Nigel Farage mask ahead of the Reform UK party’s rally.
Pic: Reuters

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In reference to the election betting scandal he added: “Have we had a few bad apples? We have, although to my knowledge nobody involved in an organised betting ring is standing for us.

“I have to say, the bad apples are gone. We’ll never have them back.”

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Sunak ‘hurt’ over Reform race row

The rally came after the prime minister bolstered his attack on Mr Farage, saying he had shown “no contrition or remorse”.

Rishi Sunak on Friday took the decision to repeat the slur made about him to “call out what it was”.

Asked how the Reform row was different to the case of Frank Hester, a Tory donor who allegedly made racist comments about Diane Abbott, he told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg: “The difference is that Nigel Farage has just described these comments [by Mr Parker] as inappropriate.

“They’re not inappropriate. They were vile and racist and wrong.

“The person who made them has only apologised to the Reform Party for the impact it’s had on them. It’s a very clear difference. There is no contrition or remorse and or acceptance of what’s happened in that case.”

Mr Hester, who has donated £15m to the Tory party, apologised for comments he made about Ms Abbott, but claimed they “had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”.

Mr Sunak was criticised for the way he initially responded to the allegations about the major party donor, before eventually condemning the remarks as “racist”.