Scots Reform candidates slammed for 'liking' conspiracy theorists' posts 5

Scots Reform candidates slammed for ‘liking’ conspiracy theorists’ posts

General election candidates in Scotland for Nigel Farage’s Reform UK party have been slammed for ‘liking’ and engaging with social media posts from a holocaust denier, conspiracy theorists and a senior Russian politician.

X (formerly Twitter) accounts belonging to Reform’s deputy leader in Scotland, David Kirkwood, and election candidate Kenneth Morton have ‘liked’ posts and shared images of their party’s policies with far right activist Peter Imanuelsen.

Known as Peter Sweden, he has previously denied the Holocaust and stated online “Hitler had some good points”.

Sweden is followed on X by Richard Tice – who was the Reform UK party leader until replaced by Farage on 3 June – as well as the official Reform UK Scotland account.

Morton also liked posts from prominent conspiracy theorists such as David Icke, who has claimed the world is ruled by shape shifting lizards. The prospective candidate made his X posts private, other than to approved followers, after we contacted Reform.

Formerly the Brexit Party, Reform was founded as a business by Farage in 2018. In March, it suspended two Scots candidates after The Ferret found posts by prominent far right figures and hateful comments about trans people were shared on their social media accounts.

Commenting on our latest findings, the Scottish Liberal Democrats accused Reform of being “linked to intolerance, racism and bonkers conspiracy theorists”.

Reform candidates’ social media activity

Reform’s candidate for Angus and Perthshire Glens, Kenneth Morton, last year shared a post via his X account, which said: “The alleged climate crisis is the most expensive and devastating lie of all time.”

More recently, he has also liked posts denying man-made climate change from conspiracy theorists such as David Icke, who believes the royal family are shape-shifting lizards.

Reform
David Icke. Credit: Stefano Maffei. Licenced under CC BY 2.0.

Icke has previously been banned from dozens of countries because he was deemed to pose “a threat to public order”. One Icke tweet liked by Morton deemed Covid-19 “a psychological hoax” treated with a “fake vaccine”.

Other posts ‘liked’ by Morton include anti-vaccination posts from conspiracy theorists, such as one from Alex Jones, which claimed 22 million people had died from Covid-19 vaccines. 

Adverse reactions and deaths resulting from Covid-19 vaccines have been reported, including in Scotland, and the UK Government has set up a vaccine damages payment scheme for those who are “severely disabled” as a result of a vaccination.

Reports of Covid-19 vaccine side effects remain relatively rare, however, and the latest research found the benefits of being vaccinated against Covid-19 significantly outweigh the risks of not getting it for most people.

Scots Reform candidates slammed for 'liking' conspiracy theorists' posts 6
Alex Jones. Credit: Michael Zimmermann. Licenced under CC BY-SA 4.0.

In 2022, Jones was ordered to pay £1.2bn in damages to family members of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting victims for falsely claiming the massacre was a hoax. Jones recently agreed to liquidate his assets to pay Sandy Hook families, which would end his ownership of his far right conspiracy website, InfoWars.

Morton also liked a recent post from former Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev – deputy chairman of Russia’s security council. In it, Medvedev appeared to attribute the attempted assassination of Slovakian prime minister, Robert Fico, to being “not a Russophobe”.

Fico is seen by many as being a defender of Russian president, Vladimir Putin. But Slovakian authorities have not yet confirmed the motives of the would-be assassin, other than he had political grievances and was radicalised after the recent Slovak election.

David Kirkwood, the party’s deputy leader in Scotland and the candidate for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweedale, liked a tweet from far right figure Peter Sweden opposing climate measures. Kirkwood also posted an image showing Reform UK Scotland’s policy on digital currencies in response to one of Sweden’s posts about the subject.

Another “official” Reform Scotland policy shared by Kirkwood on social media advocated scrapping the use of LGBT+, and other such initialisms, and instead referring to people’s sexuality as “Plain Old Homosexuals” or “Non-Plain Old Homosexuals”.

Others running on a Reform ticket include Andrew Russell. In February, the Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock candidate shared an image – apparently a reference to asylum seekers crossing the English channel – of an alligator climbing onto a boat, with the caption “I’m here for the border control job!”.

Borders Tory MSP, Rachael Hamilton also followed far right activist Peter Sweden. In January, she shared a post from Sweden, which included a video of Scottish farmers protesting against Scottish Government agricultural policies.

The post claimed Scottish farmers had joined the Europe wide protest movement against EU environmental rules, falling product prices, rising costs and other issues. Far right figures including Sweden have attempted to capitalise on the unrest.

Hamilton told The Ferret: “I was unaware of this man’s appalling views when I shared a post about Scottish farmers.”

The Liberal Democrats Christine Jardine said: “This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last, that Reform UK have been linked to intolerance, racism and bonkers conspiracy theorists.

“If all Nigel Farage and Richard Tice can do is offer a home to far-right hate and nonsense, I think the people of Scotland will rightly send their party packing at the ballot box.”

David Icke, Peter Sweden, Alex Jones and Dmitry Medvedev did not respond to requests to comment. On 9 June, Sweden responded to The Ferret’s article on X.

He rejected being labelled as far right, and claimed previous screenshots of controversial comments he made on social media were photoshopped.

Sweden has previously claimed to have never denied the holocaust, but for a few months in 2016, he “started to question everything including conspiracy theories about the holocaust” due to his mistrust in the media.

Farage returns to the helm

Reform has previously pledged to run candidates in every seat in Scotland. The party in Scotland was previously run by Michelle Ballantyne, a former South Scotland Tory MSP who defected to Reform after losing her leadership bid to Douglas Ross.

Despite vowing to stay out of the race just days earlier, Farage announced on 3 June that he would be entering the fray as Reform’s leader and stand to become an MP in Clacton, Essex – his eighth attempt to enter Westminster.

The following day he made headlines after being struck with a milkshake by a woman in the seaside town, who was later charged with assault by beating and criminal damage.

The veteran Eurosceptic’s return to frontline politics has given his party a boost in support. A YouGov poll conducted shortly after his return to the helm put Reform within two points of the Conservatives. The Tories were on 19 per cent, while Reform was on 17 per cent – both well behind Labour’s 40 per cent.

But pollsters have yet to predict Reform taking any seats. Farage said his goal is to win “millions” more votes than his former right wing party, UKIP, and make Reform the official opposition.

The Reform leader has also received strong support from factions within the Tory party, including notable figures such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, who urged colleagues to give him a government job.

Previously Farage claimed he could join the Tories after the election, suggesting Rishi Sunak’s party could merge with Reform. But he has since backtracked. “I think the better thing to do would be to take it over,” Farage said on 4 June.

Former Tories who have joined Reform include Cameron Rose, a former Tory councillor in Edinburgh, who is the candidate for Edinburgh South constituency, and Alastair Majury, who serves as the party’s Mid Scotland and Fife organiser.

In 2015, Majury, a former Tory councillor in Stirling, reportedly used a social media account to deride benefit claimants, make derogatory remarks about Catholics and said the term Nazi is “an accurate description” of Scottish nationalists.

He previously told The Ferret that following media reports about his social media activity, “false and malicious” allegations were made about him and that he was cleared by “every single investigation that I was an active participant in”.

Reform told The Ferret that “the case of Mr Majury is historic and was dealt with whilst he was a Conservative councillor”.

More than 110 candidates ditched

The Guardian reported in May that 110 Reform candidates had been dropped or swapped after offensive and racist comments were revealed.

Reform suspended two Scottish general election candidates in March after a Ferret investigation found posts by prominent far right figures and hateful comments about trans people were shared on their social media accounts.

One had described himself as a “proud tax avoider” in his Twitter bio, said trans people have a “severe mental illness” and that their “days are numbered”.

Another shared a video from far right commentator Katie Hopkins, and another post which said then-first minister Humza Yousaf should not be able to hold a rugby trophy because he is “more Pakistani than Scottish.”

Reform said it had suspended both candidates and launched an “immediate investigation” after The Ferret brought their comments to light. Neither appear to have been reinstated.

Reform did not respond to requests to comment.

We updated this article at 11:52 on 10 June to add a response from Peter Sweden, who posted about The Ferret’s coverage on X.

As the general election approaches, The Ferret is diving deep into the influence of conspiracy theories, disinformation, and culture wars on political discourse. Have you come across falsehoods or conspiracies shared by candidates, political parties, or viral memes? We want to hear from you! Get in touch at contact@theferret.scot, and we will take a look.

Help us continue our vital work by becoming a Ferret member today or making a one-off donation. Your support enables us to hold power to account and keep the truth at the forefront of the election conversation.

Main image: Alex Jones (left) and David Icke. Credit: Michael Zimmermann and Stefano Maffei, respectively. Licenced under CC BY-SA 4.0 and CC BY 2.0.

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