Farage threatens Reform vetting firm with legal action

Nigel Farage: Reform 'stitched up' by candidate vetting firm
Nigel Farage dismissed as 'utter nonsense' questions about candidate Jack Aaron over comments about Hitler's personality traits - Lee Thomas

Nigel Farage has threatened legal action against a vetting firm run by a former Tory adviser that he has accused of “stitching up” Reform UK.

Reform signed a contract with Vetting.com in April and paid it £144,000 to weed out parliamentary candidates with extremist views.

The contract said Vetting.com would carry out social media checks on named individuals – but Reform has been hit by a series of disclosures about candidates, including one who described Hitler as “brilliant” at using personality traits to “inspire people to action”.

Vetting.com is co-owned by Colin Bloom, who worked as the Conservative Party’s faith engagement adviser under Boris Johnson but ended his formal relationship with Number 10 when Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister.

In a statement to The Telegraph, Vetting.com blamed the timing of the election for its inability to complete the checks in time and insisted Mr Bloom was “politically neutral”.

The former adviser, who was made a CBE in Mr Johnson’s resignation honours list last year, is a former executive director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship and wrote the Bloom Review into how the government engages with religion last year.

Reform UK knew about Mr Bloom’s previous history with the Conservative Party when it employed Vetting.com, but says it was given assurances by the firm that there would be no conflict of interest in it working for Mr Farage’s party.

Mr Farage now says Reform has been let down by Vetting.com, and the party has instructed lawyers to advise on what action it could take against the firm. There have also been discussions about referring the matter to the police, party sources say.

Reform sources also claim Vetting.com has now offered to refund the money in full, but that it will not arrive until after the election on July 4.

Mr Farage said: “This is an establishment stitch-up. The owner of the vetting company has deep links to the Tory party, and they have some serious questions to answer.”

Richard Tice, the Reform UK chairman, said: “A professional vetting company was paid a six-figure sum in April to vet Reform candidates.

“They promised a deep dive, particularly on social media, and adverse press checks, received our candidate data but then delivered absolutely nothing.

“Suddenly, a round of stories appear in The Times and elsewhere after nominations close, including some stories that are 15 years old. Something feels very wrong, and I have instructed lawyers to pursue this matter vigorously.”

Vetting.com is owned by Sphinx Technology Ltd, which in turn is owned by Mr Bloom and Roger Lampen, a businessman from New Zealand specialising in recruitment.

Reform signed an initial 12-month contract with the firm, paying £120,000 for an “initial package” to cover “high-level background screening services” for up to 400 prospective parliamentary candidates and political donors.

The checks were to include criminal records, sanctions, social media, adverse media, right to work, identity verification and whether the candidate was a so-called politically exposed person.

Additional candidate checks beyond the initial 400 were to be charged at £255 each, and Reform said it had given Vetting.com £144,000 in total.

A spokesman for Vetting.com said: “Some months ago, we approached all the major UK political parties offering our automated background screening services. We were delighted to be asked to help Reform.

“Everyone’s working assumption was that the election would be in the autumn, giving us the summer to complete this work. Given the explicit need for candidate consent, as well as our systems needing basic personal data like dates of birth, our automated software was not able process Reform’s candidates with the data that was provided when it was provided.

“We do not intend to litigate this in public, and we send Reform our best wishes as they shake up the UK political landscape. Mr Bloom has not had anything to do with the UK Conservative Party since 2022 and remains politically neutral.”

Candidate controversies

The controversies that have hit Reform in recent days include social media posts by parliamentary candidate Jack Aaron, who said in 2022 that Hitler “was basically incoherent in his writing and rationale” but was “brilliant” at using specific personality traits “to inspire people into action”.

Mr Farage dismissed the row over Aaron as “nonsense”, saying that acknowledging Hitler’s ability as an orator was not the same as agreeing with his views.

Another candidate, Ian Gribbin, suggested Britain should have stayed neutral in the Second World War rather than taking on the Nazis, and that women are the “sponging gender” and are “subsidised by men to merely breathe”.

Mr Gribbin has apologised for the comments and said he withdrew them unreservedly.

It also emerged that a number of Reform candidates were Facebook friends of Gary Raikes, leader of the fascist New British Union.