Image Source : REUTERS British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at a campaign event.

London: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday reacted to a racist slur hurled at him by a member of the far-right party Reform UK, saying it made him “hurt and angry” as the nation gears up for its national elections next week. The campaigner used racist slurs towards people of South Asian heritage, forcing Reform UK leader Nigel Farage to condemn the remarks as “appalling”.

Speaking to reporters on his campaign trail, Sunak said, “It hurts, and it makes me angry”, and that Farage had questions to answer. The 44-year-old British-Indian leader said his two daughters, Krishna and Anoushka, had to see and hear Reform UK activists who campaigned for Farage calling him “a Paki”. 

“I don’t repeat those words lightly. I do so deliberately because this is too important not to call out clearly for what it is. When you see Reform candidates and campaigners, seemingly using racist and misogynistic language and opinions seemingly without challenge, I think it tells you something about the culture within the Reform Party,” Sunak further said.

About the Reform UK party

Reform UK is a far-right anti-immigration party led by Farage, which is fielding hundreds of candidates with the hope of posing a major challenge for the Conservative Party, which is reeling under years of infighting and scandals and is trailing badly in opinion polls. Farage is one of the most influential British politicians who rose to prominence due to his support to the Brexit movement in 2016.

Farage has relentlessly campaigned against Britain’s membership of the EU and mass immigration for decades and will run for parliament for the eighth time this year. Even though Reform is unlikely to win many seats in parliament, it could split the right-of-centre vote across the country. The party held only one seat in the last parliament, which it gained when a Conservative lawmaker defected.

“The appalling sentiments expressed by some in these exchanges bear no relation to my own views, those of the vast majority of our supporters or Reform UK,” Farage said in response to the racist remarks, saying some people let the party down and can be “let go”. The same activist was also heard suggesting army recruits with guns should be posted to “just shoot” illegal migrants landing on UK beaches. 

While Reform is likely to win only a handful of seats, at most, in the 650-seat House of Commons, Farage says his goal is to get a foothold and lead the “real” Opposition to a Labour Party government – which is widely expected to succeed the Sunak-led Tories after the general election. Sunak warned the voting for Reform UK will strengthen the tax-raising Labour Party.

Conservatives face setback due to betting scandal

Sunak’s problems widened after some of his candidates were mired in a scandal over betting on the date of the elections and his abrupt departure from the D-Day commemorations in France earlier this month. Critics said the decision to skip the international event that closed the commemorations showed disrespect to the veterans and diminished the UK’s international standing.

Since then, Sunak hasn’t been able to lift the poll ratings for his Conservative Party, which have been depressed over the past few years as a result of the actions of his two immediate predecessors. Opinion polls suggest the Conservatives will suffer a humbling defeat and lose power for the first time in 14 years.

Sunak attempted to reach out to this disaffected set of voters in the last week before the election with a plea that a “Labour government isn’t just something that you buy that if you decide you don’t like you can take back to the shop and return it”. Under his reign, the UK’s tax burden reached its highest level since the 1940s and people are now enduring a cost of living crisis.

(with inputs from agencies)