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By Laura KuenssbergJoseph CassidyBBC News

Nigel Farage questioned on Reform UK candidate’s Hitler claim

A Reform UK candidate claimed the country would be “far better” if it had “taken Hitler up on his offer of neutrality” instead of fighting the Nazis in World War Two.

Ian Gribbin, the party’s candidate in Bexhill and Battle, also wrote online that women were the “sponging gender” and should be “deprived of health care”.

In posts from 2022 on the Unherd magazine website, seen by the BBC, he said Winston Churchill was “abysmal” and praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A Reform spokesman said the comments were not “endorsements” but “written with an eye to inconvenient perspectives and truths”, while his remarks about women were “tongue in cheek”.

Mr Gribbin declined to comment.

In July 2022, Mr Gribbin posted on the Unherd website: “Britain would be in a far better state today had we taken Hitler up on his offer of neutrality…. but oh no Britain’s warped mindset values weird notions of international morality rather than looking after its own people.”

The same month he wrote: “In Britain specifically we need to exorcise the cult of Churchill and recognize that in both policy and military strategy, he was abysmal.”

The previous month he criticised women, writing on the site’s message board: “Do you think you could actually work and pay for it all too like good citizens?

“Men pay 80% of tax – women spend 80% of tax revenue. On aggregate as a group you only take from society.

“Less complaining please from the ‘sponging gender’.”

He added that women are “subsidised by men to merely breath (sic)”.

In January 2022 he posted: “Men pay 80% of tax. Women take out 80% of expenditures.

“Square that inequality first by depriving women of healthcare until their life expectancies are the same as men, Fair’s fair.”

In December 2021 he wrote female soldiers “almost made me wretch (sic)” and were a “total liability”.

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In the run up to the invasion of Ukraine, he praised President Putin, writing in January 2022 that he had “shown a maturity of which we can only dream of”.

He “understands the bonds that create more stable societies; the hypocrisy of the West is preposterous as we stare in the face daily the enormous economic equalities created by our deluded neo liberal ideas”, he wrote.

In February, Mr Gribbin wrote “if only the West had politicians of his class”.

A Reform UK spokesman said: “Through offence archaeology the BBC has found that Mr Gribbin has made a series of comments about a number of subjects.

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

“His historical perspective of what the UK could have done in the 30s was shared by the vast majority of the British establishment including the BBC of its day, and is probably true.

“Again no endorsement, just pointing out conveniently forgotten truths.

“As for the feminism point, his tongue is so firmly in his cheek one should be able to spot it from 100 yards.”

Asked if Mr Gribbin was a suitable candidate and if the party had a problem with candidate selection more generally, Reform leader Nigel Farage said: “I think every party will suffer because it was a snap election.”

He added that Reform had “a big vetting programme but we ran out of time”.

Speaking alongside him at a press conference in London, Reform chairman Richard Tice said: “If people do inappropriate things, say daft things, then of course we’ll look at it, investigate it.”

The BBC is aware of at least 16 former potential parliamentary candidates for Reform who are no longer standing because of inappropriate or offensive comments.

This compares to eight for the Green Party, five for Labour, three for the Conservatives, two for the Liberal Democrats and one for the Workers Party of Britain.

Plaid Cymru has also withdrawn support for one candidate over social media posts but because this was after nominations closed they will remain on the ballot as the Plaid candidate.

You can find a full list of candidates for the Bexhill and Battle constituency here.

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