'I am a real person': Reform UK candidate responds after online sleuths accused him of being ‘AI generated’

9 July 2024, 08:09

Mark Matlock is a real person, he has confirmed
Mark Matlock is a real person, he has confirmed. Picture: Mark Matlock/Reform UK

By Asher McShane

A Reform UK candidate who voters accused of being AI generated has hit back, saying he is a real person.

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Mark Matlock, who won 1,758 votes in Clapham and Brixton Hill in South London, raised suspicions due to an election photo that looked AI-generated and a lack of online presence.

Further eyebrows were raised when he did not show up for the election count - and a lack of any images of him out on the campaign trail.

But Mr Matlock has now hit back saying that he is a real person.

He told the Guardian: “The image is me. Stupidly I had to get it altered to change my tie and suit as I couldn’t get to a photographer on time.

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He said he did undertake a leaflet drop during the campaign: “The election caught us all on the hop and Rishi Sunak knew that. But we still managed to fill most of the seats with candidates, even if not all of them lived there, and it all contributed to our vote share.”

He said he missed the election count because he had pneumonia.

He also spoke to the Independent and said: “I am a real person and that is me in the photo.

“Though I must admit I am enjoying the free publicity and when I feel up to it I will put out a video and prove these rumours that I’m a robot are absolute baloney.

“I got pneumonia three days before election night I was exercising taking vitamins so I could attend but it was just not viable. On election night I couldn’t even stand.

“The photo of me was taken outside the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. I had the background removed and replaced with the logo and they changed the colour of my tie. The only reason that was done was because we couldn’t get a photographer at such short notice - but that is me.”

At the time he posted on X: "Unfortunately I will not be attending the count tonight as I have pneumonia. The hospital I visited was closed before it’s closing time. I said to the nurse on a buzzer I am struggling to breath and she said call a number. Vote reform this is madness".

But Twitter users were quick to claim he wasn’t a real person nonetheless.

One X user replied: "If you couldn't get into hospital, how did you get the diagnosis? You're just a made up candidate You've been rumbled mate".

Another wrote: "If you were intending to attend the count in Clapham (London) why were you in Gloucestershire?"

After Labour's landslide win, Mr Matlock wrote: "To all those people on Reddit wondering if I’m real or if Reform has fake candidates ? Keep smoking the crack pipe and wondering what sexuality you are. How do you think anyone could be nominated if you don’t exist ? Do you people know anything about anything?".

He said he thought it was funny when claims he was an AI began to emerge online.

“I think it perked me up. I thought ‘I need to get back out there!’ This is doing more good for me than my campaign - it’s fantastic.

“I was campaigning in Clacton for Nigel to make sure he got his seat. Had the leader not got his seat it would have made a mockery of our entire party,” he added.

Reform UK has insisted that all the candidates it fielded at the election are real - but admitted some were ‘paper candidates’ to were there to help increase the party’s vote share.

A Reform source said: “All our candidates are categorically real. Given the rush, a few are just paper candidates and didn’t campaign. Some people began as paper candidates but then did campaign, and one of these – James McMurdock in South Basildon and East Thurrock – ended up winning his seat.”

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