Nigel Farage is likely finding dry January pretty tough going. This morning Ukip has been hit by a high-profile defection and a scandal involving one of their senior officials, who reportedly said they were a party that stood up for “bigots”.
Ukip Yorkshire and the Humber MEP Amjad Bashir announced his defection to the Conservative party on Saturday after meeting with David Cameron the previous day. Bashir claimed Ukip had a “ridiculous” lack of policies and were “pretty amateur”. But they said he had been “suspended” pending investigations into “serious” financial concerns – something Bashir told the BBC were “dirty tricks to try and discredit me".
Separately the Sunday Times (£) reported the party’s general secretary Matthew Richardson had called Ukip supporters bigots when asked about racist outbursts from some of the party’s candidates.
“I’ve said before, people talk about Ukip being bigots. There are hundreds of thousands of bigots in the United Kingdom and they too deserve representation,” he allegedly said in a meeting last month.
The paper notes Richardson was ironically appointed to Ukip in 2013 to help “put an end to the party’s series of public- relations gaffes and to prevent ‘bad stuff’ about Ukip from making it into the media”.
Richardson told the Sunday Times he had been quoting the late Tory MP Eric Forth, who once said "all this sucking up to minorities is ridiculous; there are millions of people in this country who are white, Anglo-Saxon and bigoted and they need to be represented".
Richardson added: “This was clearly lighthearted harmless banter in the pub and does not reflect any seriously held belief.”
As well as his “bigot” comments, the Sunday Mirror carries a video of Richardson’s 2010 speech to the Young America’s Foundation Conservative Student Conference in Washington where he called the NHS the heart of the “Reichstag bunker of socialism” that was Britain. At a separate speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in the same year he was recording saying it was the “biggest waste of money in the United Kingdom”.
A Ukip spokesperson said of Richardson: “He is a very talented barrister and does his job extremely well. He is not involved with the party’s press operation.” Referring to his NHS comments, they said he was “specifically talking about the growth of middle management which had not reflected a growth in health outcomes”.