Senior Ukip MEP Steven Woolfe has suggested that he could stand to succeed Nigel Farage as leader of the party, describing it as “one of the most exciting jobs to do”.
Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, Woolfe, Ukip’s migration and financial affairs spokesman, compared the question to what happened to Manchester United after legendary manager Alex Ferguson left.
He also mounted a robust defence of his party leader’s recent warnings that immigration has led to “ghettoes” and “no-go zones” in European countries, explaining: “Nigel speaks the language that the vast majority of ordinary people understand.”
Asked whether he wanted to succeed Farage as Ukip leader, Woolfe said: “Would I step up is a bit like the question of what would happen after Ferguson left Man United. Do you want to be Louis Van Gal or David Moyes? Do you really want to do it?.”
“I would think extremely long and hard [about running for leader], I’d be honoured to lead [Ukip] if the people of the party thought I was capable of doing it… I think there is a greater message we can take on, I think there is an opportunity to build this party.”
This comes as Farage has stoked speculation about his leadership, warning this month that a failure to persuade Britons to vote in an EU referendum to leave the political bloc could mean “curtains” for him and his allies, and saying last year that he would resign if his party failed to win any seats at the general election.
Senior Ukip members have already started jostling to succeed Farage. Paul Nuttall, his deputy, told the New Statesman earlier this month: “Could I lead Ukip? Yeah I think I could lead Ukip and I think I could lead Ukip well.”
Others have poured cold water on any potential leadership ambitions, like Ukip MP Douglas Carswell, who told Buzzfeed this week: “I’m not one of UKIP’s major players… I’m not playing that game, I’m not playing that level.” Other Ukip figures mooted as potential leadership contenders include deputy chairwoman Suzanne Evans, and Ukip MEPs Patrick O’Flynn and Margot Parker.
Meanwhile, Woolfe, a lawyer in the City before being elected an MEP in the North West of England last May, has attracted increasing attention for his eloquence and his ability to talk about controversial subjects like immigration in a much more moderate way than his leader. This has also led some people, like Ukip MEP Nathan Gill, to dub him “Ukip’s Barack Obama”.
He laughs off such comparisons, saying: “Obama is a) much taller than me and I think he is a bit better looking than I am. We are both mixed-race and both lawyers…so there you go.”
Hailing from a council estate in Moss Side in Manchester, Woolfe defies the Ukip stereotype of being, in the words of Manchester University’s Dr Rob Ford, a “ruddy faced, golf club member from the south east of England”.
Woolfe last May gave a passionate defence of his party’s record on black and ethnic minority members, and fought back when one protester accused him of being a “faker”.
Speaking at the party’s London rally, he referenced his own childhood, saying: “A five-year-old child having to go home and tell his mum he was called a n***** all day at school – that’s not a fake.”
The New Statesman’s Tim Wigmore concluded a recent interview with the migration spokesman: “If Ukip is to remain a part of the political landscape, Woolfe will surely be a big part of its story.”
However, Woolfe was stung on Thursday after the Sun suggested that he had, according to a leaked tape, suggested Farage was in talks with the Tories about getting a peerage, claims he later told the newspaper were “nonsense”.
Speaking to HuffPost UK following that report, Woolfe suggested that the Sun’s story made him question whether he wanted to throw his hat in as a leadership contender to succeed Farage.
“I’ve seen in the way people conjure things up, the lowest manipulation of the press, it makes you sit back and think “Genuinely is this what I entered politics for? Do I want to stay in politics for the impact it can have on your family and your friends?,” he said.
Woolfe later pointed out that there “are genuinely half a dozen people, if you include me, who have the ability and capability to take the leadership on or at least form a very strong coalition” and stressed his support for the current party leader.
“I’ve always said I’m here to help, I’ll lead if they want me to lead. I’ll support if they want me to support,” he said. “The key point for me is I’ve not made any decision because obviously there is no vacancy and I back Nigel.”
Woolfe predicted that Farage would stay as leader for “a few more years than people think”, and that he could stay in the party in an elevated position as “grand chairman” after standing down as leader.
He said: “Once he becomes an MP, I think the party is going to move on tremendously, but in the future…. well, we are where we are.”
“It [Nigel] is just a huge act to follow, an enormous act. The hope is, and I believe that he won’t be gone completely, I think he’ll be like a grand chairman. If he ever decides to go that’s what I hope he’ll come to do, because you’re going to need his guidance and wisdom, because he’s been through it.”
Woolfe also fiercely defended Farage’s recent string of controversial comments on immigration, like claiming that “we have through mass immigration and not checking the details of those people coming in… allowed big ghettos to develop.”
Admitting that he did not “like” to use the word ghetto, Woolfe said: “I’ve seen them on a number of occasions. I’ve been over to France and seen the arrondissement where there essentially are ghettos.”
Pressed on where these “ghettos” were, he pointed to the 13th arrondissement in Paris. “Are the majority of people there Muslim? Probably yes. Is it right to call it a Muslim ghetto? I don’t know. Are you being accurate in terms of language? I don’t use it in those terms, but the vast majority in that ghetto are [Muslim].”
Woolfe, a lawyer by training, went on to suggest there were “ghettos” in Britain, defining them as “areas of the country where there is a lack of integration and there is a larger number of people who are migrants from other countries who have established themselves there and have separated themselves by way of income or religion from other parts of the country”.
He repeatedly refused to criticise his party leader for more bluntly warning of “ghettos” and “no-go zones”, saying: “Others have used those terms.”
“Nigel speaks the language that the vast majority of ordinary people understand, he doesn’t try to mix metaphors or do what I do to try and find the perfect definition, and I like him because of that,” he added.
Farage raised eyebrows in December after defending the use of the word “chinky”, after a Ukip parliamentary candidate was forced to quit for using the term to describe a Chinese woman.
The Ukip leader said “a lot of people” would use the word “chinky” to describe a Chinese meal, asking his interviewer: “If you and your mates are going out for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?”. The candidate, Kerry Smith, also was recorded talking about “disgusting poofters”.
Woolfe distanced himself from Farage’s defence of Smith, saying: “We have no room for racists and homophobes in our party.
“All working class people don’t say those sorts of words, that’s absolutely clear,” he said. “One thing to say with Nigel is he tries to see the good in people all the time. On this particular issue, I think we will have a difference of opinion of how we deal with it, Nigel even accepted that he [Smith] couldn’t stand as a candidate.”
Woolfe then stressed that the “difference of opinion” was the size of “fag papers between two sheets of paper really”.
He avoided indicating if he believed Farage should be more “responsible” with his rhetoric about immigration, saying: “Nigel is a pretty straightforward person. To raise the head of the issues is quite important.
“There is a necessity sometimes to raise language so people will stand up and think and Nigel has done that tremendously well. I take lessons from Nigel’s understanding and skill… I’m a relative newcomer on this and I have my own views and own opinions.”
However, he suggested that Farage has recently “adopted a more nuanced tone” when he has recently spoken about the topic, adding: “He has clearly stated recently about the need to have an ethical migration policy.”
Kerry Smith is to announce he will run in the Essex seat of Basildon South and East Thurrock, the BBC has learned.
Mr Smith was forced to resign after apologising for remarks he made in a phone call, a recording of which was obtained by the Mail on Sunday.
UKIP said he was “his own man” and “entitled to stand”.
He had been selected to fight the South Basildon and East Thurrock seat after ex-Tory MP Neil Hamilton pulled out.
But his behaviour was described by UKIP leader Nigel Farage as “loutish and wholly inappropriate” after the remarks were revealed last month.
In the recorded phone call, Mr Smith made offensive remarks about gay people, other UKIP members and Chigwell in Essex.
After resigning from the party, Mr Smith, who sits as an independent on both Essex County Council and Basildon District Council, told the BBC he may have been a victim of “black arts” within the party and that his remarks were no worse than the language in the TV comedy Only Fools and Horses.
UKIP said it would leave it to the people of Basildon to choose who represents them and would not comment on the impact Mr Smith might have on the their vote in May.
Ukip leader says the “one thing” that could derail his party’s hopes for political success is if critics are able to link it to a “racist age”
Nigel Farage has admitted that his party will be “buried” if people are able to link the UK Independence Party to a “racist age”.
The Ukip leader made the unguarded comments at a meeting of senior party figures following allegedly racist comments made by a councillor on the internet.
The Telegraph has been passed a copy of minutes made at the meeting of Ukip’s national executive committee which met to discuss Chris Pain, who was suspended by UKip in 2013 over allegedly racist posts on his Facebook page.
Mr Pain claimed the posts were the work of a malicious hacker. A police investigation could not find sufficient evidence to prosecute.
At the meeting, held in June 2013, Mr Farage described the alleged comments as a “grave lack of judgement”.
He warned that “the one thing that is able to bury the Party if [sic] they can link us with a racist age”.
His comments show the level of concern amongst senior members of Ukip about the party being linked to allegations of racism.
Both the Conservatives and Labour have attempted to paint Ukip as a party with old-fashioned views that has no place in modern Britain.
A series of figures in Ukip also appeared to use the meeting to attempt to brush Mr Pain’s alleged comments under the carpet.
David Coburn, now an MEP in Scotland, described the controversy as “a technical/PR problem’ and asked: “Do have anyone that can come up with a sufficiently greasy excuse?”
Ukip has in recent months been embroiled in a number of controversies surrounding allegedly racist comments made by its candidates and members.
The party was forced to distance itself from a claim by Kent councillor Trevor Shonk that the established parties “have made the country racist because of the influx” of immigration.
And Kerry Smith was axed as a would-be MP after it emerged he mocked gay party members as “poofters”, joked about shooting people from Chigwell in a “peasant hunt” and referred to someone as a “Chinky bird”.
Mr Farage defended the language, saying Mr Smith was a “rough diamond” council house boy who “speaks in a way that a lot of people from that background do”.
Douglas Carswell, who earlier this year became Ukip’s first MP in the Commons after defecting from the Conservatives, has warned that his party must show an “inclusive” face and not blame immigrants for Britain’s woes if it is to become a serious force in politics.
He said that a said that a dislike of foreigners was “not merely offensive but absurd”.
“No Ukip candidate should ever make the mistake of blaming outsiders for the failings of political insiders in Westminster,” he said.
“There has never been anything splendid about isolation.
“It was our interdependence that put the Great into Great Britain – and it is what sustains our living standards today. In such a world, a dislike of foreigners is not merely offensive, but absurd.”
Ukip did not respond to requests for a comment.
The response to the Nicholas Fromage game is yet another reminder that Ukip can dish it out, but they can’t take it
It is sad, watching Britain’s professional offence-takers take over more and more of our public life. You can’t say anything these days without someone clutching their pearls or dropping their monocle and telling you how terribly inappropriate your harmless banter was.
Yes, it is absolutely extraordinary how thin-skinned Ukip supporters are.
Which is funny, really, since they’re the ones who are always telling us that the latest hilarious outburst by a Ukip councillor or MEP or parliamentary candidate or whatever is just a bit of fun and that the people who raise an eyebrow at it are out of touch with how real people speak outside the Westminster bubble. A man called Kerry Smith calls gay people poofters and Chinese people “Chinkies” and suggests going on “peasant hunts” in Essex, and Nigel Farage thinks that’s earthy working-class man-of-the-people stuff. A chairman of a local Ukip branch claimed that some gay people “prefer sex with animals”, so in apparent agreement the local candidate told a story about how a “homosexual donkey” tried to rape his horse. A potential candidate called Chris Scotton “liked” a Facebook site which claimed that racism was “just ethnic banter”. Another blamed Jewish people for the Holocaust. All this stuff, according to a Ukip spokesperson, was “ordinary people many of whom are young and have made the odd excessive comment on new media”. It’s just top bantz, a bit of silly horseplay, nothing to get too excited about, and the Offended of Islington like yours truly just can’t take a joke.
In fairness, maybe that’s true. These aren’t, generally, the Ukip standard bearers, although Roger Helmer and Godfrey Bloom were pretty senior and said/did some pretty spectacular things (sluts and bongo-bongo land were the best, probably). And Farage himself has dropped some clangers. But in general, it’s local councillors or even candidates for council elections; the fact that in the serried ranks of party nobodies it is possible to hunt out some boorish and/or stupid people saying boorish and/or stupid things should not, perhaps, surprise us. Maybe we should be able to rise above it a bit.
What’s funny, though, is how incapable of rising above it Ukip is when something faintly rude is said about them. Yesterday, it broke that a mobile game had been made in which you could play Nicholas Fromage, the leader of a party called Ukik. The game was you kick immigrants off the White Cliffs of Dover, winning racism-points and damaging the British economy as you did so.
The real-life Mr Fromage, fierce defender of banter-squadrons everywhere, of course, took it with the sang-froid and buffalo-like hide for which he is rightly famous. Oh no wait, sorry, he blew his lid in spectacular style. “Those elements are risible and in many ways pathetic. I think I’m quite well known for having a sense of humour… but elements of this game appear to cross the line.” Which is particularly funny since the Ukik game was made entirely by a bunch of Kent schoolchildren.
But this is just par for the course when it comes to Ukip. They can dish it out – “it” being a series of ugly comments about gay people, immigrants, ethnic minorities, bi-curious donkeys, women, Muslims and, of course, LibLabCon – but as soon as anyone issues the faintest criticism of Ukip itself, out come the smelling salts. A Green party member in Cambridge had a visit from the police after tweeting a jokey piece called “10 reasons to vote Ukip”. The Ukip-supporting James Delingpole, formerly of this parish, has complained that Farage was “stitched up” in an interview with Steph and Dom, the posh ones off of Gogglebox. You really aren’t in the right job if you’re a politician who’s been outfoxed by two tipsy B&B owners.
The place you’ll see this the most, of course, is online. Under every piece criticising Ukip – even gently; even in the context of a generally positive piece – there will be 5,000 comments, most of them from people with names like Aethelred or Defender_Of_The_Realm44, roaring about anti-Ukip conspiracies and the mainstream media’s efforts to keep the party down. (By, for instance, getting Farage on Question Time every three days.) Tweet anything remotely rude about Ukip and you’ll see a similar response (the trick is to mute them, and leave them shouting ineffectually into the void, guys. You can have that one for free). And this is unique to Ukip. If you say comparably critical things about Labour, or the Tories, or the Greens, or the Lib Dems, you won’t have to spend two days fighting angry spam.
And yet no one in Ukip has the self-awareness to see that they can’t have it both ways. Either you’re a proud warrior for free speech – I may not agree with what you say about sluts who won’t clean behind the fridge, but I will defend to the death your right to say it! – or you’re not. You can’t be a Voltaire for the things you agree with and a weeping crybaby when someone’s a bit mean to you. For all their posing as brave sayers of the unsayable and champions of the forgotten British values of calling a spade a spade or whatever, Farage and his weeping bunch of milquetoasts have skins of dry parchment. Toughen up, guys. Nicholas Soames once put it brilliantly, in reference to Mr Fromage: “In politics, there is no point being a shrinking f—–g violet is there?”
The suitability of a UKIP parliamentary candidate who gave an “inappropriate” answer to a question about homosexuality has been questioned.
Cardiff South and Penarth candidate John Rees-Evans told a story about a male donkey raping his stallion during an exchange which was filmed and posted online.
The episode showed a “sinister side” to UKIP, Labour said.
But Mr Rees-Evans said Labour had “manufactured a controversy”.
He gave the animal anecdote after he was asked by anti-UKIP protestors to respond to comments – apparently made by another of the party’s candidates – that “some homosexuals prefer sex with animals”.
In the video footage, which has been posted on YouTube, he says: “I’ve witnessed that”, before telling the donkey story.
He later told BBC Wales: “I can’t see how anyone on earth could perceive how I intended to offend anyone by saying that.”
Mr Rees-Evans is standing for party at the general election in the Labour-held seat of Cardiff South and Penarth.
He said he had never heard the quote about homosexuality and animals until it was read to him during the encounter outside a UKIP campaign office in Merthyr Tydfil.
“To be honest it’s difficult to give a sensible answer to such a strange comment,” he said.
Mr Rees-Evans said he had also opened his own campaign shop in Penarth because he was “pretty sure there are many people who believe that UKIP espouse all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas that we don’t actually”.
Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth Stephen Doughty said: “You might first think this was a clip from an episode of [TV show] ‘The Thick Of It’ but the bizarre and inappropriate comments show up the sinister side to this nasty party.
“UKIP’s divisive dog whistle politics have no place in Wales.
“These comments from Mr Rees-Evans put his suitability as a parliamentary candidate into serious question.”
John Rees-Evans has joined the ranks of Ukip members whose comments are attracting more attention than the party would like
“Just don’t,” Ukip’s chairman, Steve Crowther, recently told party members tempted to express odd views on Twitter. In the light of a “Gay donkey tried to rape my horse” headline generated by a Ukip candidate in Cardiff, Crowther should probably tell them to avoid being filmed on YouTube too.
The culprit was John Rees-Evans, Ukip’s candidate in Cardiff South and Penarth, who produced his bizarre claim on Saturday in an exchange with protesters outside a new campaign office Ukip has opened in Merthyr Tydfil.
Ironically, Rees-Evans unveiled his contribution to the list of wacky Ukip quotes when he was being asked to respond to some of the most controversial things that Ukip members have said in the past. What about the claim from the chair of a Ukip branch that “some homosexuals prefer sex with animals”?
“Actually, I’ve witnessed that,” Rees-Evans replied in an apparent attempt at humour, prompting a burst of hilarity among the protesters.
“I was personally quite amazed,” he told them. “I’ve got a horse and it was there in the field. And a donkey came up, which was male, and I’m afraid tried to rape my horse.”
So, in this case, whoever made the original claim was “obviously correct” because in this case a “homosexual donkey” was attracted to a horse, Rees-Evans said, in an exchange that was videoed and has been posted on YouTube.
The would-be MP, who runs a tour company taking travellers to east Africa, told the Guardian on Monday: “It is not as though I was making a serious point. I was simply answering a question, rather than telling the person that he was ridiculous for raising it.
“I was asked to respond to quite a bizarre statement, and it’s my view that British people are fed up with politicians evading uncomfortable questions and so I tried to give the only kind of answer I knew how to give because, frankly, I do not have any experience of homosexuality, or humans copulating with animals. So the closest match, from my personal experience, was the case of what appeared to be homosexuality with animals.”
Rees-Evans’s tale may be judged naive, but he conceded that “some people who do have connections with Ukip do say some outrageous things from time to time” and that this was probably related to the nature of the party.
“The reality is that, when you have a party that does not have a whipping system, where politicians fear being disciplined for saying the wrong thing, inevitably you will have quite a diversity of personal opinion,” he said.
David Cameron once dismissed Ukip as “fruitcakes, lunatics and closet racists, mostly” and there is a long history of Ukip figures having to stand down after making offensive comments. The “some homosexuals prefer sex with animals” claim was made by Julia Gasper, who stood down as chair of the Oxford branch after it was revealed last year.
Godfrey Bloom, a former Ukip MEP, sparked outrage by complaining about aid being sent to “bongo bongo land”. A Ukip councillor was suspended last year for sharing offensive material on Facebook about Muslims, and only recently Kerry Smith stood down as a Ukip candidate in South Basildon and East Thurrock after being recorded mocking gay party members as “poofters” and referring to someone as a “Chinky bird”.
Rees-Evans said that, in his experience, when Ukip members said things that were genuinely unacceptable, the party got rid of them.
But some extremist Ukip comments are better classified as bonkers than offensive. The most notorious of these was the claim by David Silvester, a town councillor in Henley, that last winter’s storms and floods were divine punishment for gay marriage. Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, responded by saying that no one had complained about Silvester’s views when he was a member of the Conservative party.
Another category of Ukip “gaffe” has involved party members expressing views that may have once been considered mainstream, but are now widely considered reactionary, such as a Ukip MEP’s remark that women do not have the ambition to get to the top “because babies get in the way”. Farage has repeatedly stumbled into this territory himself, for example with his recent complaint about “ostentatious” breastfeeding.
Rees-Evans said Ukip had to decide whether it wanted its members to continue to be allowed to speak out or whether it should exercise more discipline.
“Ukip is essentially at a crossroads, in the sense that it can go two ways,” he said. “It can either say look, sadly, you guys are going to have to shut up and avoid answering questions, or crack on, answer questions honestly.
“We will occasionally get into trouble but we would prefer to have that kind of libertarian ethos in the party that allows you to say whatever you think.”
Nigel Farage has appeared to defend controversial comments made by disgraced former Ukip candidate Kerry Smith, suggesting Smith used the terms “chinky” and “poofters” because of his “council estate background”.
Smith resigned as Ukip’s prospective parliamentary candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock after he was heard calling gay party members “poofters” and referring to someone as a “Chinky bird” in phone calls.
“I’m a bit sad,” Mr Farage said at Smith’s decision to resign.
“Kerry Smith is a rough diamond. A council estate boy from the East End of London, left school early and talks in a way that a lot of people from that background do,” Farage told LBC.
Host Nick Ferrari questioned Mr Farage’s defence of his former colleague, prompting the Ukip leader to ask the presenter: “If you and your mates were going out for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?”
Ferrari replied: “I honestly would not use the word ‘Chinky’ -would you?”
“No, but a lot of people would,” Farage said.
“I think we’re very snobbish in London about condemning people perhaps for the colloquial language they use, particularly if it’s not meant with really unpleasant intent,” he added.
Farage said Smith was a “genuine fella” but “was not suitable to be a parliamentary candidate”.