Amjad Bashir describes Ukip as “pretty amateur” as he talks about his decision to switch parties.
I love this country and everything it stands for. England is in my blood – it’s my home, it’s where I made my livelihood, it’s where I raised my family, and it’s where I want future generations to thrive.
It’s the reason why, after a long career in business, I turned to the world of politics to campaign on issues I believe are necessary for the well-being of our great nation.
I wanted a referendum on Europe – to do away with all the bureaucracy and red tape stifling small businesses in the UK – and a controlled immigration system.
I joined Ukip thinking it was a movement dedicated to securing those goals. But I was wrong.
After almost three years as a party member – and seven months as MEP for Yorkshire and Humber – I realise that Ukip is more concerned with furthering its own interests as a political party, than delivering for the British people.
I choose the Conservatives. Not because I’ve changed my mind about Europe and immigration. I haven’t. But because only the Conservative Party can achieve an in/out referendum on Europe and a fair immigration system that works for Britain.
I’ve seen Ukip both at home, and abroad, and I’m sorry to say they’re pretty amateur. In the European Parliament, some of their MEPs think it’s acceptable to shout and fool around.
They don’t want to engage, they just want to ridicule.
But the joke’s on the British taxpayers who are forking out for their MEPs’ £80,000 salaries and getting nothing in return.
Ukip MEPs refuse to acknowledge Europe, so instead they let crucial votes that are harmful to British interests go unchallenged.
This happens day in, day out. It’s not right and it’s not fair.
Ukip haven’t properly thought through the implications of Brexit. There are of course several positive reasons for coming out of Europe. But I’m a pragmatist. Whichever side of the argument you’re on, you have to weigh up all the options.
Ukip made their minds up a long time ago that they wanted out no matter what. Even if they were offered endless supplies of gold from Europe they’d refuse it.
The truth is, Ukip would sooner risk the whole world looking on us as little Englanders than have a grown up debate about Europe.
As for Ukip’s policy, I’ve yet to see it. As their communities spokesman, I recently asked the man who’d been in charge of drawing up Ukip’s general election manifesto for the last year and a half: what policies do you have for me?
He brought out a page of A4 with about three lines on it. For a man on £60,000 a year to produce that is ridiculous. And I’m not the only person in the party who felt that way.
The problem with Ukip is that they think they’re a major party, when they’re not.
They think they’ll sweep up dozens of seats in May, but that’s delusional.
What they are in very real danger of doing, however, is making a big enough dent in the Conservative vote to let Labour in. And that would deny the British people a referendum.
Ukip have become so obsessed with what’s best for them as opposed to what’s good for the country that they’re actually willing to let this happen. This is what I find so galling.
I came to Ukip for the good of this country. I believe there’s a genuine question to be asked – whether we stay in or out of Europe.
I believe we need a referendum. I think Ukip has done its job in bringing that agenda to centre-stage. It’s a terrific achievement.
But now it’s clear that the appetite for political power has swayed them off course.
Where Ukip once campaigned in the interests of the British people, they have now become the party of ruthless self-interest.
My decision to switch my allegiance to the Conservative Party is not intended to cause any embarrassment for Ukip.
This is a principled decision out of deeply held beliefs for the good of this country.
Only the Conservative Party and the leadership of David Cameron will deliver a referendum on Europe and can offer strong immigration controls.
A vote for Ukip will only deliver a Labour Government, which will deny people a say on Europe and control over our borders.
Months away from the most critical general election of our generation, I feel I must do right by my country and support the Conservatives’ plan to secure a better future for Britain.
UKIP county councillor Trevor Shonk has defended himself against accusations of racism after an interview broadcast on BBC Radio 4.
The Ramsgate councillor, who also sits on the town authority, gave a one-hour interview to the World At One programme aired during the Christmas break.
Cllr Shonk hit national headlines after telling the programme that Labour and Conservative governments have allowed into the country an influx of immigrants which has made people in the UK racist.
He added: “It hasn’t been staggered, it’s just overload. We haven’t got the care homes, we haven’t got the houses for our own.”
Nathan Gill defends use of Eastern European and Filipino workers in his family care company
Wales’ newly-elected Ukip MEP says he sees no inconsistency between his party’s stance on immigration and the fact that he employed “dozens” of eastern European and Filipino workers in a care company.
It has emerged that Mr Gill, who lives in Anglesey, was a director of a number of family businesses that owned property and provided care services on contract to Hull City Council in Yorkshire.
He yesterday confirmed he had employed “dozens” of immigrants from new EU countries like Poland and others from the Philippines. He also said he had provided “bunkhouse” accommodation for employees and others who had migrated from eastern Europe.
One of Ukip’s major campaign policies at the recent election was its opposition to unlimited migration from other EU countries.
Mr Gill said: “We employed people from overseas because we could not find local workers to do the jobs. We had a care home of our own, but mostly our workers were employed on home care contracts we had with Hull City Council and other organisations. The workers were paid more than the minimum wage, but not massively more.
“The amount we could afford to pay was determined by the amount of money we received from the council.
“Working in care is quite tough and we had a big turnover of staff. The bunkhouses were temporary accommodation we offered to people coming from overseas until they could get something more permanent. We charged £50 a week inclusive of electricity to people who would be earning between £200 and £300 a week. I wish I had that proportion of spending money left after paying my mortgage.”
Mr Gill said he did not consider there was any inconsistency between his role as a Ukip politician advocating Ukip’s policies and his previous role as someone involved in importing labour from overseas.
He said: “So far as the workers from the Philippines were concerned, it was not at all easy to get work permits. We had to demonstrate the lengths we had gone to in trying to recruit local labour. Work permits would not have been granted if we could have recruited locally.
“We didn’t need work permits for people coming in from Poland and other new EU countries because they had a right to come to the UK and work. But based on our difficulty in recruiting local people, I would imagine there would have been no difficulty getting work permits if that had been necessary.
“My focus at the time was to employ people who would enable us to fulfil as a business the care contracts we had. I can see how this could look bad, but it’s a case of ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’. If we hadn’t employed people from overseas, we’d have been called racist. The fact that we did employ immigrants is leading to charges of hypocrisy. But Ukip has never said it wants to stop all immigration – it wants to limit the numbers.”
Mr Gill said his family firm, Burgill Ltd, had crashed with a deficiency of £116,000 when the HSBC ended its borrowing facility in the wake of the banking crisis.
A Welsh Labour spokesman said: “That Nathan Gill cannot see the hypocrisy of his actions is totally unbelievable. This is hugely embarrassing for him given only two weeks after he was elected on an anti-immigration platform.
“Having made a living on the backs of cheap labour from eastern Europe it is utterly shameful for him to then stand on a populist platform and decry immigration in an attempt to get elected. Rather than pretend he’s done nothing wrong, Nathan Gill should publicly apologise for his behaviour.”
A Ukip branch chairman has suggested that parts of London are being “ethnically cleansed” of white people.
Jeremy Zeid, the chairman of the Eurosceptic party’s branch in Harrow, suggested a Labour MP could be “complicit” in what he called “disappearing diversity” in Ilford, north-east London.
In a string of tweets, he wrote: “Having just been to Gerard Batten’s [Ukip MEP] office in Ilford, the almost [sic] absence of white faces in Ilford is worrying.
“Mike Gapes is so busy being ‘right on’ he is either blind to or deliberately complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Ilford which I’m sure will be called ‘racist’.
“A word so overused by the t***pot Left as to be completely devalued.”
The comments sparked several responses on Twitter, with many people asking what he found so “worrying”.
Mr Zeid replied: “Are you not worried when diversity disappears?”
He failed to get elected in the Kenton East ward of Harrow in last week’s local elections, receiving four per cent of the vote.
Mr Gapes, the Labour MP for Ilford South, had previously tweeted about controversial Ukip campaign posters inferring that European migrants steal jobs, calling them “racist”.
Speaking to The Independent, he said he was copied in to a conversation on Twitter between Mr Zeid and another man.
“When I saw these tweets I was just shocked,” he added.
“My point is what is Farage going to do about it?”
Ilford, in the London Borough of Redbridge, is one of the most ethnically-diverse places in the UK.
Just over 42 per cent of residents are white and a third were born outside the UK, according to the 2011 census.
Mr Gapes said: “One of the great things about Ilford is that it’s so diverse and multicultural…this is an insult to my constituents.”
Mr Zeid has not yet responded to our requests for a comment.
Nigel Farage aide disrupts interview amid racism and expenses claims
Ukip’s director of communications tried to haul the party’s leader, Nigel Farage, off a radio interview on Friday lunchtime after he came under sustained attack over his attitudes to immigrants and his expenses.
Farage was being interviewed by one of his long-term critics on LBC when Patrick O’Flynn intervened to say the interview had run over its agreed time. The interview had lasted just over 20 minutes.
The Ukip leader was accused of “reverse-ferretting” by the interviewer, James O’Brien, over a promise to have his expenses independently audited – an offer Ukip made on the BBC’s Today programme and subsequently withdrew in a Guardian interview, saying he would not be subject to a stricter audit than other MEPs.
When it was pointed out that other MEPs – including those from the Labour party – had their expenses audited O’Flynn intervened, surprising even Farage.
Asked about other MEPs’ auditing arrangement, Farage said: “What they have is an auditor to make sure they spend the money in accordance with the rules. There are no expenses. There are fixed-rate allowances that I have spent in accordance with the rules.”
Pressed to say if he would agree to the same audit, he said: “We will make a decision en masse. I am very suspicious of the word audit used in that context.” He made no commitment to an audit of his previous allowances.
Farage was also asked why he said he felt discomfort when travelling on a train and not hearing the English language. He insisted he had not said he objected, but that he did not feel comfortable.
O’Brien asked if he objected to the fact that his wife and his children could speak German, and replied that they could also speak English, adding he “had a distinct feeling English was not the language of choice” of those people that he heard on a train. He added he did not think his wife spoke German on a train.
Farage was also challenged about his claim that there were schools in east London where a majority of pupils did not speak English,” with the interviewer asserting such surveys only showed whether English was the child’s first language.
O’Brien pointed out his own bilingual children would be qualified as non-English speakers on this definition. Farage agreed the definition might need reworking.
O’Brien then asked about Farage’s claim that people would feel uncomfortable if a group of Romanian men moved in next door, pressing him to say whether he “would feel the same about a group of German children”.
Farage replied: “I think you know the difference. We want an immigration policy that is not just based on controlling not just quantity but quality”.
He added: “I am making one very simple point in this election. We cannot have any form of managed migration into Britain and remain a member of the European Union because we have an open door to nearly half a billion people.
“We would be far better off if the policy that did not discriminate against doctors from New Zealand or engineers from India in favour of anybody regardless of background and skills coming from southern and eastern Europe and that is the great debate.”
Explaining his claim that Romanians were more likely to be criminals, he said: “We have a problem; unfortunately, those communist countries which I visited and I’ve seen the real poverty that people live in.
“We talk about exclusion in society … go and see, since the fall in communism, what has happened to the Roma communities in those countries; they don’t get jobs, they’ve got nowhere to live and they have been forced, in many cases, to a life of crime.
“And what has happened to that open door? It has been an open invitation to the traffickers and the Metropolitan police have produced their statistics and they’re eye-watering and I’m saying let’s get a grip on it.”
Farage accepted there were “idiots” in his party after news of more Islamophobic comments made by Ukip candidates.
“Firstly, people saying silly things; yes of course we’ve had more of it than we’d have liked, but what is going on in the other parties? Nobody ever does ask them? I’m perfectly happy to have a debate about our idiots and people who are offensive.
Nigel Farage faces embarrassment over his plans to radically curb migration from Europe after it emerged one of the actors in a Ukip billboard is an Irish immigrant.
The destitute builder in the party’s latest advert is believed by party officials to be a Dubliner named Dave O’Rourke, a Ukip spokesman confirmed.
Mr O’Rourke is seen sitting on a pavement with a beggar’s cup. The text carries the caption: “EU policy at work. British workers are hit hard by unlimited cheap labour”.
The poster was launched by Mr Farage in Sheffield earlier this week, where he said he would like to see immigration cut to 30-50,000 people a year. Britain will no longer be subject to European “open-door” immigration but instead install a restrict work permit scheme, he said.
Mr O’Rourke is from Dublin and has lived in the UK for ten years, according to an online profile. He describes himself as “hard working”. Under Ukip proposals he would not be able to move to Britain unless he should show he was “highly skilled”.
Many British-born actors struggle to find well-paid work due to high levels of competition within the industry.
It is the second time this week Ukip have faced questions over whether they practice what they preach in calling for an immigration policy that would see far fewer foreigners working in Britain.
Immigration is “good for big business and rich people” because it creates plentiful cheap labour, at the expense of the native working class, Mr Farage claims.
On Tuesday Mr Farage defended his decision to employ his wife, Kirsten, as his £25,000 a year secretary who is paid through European Parliament expenses.
She is German, but Mr Farage denied she was “taking” a British worker’s job, saying he knows of no Briton who could work the late hours that she does.
That claim was undermined after a job advertisement, posted as a stunt by a recruitment firm, for the role of his PA attracted hundreds of applications from UK nationals within hours.
Mr Farage added: “That is a very different situation to the mass of hundreds of thousands of people coming in and flooding the lower ends of the labour market.”
Patrick O’Flynn, Ukip’s director of communications, said any criticism of the poster was “Tory party humbug”.
“The vast majority of people used in political poster campaigns are actors. It is totally standard practice. It is nonsense for the Conservative Party to try and depict this as anything out of the ordinary,” he said.
That position, however, appears to contradict comments by Nigel Farage after it emerged another person featured in a Ukip poster was a party employee.
Lizzy Vaid appears in the party’s manifesto as a voter from Devon, but she is in fact Ukip’s events manager and an assistant to Mr Farage, who lives with his press officer Alexandra Phillips.
Mr Farage defended her inclusion in the brochure because she is a “sincere” supporter of the party rather than an actor.
“What could be more sincere in literature than somebody who joined the party subsequently got a job in the party rather than an actress or a member of the public?” Mr Farage told the Telegraph. “It’s the most ridiculous argument I’ve ever heard in my life. Most broadcasts for most parties use actors. We use Ukippers.”
Separately, the party announced it would not be taking action against David Challice, the party’s Communications Manager, who has suggested that “cash-strapped Moslems” should have multiple wives in order to gain more benefits and described Greeks as “vile”.
The comments were a joke, a party spokesman said. “UKIP is not a party that believes in public debate and conversation being stifled by an obsession with political correctness. So the threshold for which the mere expression of opinion merits disciplinary action should be set high.”
He added: “There are quite legitimate public concerns about the interaction of the benefits system with men who have multiple wives.”