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, 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”.
Ukip is facing embarrassment after a senior official claimed the party should stand up for “bigots” and claimed that the NHS was the “biggest waste of money in the UK”. The remarks were made by Matthew Richardson, the party’s secretary and a member of its national executive council.
According to the Sunday Times, Richardson told a meeting last month: “I’ve said before, people talk about Ukip being bigots. There are hundreds of thousands of bigots in the United Kingdom and they deserve representation.”
He also joked about party leader Nigel Farage, saying: “He’s a Kent man. Well, sounds like Kent, anyway.” Richardson added that the Ukip leader would “have to be a moron” to put the party’s plan for a turnover tax for businesses in its manifesto.
He later insisted the comments were “clearly light-hearted harmless banter in the pub” and did “not reflect any seriously held belief”. He added: “I don’t recall the conversation taking place, but some of the words attributed to me are actually a quote from the late [Tory MP] Eric Forth, which, if they were spoken at all, would have been on a discussion about him.
“None of this is reflective of my own views or those of the party, and I am sure any reader would recognise the difference between a formal party position and the sort of jag lots of people have with their mates while having a drink.”
Meanwhile, footage from 2010 of Richardson attacking the health service at events in the US were released by Labour. Speaking at the Young America’s Foundation conference in Washington, he said: “When I was younger, a trillion was an astronomic number. Now when I look at our national deficits, and your national deficits, actually it is an economic number.
“A number I couldn’t possible imagine when I was younger is now the amount of money that is owed by my country, and soon more than that by your country, to other countries, paying for wasteful socialist programmes. And of course at the heart of this, the Reichstag bunker of socialism, is the National Health Service.”
At the Conservative political action conference in the same year he said: “This socialist government wastes money like you can’t imagine. They have started doing every wasteful scheme under the sun … The biggest waste of money of course in the United Kingdom is the NHS, the National Health Service.”
The release of the footage signals a more aggressive approach towards Ukip from Labour, which faces losing ground to Farage’s party in some of its northern heartlands – as shown in the Heywood and Middleton by-election in October, where Ed Miliband’s party managed only a narrow victory.
Richardson was reportedly appointed last year to help prevent “bad stuff” about the party making it into the media, but Ukip insisted that he was not involved with the press operation.
Labour’s Jon Trickett, shadow minister without portfolio, said: “Either Nigel Farage supports this, or Mr Richardson cannot stay in post. Nigel Farage cannot simultaneously defend these comments and claim that his party stands for the NHS free at the point of use.
“The man chosen by Nigel Farage to control Ukip’s image has compared the NHS to Hitler’s Nazi bunker. This is Ukip’s real agenda on the NHS. Today Labour is shining a light on Nigel Farage and his party’s true views on the future of the NHS. They claim to defend the service we cherish, but they want to dismantle its foundations.
“Ukip can no longer attempt to fool people. They are a party of Tory people, Tory money and they want to extend the worst Tory policies, which would have horrific effects on working people.”
A Ukip spokeswoman played down the significance of Richardson’s comments, pointing out that he was not an elected representative or party spokesman. “He is a very talented barrister and does his job extremely well. He is not involved with the party’s press operation.”
In a serious of astonishing remarks, Nigel Farage’s top aide Matthew Richardson condemned the NHS as “the biggest waste of money in the UK”
Nigel Farage’s right-hand man has branded the NHS “the biggest waste of money in the UK” and compared the health service to Nazi Germany.
In a series of astonishing remarks, Ukip general secretary Matthew Richardson condemned the NHS and called for it to be privatised.
His comments – made to an American audience and revealed by the Sunday Mirror – will be a huge embarrassment to leader Mr Farage, who is now facing calls to axe his Mr Richardson.
A City barrister hired by Ukip to keep “bad stuff” out of the media, bespectacled Mr Richardson, 34, explosively compared the NHS – cherished by millions as Britain’s greatest post-war achievement – to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
Speaking at two events for right-wing activists in Washington, he launched a ferocious attack on the service, blaming it for much of the nation’s debts.
He said: “A number I couldn’t possibly imagine when I was younger is now the amount of money that is owed by my country… of course, at the heart of this, the Reichstag bunker of socialism, is the National Health Service.
“And that is why socialised health care is so dangerous – because it is a ratchet. Once it is in place it is very, very hard to get rid of.”
He also launched a vitriolic attack on taxpayer-funded cosmetic surgery.
“I promise I’m not making this up – breast augmentation, hymen repair for those who want to be born-again virgins, is paid for by the National Health Service,” he told his audience of young Americans.
“If you have low self-esteem you get new breasts, but if you are dying of breast cancer you can’t have the treatment you need to stay alive. “
He added: “Socialists think that if somebody wants to reassign their gender the state should pay, they think that’s how the world works. So if you love she-males come to the United Kingdom, if you love freedom – stay here.”
The Reichstag bunker was the air-raid shelter in Berlin which became the infamous heart of the Nazi regime at the end of the World War Two. It was where Hitler married Eva Braun in 1945 before the pair committed suicide.
The emotive comparison will infuriate hardworking doctors and nurses.
One veteran nurse stormed: “We save lives every day. Is this Ukip character seriously comparing us to one of the world’s mass murderers?”
In his speech in 2010 to Young America’s Foundation Conservative Student Conference in Washington, Mr Richardson also said the NHS was the “sacred cow of British politics” – but that he hoped David Cameron would start privatising it.
Referring to Labour, Mr Richardson sneered: “This socialist Government wastes money like you can’t imagine. They have started doing every wasteful scheme under the sun.”
In a second speech in Washington at the Conservative Political Action Conference that same year Mr Richardson repeated his claim that the NHS was a massive drain on resources.
He said to the applause of his audience: “The biggest waste of money of course in the United Kingdom is the NHS.”
His comments will pile the pressure on Ukip about its plans for the health service – despite its claims that it is opposed to privatisation.
The revelation is a gift to Labour ahead of Mr Farage’s planned appearance on tomorrow’s Andrew Marr show on BBC1.
Shadow Minister without Portfolio Jon Trickett called on Mr Farage to sack Mr Richardson, or come clean and admit that Ukip backs an NHS sell-off.
“Either Nigel Farage supports this or Mr Richardson cannot stay in post,” he said. “Nigel Farage cannot simultaneously defend these comments and claim that his party stands for the NHS free at the point of use.
“The man chosen by Nigel Farage to control Ukip’s image has compared the NHS to Hitler’s Nazi bunker.”
He went on: “This is Ukip’s real agenda on the NHS. They claim to defend the service we cherish, but they want to dismantle its foundations.
“UKIP can no longer attempt to fool people. They are a party of Tory people, Tory money and they want to extend the worst Tory policies, which would have horrific effects on working people.”
Mr Richardson sat alongside Nigel Farage at the launch of UKIP’s local election campaign in 2012.
And he was one of only two officials to accompany the party leader to the House of Commons to see Tory turncoat Douglas Carswell introduced as a Ukip MP last October.
Labour faces a battle to stop disenchanted voters switching their support to Ukip, best known for its hardline policies on immigration and Europe.
Labour strategists plan to draw the contrast between Mr Richardson’s remarks on the NHS and their 10-year plan for the health service, to be unveiled on Tuesday.
Labour will also release a video of Mr Richardson’s NHS remarks, as well as launching a website called meetnigelfarage.com which invites voters to read Mr Farage’s words and make their own judgements.
Ironically, Mr Richardson was appointed as UKIP’s ruling general secretary in 2013 to keep bad news about the party buried.
Leaked minutes from the party’s ruling national executive committee reveal: “We need to ensure all of the bad stuff is kept out of the public domain. As party secretary [Mr Richardson] would try to ensure that we keep a tight rein on things.”
His remarks on the NHS are a major embarrassment to Mr Farage, who was himself forced to deny he backed privatising the NHS after remarks he made in 2012 were made public.
Mr Farage was caught on camera telling supporters that the state-funded NHS should move towards an insurance-based system run by private companies like in the US.
Earlier this month Ukip’s deputy leader Paul Nuttall insisted: “It might be better if you brought in a private company who you could hire and fire on results.”
And today the party’s health spokeswoman, MEP Louise Bours, gaffed by admitting: “I have no experience in health whatsoever.”
Tonight a Ukip spokesman said Mr Richardson was “specifically talking about the growth of middle management which had not reflected a growth in health outcomes”.
Responding to calls to sack him, he added: “It’s none of Labour’s business who we employ or don’t employ.”
It’s an unusually candid way to begin a political interview.
“One thing that irritates me more than anything, and you see so much of it the higher up the political hierarchy you go, that’s it’s full of a load off… people who aren’t particularly honest, let’s put it that way,” says Louise Bours, Ukip MEP for the North-west and the party’s official health spokesperson.
“I like people to be straight with me, I don’t like all this…shenanigans in the background, I’d rather people be honest and up-front and I always try to answer things very honestly.
“So, honestly, I have no experience in health whatsoever,” she says.
To be fair, most Health Secretaries could – and perhaps should – have said the same when they started the job.
Ms Bours, a former actress, mother-of-two and town councillor in her native Cheshire, was sent to Brussels with 23 other MEPs in Ukip’s most successful ever election last May. She was chosen to be the party’s health lead last summer. Having been a relative unknown among the Ukip ranks, she was projected into the national spotlight this week after Nigel Farage told the BBC that the idea of replacing the NHS with an insurance-based system was “a debate that we’re all going to have to return to”.
Ms Bours immediately issued a statement distancing herself and the party, reiterating that she and “the majority of Ukip members” support a state-funded NHS: a commitment she says will be in the party’s manifesto. “That is not going to change at all, no matter what Nigel’s personal opinion is,” she says.
It is not the only issue on which she disagrees with Mr Farage. The day before we meet, Parliament has pushed ahead with legislation to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes. Mr Farage, perhaps the country’s most photographed smoker, called the policy “counter to freedom”.
Ms Bours begs to differ. “This is a personal opinion I’m giving now, because it’s not something I’ve looked at yet. It’s not something I’ve talked about with my group yet,” she says. “I listened to a doctor this morning, from Christie’s [the cancer hospital] – that’s the kind of person I want to listen to. He felt it worked… he’s a guy, a top oncologist, a top anti-smoking expert telling me that.”
She is also a fierce advocate of the smoking ban, but does back the party’s policy of providing ventilated smoking rooms in pubs and clubs.
“I love the smoking ban. Absolutely love it… Who wouldn’t think it’s a good thing? Except smokers…except Nigel,” she says, with a hearty laugh.
She bristles when reminded of Mr Farage’s views on HIV and migration. In an interview last year, Mr Farage said that he wanted to control “the quality” of people allowed to live in the UK – and suggested “people who do not have HIV” as an example. “I’ve looked at Australia’s minimum health standard…they exclude people with long-term medical conditions and I think you have to look at those kind of things,” Ms Bours says. “HIV is rather a bad example though, to be honest. HIV is managed now, isn’t it. As somebody with personal experience, through very dear friends, HIV is a bad example… I know perfectly helpful, fabulous folk… I think it was an unfortunate example that he used.”
Between Ms Bours in one corner, and Mr Farage in the other, what health policies have made it into the manifesto? Much cannot be discussed until it is finally approved by the party’s National Executive Committee. However, Ms Bours can confirm that improving care of the elderly would be a key priority, with a single funding pot combining NHS and council money to pay for services outside of hospital.
NHS management posts would be slashed, as will the burden of “bureaucracy” for GPs, and hospital watchdogs the CQC and Monitor would be abolished in favour of local “health boards” led by clinicians who would be responsible for care standards.
NHS spending, Ms Bours says, should be protected.
Immigration, she believes, has impacted on NHS services in some parts of the country, but not others. She insists that Ukip border policies would not hurt the NHS workforce. “What we want is highly skilled, highly qualified doctors and nurses. Now if they come from Basingstoke, fabulous, but again if they come from Brazil, that’s fabulous too.”
It is certainly hard to doubt her passion for the NHS. And on the importance of state-funding over an insurance system, she couldn’t be clearer. “When my youngest was poorly, it was a time when money was tight. Thinking back now, if I had had to think about: ‘Oh no, I’ve got to ring an insurance company’ … the stress of that on top of the stress of what was going on with my daughter – to inflict that on people is just terrible. To my mind, state-funded means: people don’t ever need to worry.” Whether her party is with her on that, only time will tell.
Calls for Wellingborough UKIP candidate involved in ‘piles and STDs’ Twitter row to ‘resign or be sacked’Posted: January 25, 2015
Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Wellingborough and Rushden has called on Dr Jonathan Munday who is also an NHS doctor, to leave his position following his controversial comments on Twitter.
The Twitter row saw Dr Munday unleash a volley of abuse on Tuesday after he was accused of not caring about the NHS.
He was questioned by tweeter ‘Mistress 9 Danke’ (@catsinbelfry), who tweeted her ‘disappointment’ that Mr Munday had not answered her questions on UKIP policy on the NHS.
Another Twitter user Benny Profane (@WadjaKnow), then tweeted: “Yeah mine too. It would be hard for him to claim he supports the NHS, because Nigel Farage doesn’t.”
Mr Munday reacted angrily to the comments: “Both Nigel and I support the NHS. I have worked in it for 31 years. What has been your contribution – piles and STDs?”
Labour’s Richard Garvie, who has made the call for Dr Munday to leave his post or be sacked, has described the comments as ‘vile’, and claims that it isn’t the first time Dr Munday has ‘resorted to personal insults when questioned on policy’.
“The problem for Dr Munday, and UKIP nationally, is that they just cannot stand up to any form of public scrutiny,” Mr Garvie said.
“This lady has requested that Dr Munday set out his views on the health service, but has they been attacked in a very crude manner.”
“Dr Munday has previously insulted constituents on the social media platform, even telling one train driver that he looked forward to the introduction of driverless trains after being questioned on transport policy.”
“With an election in just a few months time, it would perhaps be of benefit to me and other candidates if Dr Munday was to remain in position. I just think that the way he speaks to constituents is vile, and if he is not prepared to resign, UKIP should take action against him immediately.”
UKIP is standing behind their candidate in Wellingborough even after he accused a Twitter user of contributing nothing to the NHS except piles and STDs.
The Northants Herald & Post contacted UKIP today to ask a series of questions about Dr Jonathan Munday in the wake of this Twitter scandal.
UKIP did not answer these questions:
– Has anyone from UKIP spoke to Dr Munday about his conduct?
– If no one has spoken to or contacted Dr Munday why?
– Does UKIP believe Dr Munday’s apology is good enough? Considering people are sacked for tweeting messages/comments which their employer does not agree with?
– Do UKIP agree with what Dr Munday said?
– Is Dr Munday still the UKIP candidate in Wellingborough?
– Has the party considered any form of action against Dr Munday for what he did?
– Is the party considering de-selecting him?
– What has Nigel Farage said on this matter as it hit the local and then national newspapers?
Instead a spokesman for UKIP said: “Dr Munday made the comments after his commitment to the NHS was questioned by anonymous twitterers.
“After a long day at the surgery, and 30 years as a GP, he was understandably annoyed.
“Whilst his comments were certainly foolish they were a little tongue in cheek, and he has fully apologised .
“The matter is now closed.”
When the Northants Herald and Post contacted Dr Munday, early this week, he apologised for his actions.
He said: “I did say it and I regret saying it. I was very angry with the person because they insulted my professional integrity. They seemed to be implying that a doctor couldn’t or shouldn’t support UKIP which is nuisance, so I insulted them back.
Speaking about this Twitter issue, Wellingborough & Rushden MP Peter Bone said: “I do not make comments about other political opponents.
“They are responsible for what they say.
“I try and run a campaign which I believe in.
“If other people want to make silly remarks or offence remarks I do not get involved.”
Leaked documents show Ukip leaders approve NHS privatisation once it becomes more ‘acceptable to the electorate’Posted: January 25, 2015
Secret documents leaked from a Ukip executive meeting appear to suggest that a government under Nigel Farage would consider plans to privatise the NHS and use current policies as a stepping stone to more “radical” change.
Mr Farage has repeatedly denied that Ukip would seek to privatise Britain’s health service if the party got into power, refusing to go further than telling the BBC’s Nick Robinson that “we are going to have to find ways” to deal with caring for a growing, aging population.
But videos have emerged showing the Ukip leader advocating an insurance-based system in the past, and according to Political Scrapbook newly-leaked documents show the party’s ruling committee unanimously approving a pro-privatisation policy at a meeting in October 2012.
The minutes from that meeting reportedly show executive members complaining that “the NHS is highly valued by the British people, despite its problems and limitations”, while another said that “we cannot change it wholesale because the public love it”.
Agreeing that a Ukip government would commission a cost-effectiveness study into privatisation while more minor policies were pursued, another said: “We can focus on stopping health tourism; we do not have to commit ourselves much further.
“In the longer term we want a radical approach but we cannot do that in this time frame.”
Ukip’s policy on the NHS was again the subject of discussion at Prime Minister’s Questions today after one of the party’s two MPs, Mark Reckless, asked why David Cameron was refusing to debate Mr Farage ahead of the general election in May.
The Prime Minister replied: “The honourable gentleman comes to this House week after week to talk about the NHS in Kent, well Mr Farage said this [in 2012]: “We’re going to have to move to an insurance based system of health care.
“That is the Ukip policy, to privatise the NHS. I say never.”
Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow Health Secretary, claimed earlier this week that Mr Farage’s appearance on the BBC documentary “Can Democracy Work” showed that “a vote for Ukip is a vote for the privatisation of the NHS and for a full American healthcare system”.
“Farage admits he says one thing in public about the NHS but another behind closed doors. He has shown Ukip’s statements on protecting the NHS to be hollow.”
Mr Farage has since responded to Mr Cameron’s comments on PMQs by saying that “the Prime Minister just openly lied”. He said “the truth” was that Ukip was committed to a free public NHS, that they would not charge for GP visits and that they “want to redirect more cash to frontline services”.
A Ukip spokesperson told the Huffington Post that the leaked documents showed the party wanted “policy solutions that are costed, achievable and credible”.
Minutes from 2012, show the party had indeed looked at the option of a private insurance model in the past, but that the executive “decided the costs outweighed the benefits”.