While a storm brews over a senior Ukip politician filmed complaining about British aid money being given to “bongo bongo land”, the party says its leader has gone fishing.
Godfrey Bloom sparked controversy after he was recorded questioning the UK’s overseas aid budget, telling supporters at a meeting in the Midlands that it was “beyond” him to understand how “we can possibly be giving a billion pounds a month…to bongo bongo land”.
Ukip sought to distance itself from his comments, saying that the language used was not acceptable. Steve Crowther, the party chairman, said: “We are asking Godfrey not to use this phrase again as it might be considered disparaging by members from other countries.”
As Mr Bloom has faced calls to resign, spokeswoman for Ukip said that the party leader, Nigel Farage, would not be available for comment as he was thought to have gone fishing. “We think Nigel Farage is in the middle of an ocean,” she said. “I believe he has gone out, possibly fishing.”
He later tweeted: “Godfrey 100 per cent right over foreign aid budget but pleased he’s apologised over the wrong language he used.”
“We think Nigel Farage is in the middle of an ocean.” Ukip spokeswoman
She added that the matter would be referred to the chairman before deciding what, if any, action would be taken.
“The party will be following procedure,” she said earlier. “We will look and determine what’s the appropriate course of action.”
However, despite continuing questions over Mr Bloom’s future in the party, the Euro MEP was unrepentant. He told Channel 4 News: “I don’t feel I did anything wrong. I’m 63 years old. That’s the sort of phraseology we used years ago.”
Although he conceded that if Mr Farage said his comments were racist – “It must be so.”
He added: “I can’t remember what I meant.”
The member of European Parliament for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire also claimed that he had received “hundreds and thousands” of emails and text messages of support.
Ukip said earlier this month that its membership had hit 30,000 for the first time. A YouGov poll carried out from 5 to 6 August, just before the row broke, suggested that 11 per cent of people surveyed would vote Ukip, behind Labour on 29 per cent and the Conservatives on 32 per cent. The Lib Dems polled 10 per cent.
The comments reopened a row over whether Ukip is a racist party or not. A statement the MEP posted on his website after the video surfaced suggested that he acknowledged that his comments were damaging. He said: “At a public speech in the West Midlands in early July I used a term which I subsequently gather under certain circumstances could be interpreted as pejorative to individuals and possibly cause offence.
What do people in central London think of his comments?
Carl Joseph, 26, retail customer services: "It's totally racist and ridiculous, 'bongo bongo'. If we can help people we should. But I disagree mainly with the words he used. He needs to get sacked. Anyone who's spoken like that should."
John Boult, 51, security officer: "A billion pounds a month is a lot of money, and it should go to a good cause, not Ray Bans and Ferraris. We are struggling in this country. Saying bongo bongo is wrong because it's having a go at the people who live in that country."
Neill Farkhondeh, 32, retail operations: "The term bongo is derogatory, I'm not sure what he means by bongo bongo. My knowledge of foreign aid is not great but I think it should be given where it's needed - there are so many problems in the world. I don't know who this guy is, but he is showing his true colours."
David Summers, 32, sales: "Whilst it hasn't been worded very nicely, I kind of agree. Obviously you want to help other countries, but you want to get your own house in order. Our forces are massively understaffed, and that's not good."
Sue Beaumont, 70, actor: "I suppose bongo bongo is anywhere that isn't this country. If he meant Europe, I wouldn't have thought that was offensive to anyone. I could see it being offensive for other countries. I don't like giving money to these bongo bongos, as you call it."
Maria Simmonds, 51, housewife: "His choice of words is terrible. There's a bigger divide of rich and poor then ever, which makes people like himself come out with comments like this. I don't agree, but I can see what he's trying to tap in to."
“Although quite clearly no such personal usage was intended, I understand from UKIP Party Chairman Steve Crowther and leader Nigel Farage that I must not use the terminology in the future, nor will I and sincerely regret any genuine offence which might have been caused or embarrassment to my colleagues.”
Mr Bloom was filmed speaking at a meeting in Wordsley, near Stourbridge, in July in a video shown by The Guardian. In the recording, the MEP says: “How we can possibly be giving a billion pounds a month when we’re in this sort of debt to bongo bongo land is completely beyond me.
“To buy Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, Ferraris and all the rest of it that goes with most of the foreign aid. F18s for Pakistan. We need a new squadron of F18s. Who’s got the squadrons? Pakistan, where we send the money.”
Two months ago, an Italian MEP was expelled from Ukip’s European alliance for saying a black minister in Italy was party of a “government of bongo bongo” who wanted to impose “tribal traditions”.
Mr Farage also tried to claim that he was “standing up for ordinary people at the pub, the cricket club, the rugby club, the sort of people who remain completely unrepresented under the political system that we have.”
His local rugby club, Pocklington RUFC, and his cricket team, the Horse House Formal Cricket Team, which plays once a year in Yorkshire, could not be contacted for comment. Yorkshire County Cricket Club declined to comment.
The Department for International Development said that the UK government spent £8.6bn on aid last year, £7.65bn of which came from the department itself. Although this year’s total aid budget is likely to increase, it is unlikely to reach £1bn a year.
Rushanara Ali, a shadow development minister, said: “It’s just offensive and the kind of thing that should have been consigned to the history books. It’s completely at odds with the 21st century.
“If Nigel Farage is serious about getting rid of racism and intolerance in his party, he should take action against politicians who think it’s acceptable to speak of people in developing countries in that way.”
This is not the first time Mr Bloom has courted controversy. In 2006, he admitted visiting brothels and said that most prostitutes “do it because they want to”. He claimed that the amount of beer drunk by him and colleagues meant visits were not consummated.
In 2004, he drew further criticism for his remarks on women. “No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age,” he said.
He has also suggested that women should stay at home and “clean behind the fridge”.
Last year, he stood to be a police and crime commissioner for Humberside but failed after a £40,000 campaign – more than any other candidate. He came fourth.