Ukip leader Nigel Farage defends his suggestion that it would be right to worry about having Romanian neighbours. He was also grilled on his financial affairs and his partys view on homosexuality.
In a statement released on Saturday, he said that “any normal and fair-minded person would have a perfect right to be concerned if a group of Romanian people suddenly moved in next door”.
The comments followed an interview on Friday in which Farage faced questions over claims of racism within his party and faced allegations of hypocrisy after he said he felt uncomfortable hearing people speak foreign languages on a train when his wife is German and his children are bilingual. And his media advisor tried to cut short an interview live on air after Farage was questioned about his financial arrangements.
The Ukip leader said he was not uncomfortable with his wife and children speaking German “because they can speak English”. And he further justified his position, adding: “I don’t suppose she speaks it on the train.”
He was questioned about a Ukip candidate who advocated shooting “poofters”. And it was when asked if he would submit to an auditing of his financial affairs on James O’Brien’s LBC programme that his director of communications Patrick O’Flynn jumped in to complain that the interview was running over time. Farage asked him to “hang on” before answering the question.
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The Ukip leader was dealt another blow on Saturday morning in the leading article of the Murdoch-owned Sun newspaper, which accused him of racism over comments he made about Romanians. In the article, the paper said that, when Farage was challenged over the issue, “he put a gun to his head and fired”.
The paper added: “Farage told a radio interviewer people would be worried if a group of Romanians moved in next door. Asked what the difference would be between them and some Germans, Farage, whose wife is German, said: ‘You know what the difference is’.”
UKIP will never allow the false accusation of racism levelled by a politically correct elite to prevent the raising of issues that are of concern to the great majority of the British public. Nigel Farage
The article is likely to signal the end of any hopes Farage harboured of winning the support of Rupert Murdoch, with whom he dined for the first time in March last year.
After the meeting at Farage’s London home, the Australian media tycoon tweeted that Ukip was reflecting public opinion. The Daily Telegraph reported that Farage told Murdoch during the dinner that he hoped to win half of the seats in the European elections.
The paper quoted a well-placed source as saying that Farage told Murdoch he would work with the Conservatives to fight Labour in next year’s general election if David Cameron agreed to step down. Farage refused to give any details of the conversation on the record.
In his statement, Nigel Farage said: “UKIP will never allow the false accusation of racism levelled by a politically correct elite to prevent the raising of issues that are of concern to the great majority of the British public.”
He said that police crime figures, which recently lost the gold standard ‘national statistics’ rating after it emerged they were being manipulated, show “there is a high level of criminality within the Romanian community in Britain. This is not to say for a moment that all or even most Romanian people living in the UK are criminals”.
He added: “But it is to say that any normal and fair-minded person would have a perfect right to be concerned if a group of Romanian people suddenly moved in next door. So far as I can see most of those media commentators objecting to this statement are people living in million pound houses for whom the prospect of such a turn of events is not a real one.”
Friday’s bruising interview followed the revelation that John Lyndon Sullivan, a Ukip council election candidate in Gloucestershire, wrote on Facebook: “I rather often wonder if we shot one ‘poofter’ (GBLT whatevers), whether the next 99 would decide on balance, that they weren’t after-all? We might then conclude that it’s not a matter of genetics, but rather more a matter of education.” He ended the post with a winking smiley face.
Farage insisted he did not know that Sullivan was running for his party and said he would face a charge of bringing the party in disrepute.
The Ukip leader admitted that the party has “idiots” within its ranks and accused media outlets of focusing on those members, rather than on his claims about inward immigration from the other EU states.
“All anyone wants to talk about is the idiots in Ukip,” Mr Farage said. “Wherever we have found people who have had extreme, racist, unpleasant views we have unceremoniously got rid of them… To hold out the views of handful of people as being representative of Ukip frankly is not the truth.” He said his party was interested in discussing what he called Britain’s “open door” policy to Europe.
In response to Sullivan’s comments, actor Jonathan Dryden Taylor wrote a sarcastic blogpost in which he volunteered to be shot in order to prove or disprove the Ukip candidate’s theory.
Dryden Taylor, who is homosexual, wrote: “I’m guessing you’d be shooting me in the shoulder or the leg, rather than somewhere actually fatal; for elected (or even non-elected) representatives actually to murder fellow citizens who are innocent of any crime is frowned upon in our namby-pamby liberal society.”
He added: “Another thing to bear in mind is that you’d be pretty well disposed towards me, if the rest of your party is anything to go by. I’m white, I speak nicely, I pay my taxes, and I’ve never been caught being Romanian.”
Last week, a youth member who has been put up to defend Ukip in media interviews quite saying it was descending into “a form of racist populism”. Sanya-Jeet Thandi wrote that Farage’s party was “cynically pursuing ever more aggressive anti-immigrant rhetoric”.
David Cameron, campaigning in Lancashire, said that some of Mr Farage’s comments had been “pretty unpleasant”.
“I just hope people will look at this and recognise that we are an open, tolerant, compassionate country,” he said.
“Yes we want to have a controlled immigration system, yes we want to sort out the welfare system but we shouldn’t put these labels on as Ukip do.
“I hear people say, look this is not the sort of country we are, I’m not voting for this sort of thing, it just sends out a terrible message about Britain.”