A poll suggests Ukip has moved into the lead ahead of the European elections, after a week in which it has faced questions over its positions on foreign workers, racial tolerance and gender equality.
A YouGov poll showed the anti-EU party has overtaken Labour on voting intentions for the election on 22 May with 31 per cent; three points ahead of Labour and up from 23 per cent in March. The Conservatives trail behind on 21 per cent, according to the poll carried out for the Sunday Times.
The news follows the furore that surrounded Ukip candidate William Henwood saying that comedian Lenny Henry should “emigrate to a black country”.
I think it’s totally unacceptable and (Lenny Henry) is as British as you and I are. Jeremy Hunt
Responding to Henry’s speech suggesting ethnic minorities were under-represented on television, Henwood tweeted: “He should emigrate to a black country. He does not have to live with whites.”
He also wrote: “Islam reminds me of the 3rd Reich, strength through violence against the citizens.”
And, in an interview with the BBC, he added: “I think if black people come to this country and don’t like mixing with white people why are they here? If he (Henry) wants a lot of blacks around go and live in a black country.”
The comments were attacked by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said they were racist and “disgusting”. He told Pienaar’s Politics on BBC Radio 5 Live: “I do think those comments about Lenny Henry were absolutely disgusting and I do think it’s for Nigel Farage to make absolutely clear that it’s not Ukip’s official view, but also to explain why so many people with those kinds of view seem to be attracted to becoming candidates for Ukip,” the Tory MP said.
“I think it’s totally unacceptable and (Lenny Henry) is as British as you and I are.”
The health secretary added that there was a “broader risk for Ukip here because they position themselves as the patriotic party, they plaster the Union Jack all over their leaflets but actually there’s something very un-British about this kind of language, very unpleasant”.
He added: “We are not a divisive country. We want to be a country – all parts of the political spectrum – where we avoid that kind of rhetoric and I think that’s where there are some real dangers for Ukip,” he said.
Ukip deputy chairman Neil Hamilton, a former Tory MP, said the comments on Lenny Henry were a “complete distraction” from the European election campaign, adding Mr Henwood’s case would be investigated.
“This is a council candidate whom you would have never have heard but for all the social media archaeologists that are employed by Labour, the Liberal party and the Tories to try and track down any unknown Ukip member or activist who may have said something unpleasant on social media,” he said.
“Every party has got them. We have strict rules on racism. We don’t allow it. We’re the only party that doesn’t allow ex-BNP or National Front members to be candidates and we have strict rules on social media. I know because I helped to devise them. This man’s case will be investigated.”
The controversy surrounding Mr Henwood’s comments came after a series of revelations about a major advertising campaign launched by Ukip last week. One of the posters depicted a construction worker who appeared to be unemployed and suggested that British people were being put out of work by labour being imported from other EU nations.
The actor who posed for the picture turned out to be a foreign-born EU migrant.
Similarly, party leader Nigel Farage was forced to fend off accusations of hypocrisy over his decision to employ his wife, who is German, as his secretary; rather than a British worker.
And, in a further blow, the party was forced to suspend a local election candidate over “repellent” racist tweets were posted on his account. Andre Lampitt wrote that Labour leader Ed Miliband was not really British because of his family’s heritage.
He also described Islam as a “pathetic Satanic religion”, expressed a desire to create a website named Islamoutofuk.co.uk and said that “most Nigerians are generally bad people”.
Another tweet on his account read: “Slavery was an act of war. British were the winners. Deal with it – stop being so jealous.”
A Ukip spokesman said Mr Lampitt was suspended and said: “We are deeply shocked that Mr Lampitt has expressed such repellent views.
We have strict rules on racism. We don’t allow it. Ukip deputy chairman Neil Hamilton
And that was not the end of the controversies for Ukip leader Nigel Farage. The party was forced to defend a party official who said that women should stay at home and suggested “cash-strapped Moslems” should have multiple wives.
A Sky News investigation revealed that David Challice also criticised the “lunacy of multiculturalism” and calls Greeks “vile”.
Ukip 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.
“That threshold was quite obviously breached in yesterday’s furore but it is has certainly not been today.
“Indeed, there are quite legitimate public concerns about the interaction of the benefits system with men who have multiple wives and these have been widely aired in the media.”