Ukip leader Nigel Farage has accused anti-fascist campaign groups connected to members of the Labour party of acting violently against him “more than once”.
Mr Farage alleged that members of the Unite against Fascism and Hope not Hate campaign groups had acted in a violent way and accused them turning up to his meetings and banging him “over the head with banners”. Both campaign groups have fully rejected his claims.
Speaking to Andrew Neil on the BBC Sunday Politics show, Mr Farage lamented the need for him to travel with four bodyguards, claiming that he “can’t stand it” because he has “always been a free spirit that’s wandered about the place and done my own thing”.
He told the programme: “Sadly we have a couple of organisations out there headed up by senior Labour party figures, who purport to be against fascism and extremism, who receive funding from the Department of Communities, who receive funding from the trade unions, who have acted in a violent way more than once.”
It transpired Mr Farage was talking about Unite Against Fascism, whose parliamentary officer is Labour MP Peter Hain, and the Hope Not Hate campaign group, one of whose patrons is Labour peer Baroness Kinnock.
When asked whether Mr Farage was accusing Labour of having organised the violence in some way he said “no”, adding: “I said Unite Against Fascism and Hope Not Hate are taxpayer funded, they are trade-union funded, they are headed up by very senior Labour figures”.
“I’m perfectly happy for them to come to my meetings and have an argument with me but it’s not so much fun when they’re banging you over the head with banners,” he concluded.
Mr Farage’s complaints appear reminiscent of the actions made by his former MEP Godfrey Bloom last year, when he was caught on camera hitting Channel 4 News reporter Michael Crick over the head with a copy of the Ukip party conference guide.
And the party leader himself was also hit on the head by a placard-wielding protester in January this year. The card appeared to read: “Nasty Little Nigel”.
Hope Not Hate's leader Nick Lowles told The Independent that Mr Farage had attempted to “smear” him in a column for this paper last week.
He challenged Mr Farage to “stand up” the claims made yesterday, saying: “If he’s got evidence that we’ve been behind violence I’d like to see it. He’s made claims against us and we know it’s not true - we’ve not organised or supported a single protest at their events. We’d like him to stand it up because we’re confident he hasn’t got any answers to it.”
Unite Against Fascism said they do not receive any government funding and will be writing to Mr Farage to have the Ukip leader retract his claims.
The group’s joint national secretary Weyman Bennet told the BBC: “If he’s unpopular it’s because he’s been using the politics of scapegoating and that has brought a response from the very people he’s been targeting.
“It’s astonishing a politician would attack an anti-racist, anti-fascist organisation rather than deal with the fact that by playing the race card, he’s igniting the same issue as Enoch Powell,” he added.