Nigel Farage has defended the comments he made about Romanian people in a car-crash interview with LBC last week, insisting that “Ukip is not a racist party”.
After he told BBC News that he had been “tired” when he made the radio appearance last week, the party has now taken out a full-page advert in a national newspaper featuring “an open letter” from its leader.
Mr Farage was accused by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg of revealing his “divisive, nasty approach” to politics on Friday when he insisted to LBC’s James O’Brien that he was right to feel “uncomfortable” at the thought of having a Romanian family move in next door.
He later appeared to relent – saying he “regretted” the fact that he “didn’t use the form of words in response that I would have liked to have used”, adding: “In life sometimes people get things wrong.”
Yet today the party appeared to be back on the offensive. In an advert in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Farage again quoted crime figures about Romanians, saying that they commit “92 per cent of all ATM crime in London”.
“The vast majority of Romanians who have come to the UK wish to better their lives and would make good neighbours,” he wrote.
“But there is a real problem, an unpalatable truth that our political class would rather not discuss. Since the welcome fall of Communism and the awful dictator Ceausescu, Romania has struggled to complete a full transition into a western democracy.”
Citing issues of organised crime and the social exclusion of the Roma minority in Eastern Europe, Mr Farage went on to say: “We should not be in a political union with Romania, with an opened door to all of their citizens. We must take back the power to stop criminals from entering our country by taking back control of our borders.
Ukip gaffes and controversies
Ukip gaffes and controversies
1/12 Neil Hamilton
Picture Exclusive: The year is 1998. The venue is a Springbok Club meeting. The flag is a symbol for white supremacists in South Africa. And the speaker is Ukip’s deputy chairman, Neil Hamilton
2/12 Kerry Smith
Kerry Smith resigned as would-be MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock after it emerged he had mocked gay party members as “disgusting poofters”, joked about shooting people from Chigwell in a “peasant hunt” and referred to someone with a Chinese name as a “Chinky bird”
3/12 Natasha Bolter
Former Ukip member Natasha Bolter was suspected of not having the teaching qualifications she professed to, only days after it was revealed that claims of her having attended Oxford University were also false
4/12 Ukip Calypso song
Mike Reid released a single in praise of UKIP trying to control the UK's borders, only to withdraw the single after being accused of racism for singing in a Jamaican accent
5/12 Farage 'car-crash' interview
Ukip spin doctor forced to intervene as Farage falters in disastrous radio interview
6/12 Janice Atkinson
Janice Atkinson, Ukip's South East chair, pictured by protesters while campaigning in Ashford, Kent with local party chair Norman Taylor
7/12 Ukip cancels Freephone
Ukip cancels Freephone number after protesters repeatedly called to push up costs
8/12 Farage 'car-crash' interview
Mr Farage appeared to be caught out on a number of issues, from Romanian neighbours to people speaking foreign languages on the train
9/12 Ukip employs illegal immigrants
Ukip criticised after European election candidate found employing illegal immigrants
10/12 Magnus Nielsen
Ukip candidate: 'Take away the right to vote to improve election turnout'
11/12 London Live make-up
Ukip's Nigel Farage reportedly refused to go on London Live 'without professional make up-artist'
Nigel Farage says he is taking taking legal advice over “outrageous” allegations that he is responsible for more than £50,000 of “missing” EU funding that was paid directly into his personal bank account
“When this happens my answer to the question, ‘should people be concerned if a group of Romanian men moved in next door?’ will be 'no'.”
Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday that after a difficult week for Ukip “the mask is starting to slip”.
He said: “I think what's being revealed that sort of behind the beer-swilling bonhomie is a rather nasty view of the world.
“I think anyone who singles out one community, one nationality, and says 'I don't want to live next door to them', I really think that's the politics of division and I think it really should have no place in modern Britain.”
Last week also saw Ukip’s South East chair Janice Atkinson clash with protesters in Ashford, Kent, and a picture of her swearing at them quickly went viral.
On Friday, as well as the bruising LBC interview, the party was forced to cancel its Freephone number after it received so many calls from protesters deliberately trying to push up the party’s costs.
And it wasn’t a good day generally for the party, after it was reported that one of its MEP candidates was found to be employing seven illegal immigrants – and Mr Farage “refused to appear on London Live without a professional make-up artist”.