Nigel Farage is facing further questions about Ukip’s vetting tonight after it emerged that two of his party officials attended a demonstration organised by a far-right group.
The chairman of Ukip’s west London branch Vanessa Crichton and chairman of the Hillingdon branch Cliff Dixon attended an anti-EU protest organised by the British Patriots Society, which has strong links to the English Defence League (EDL).
The tiny group was set up by Sara Roocroft, a former Ukip member. She has expressed support for the English Defence League in the past and its website was registered in the name of a senior EDL figure, Steve Simmons.
The BPS has posted messages online warning of conflict with the Muslim community in retaliation for the Woolwich attack. One message on the group’s Facebook site states: “If nothing is done then the servicemen and women and those who support the troops will take matters into their own hands… And if they want a war then Bring It On!”
Confronted by The Independent, Mr Dixon admitted that he went along to the Westminster demonstration in 2012 with his colleague Ms Crichton, but did not know of the group’s links to the EDL and would not attend any more BPS events. He added: “Threats of violence are unacceptable and I would not want to be associated with them.” Ms Crichton said she could not recall attending the demonstration.
A Ukip spokesman said the two party officials would not be disciplined. He said: “When we spoke to the individuals concerned they were as surprised as we were that they had appeared at an event organised by people with those links.”
The spokesman added: “They were entirely unaware of any EDL links to the BPS, and were shocked. To discipline people for something like that would be heavy-handed and unfair.”
Matthew Collins of the Hope not Hate anti-extremism campaign group said: “The more people look at Ukip, the more shady it appears.”
Sara Roocroft denied she was running an EDL “splinter group” but admitted she has supported the far-right street movement and that the BPS’s website was set up by a leading EDL member. She said: “I would never become an EDL member or go to a demo because I don’t agree with how they conduct themselves, I don’t agree with the drinking, shouting and swearing.”