Nigel Farage hails new political force Ukip, while gaffe-prone Godfrey Bloom delivers a fresh political farce

Party conference turns to high comedy

Whether by accident or design, it was Bloomsday from the start. “I had the most blistering row with Godfrey in a Strasbourg restaurant the other day,” Nigel Farage chortled in his speech at the Ukip conference at Central  Hall in Westminster, making  the best of his colleague’s troublesome tendency to stick his foot in his mouth and then start in on the ankle.

“If the choice is between our being browbeaten through political correctness … or to be a party of free debate,” he went on, “then be in no doubt: we must be the party of free speech.”

Poor old Nigel. A mere five hours later, Mr Bloom had forced him to take a different view. This time, Mr Farage said, “Godfrey has gone beyond the pale … and we have no option but to remove the whip.”

What happened in the interim was as brisk a guide to political hara-kiri as you are likely to witness. It began with Mr Bloom’s appearance at a fringe meeting on women in politics, which is a fun idea. I counted about 30 men in the room against half as many women, a ratio admittedly not improved by the large number of journalists tracking the MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber.

When two of the women present said that they never cleaned behind their fridges, a reference to one of the many such flubs in Mr Bloom’s magnificent back catalogue, reporters’ ears pricked up. “This place,” Mr Bloom cried, “is full of sluts!”

There was a laugh. Good old Godfrey, this is the party of free speech, and he was using the archaic meaning of “slut” as a bit messy, obviously. Anyway, Godfrey took his place at the back of the room – at one point he stood next to Neil Hamilton, so if you half-shut your eyes the only way to tell them apart was by the disgraced Conservative’s walking stick – and enjoyed a glass of champagne. Then he made an early exit. On the steps outside, the hacks, led by Michael Crick of Channel 4 News, duly got stuck in.

Mr Bloom didn’t remember the “sluts” remark, he said at first. When it did come back to him, he pointed out that everybody had laughed. “I don’t know where you’re trying to go with this,” he said. “I think people don’t understand the difference between the words ‘slut’ and ‘slag’,” added an optimistic aide, who may have been starting to think of the “Bongo-Bongo” business as the good old days.

One reporter kept calling Bloom Mr Godfrey, a quaintly deferential piece of phrasing brilliantly calculated to wind him up. “You sad little man,” Mr Godfrey glowered.

Then Crick got back into it, asking what he made of the fact that among the many members on the cover of the Ukip conference brochure – tagline: Changing the face of politics – there wasn’t a single black person. For some reason, this was what sent Mr Godfrey over the edge. “What a racist comment that is,” he boomed, his voice dripping in satire. He grabbed the programme from Crick and started jabbing at it manically. “How dare you. That’s an appalling thing to say. You’re picking people out for the colour of their skin! You disgust me! Get out of my way!” And he set off down the pavement.

This was, alas, not the end of the matter. Pressed on the subject, he concluded that the only sensible option was to whack Crick on the head with the brochure, a gesture so comical and yet delivered with an expression of such unmistakable fury that it was hard to comprehend. Then he flung it to the ground. His increasingly flustered-looking aide bundled him into a taxi. Passers-by wanted to know what was going on. “That wasn’t Neil Hamilton, was it?” someone asked.

If Mr Bloom was determined to keep a low profile, he had a funny way of going about it. A few minutes later, he had materialised on the steps of the main conference venue. Then a protester in a wheelchair wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt appeared and made his way relentlessly towards him.

Suddenly it became apparent that he was holding one finger under his nose as a moustache and raising the other arm in a Hitler salute. “Nazis!” he shouted. “You are Nazis!” One of the press officers milling around visibly blanched, and Mr Bloom was ushered away. “I really can’t deal with this,” he muttered, mostly to himself.

Still, he kept himself busy, jovially asking BBC Newsnight’s Allegra Stratton whether her mother had ever called her a slut, for example. As Godfrey made the best of things, his poor aide dashed about the place, phone clamped to her ear. She tried to evade the protester by going down the steps, but got waylaid by Stratton on the way, and by the time she reached the bottom he had raced around on the wheelchair ramp to meet her. I asked her if she would tell me what her name was. “No,” she spat, barely breaking stride. “I’ll give you my army number if you like.”

After all that, Mr Bloom’s actual address was remarkably lacking in colour. The real drama was going on outside, where Nigel Farage was changing his tune. This is, I suspect, the first time that a party spokesman has been given the boot as he makes his speech. That’s Ukip for you, I guess: a breath of fresh air from somewhere beyond the pale.

News
Alex Salmond said he accepted 'the democratic verdict of the people'
newsSNP leader says Scotland must move forward as 'one nation'
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Supply Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: Randstad Education can provide you wit...

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 4 Primary Teachers needed Randst...

Sessional ICT Teacher - GCSE

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ICT teacher job in Humberside. ...

Year 6 Teacher - January start

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week