Ukip is facing fresh embarrassment over comments made by one of its members, who has said that bigots "deserve representation" and condemned the National Health Service as the “biggest waste of money in the UK”.
Matthew Richardson, Ukip’s secretary and a member of its national executive council - who was reportedly brought in to the party last year to help prevent “bad stuff” about the party making it into the media - made the comments about bigots in a meeting last month, according to The Sunday Times.
He reportedly said: “I’ve said before, people talk about Ukip being bigots. There are hundreds of thousands of bigots in the United Kingdom and they deserve representation.”
Ukip gaffes and controversies
Ukip gaffes and controversies
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Mr Richardson also joked about party leader Nigel Farage, saying: “He’s a Kent man. Well, sounds like Kent, anyway,” and added that Farage would “have to be a moron” to put the party’s plan for a turnover tax for businesses in its manifesto.
Mr Richardson claims that the comments are “not reflective” of his own views and insists they were “clearly light-hearted harmless banter in the pub”.
“I don’t recall the conversation taking place but some of the words attributed to me are actually a quote from the late [Tory MP] Eric Forth, which if they were spoken at all would have been on a discussion about him,” he claimed.
I am not going to stop UKIP officials going to the pub, having a joke, and quoting Eric Forth #marrshow.— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) January 25, 2015
“None of this is reflective of my own views of those of the party and I am sure any reader would recognise the difference between a formal party position and the sort of jag lots of people have with their mates while having a drink.”
Mr Farage tweeted on Sunday his own response to the comments, stating: “I am not going to stop Ukip officials going to the pub, having a joke, and quoting Eric Forth.”
Ukip insisted that Mr Richardson was not involved in the press operation to prevent negative stories from the party reaching the press.
Labour have meanwhile released footage of Mr Richardson from 2010, making comments about the NHS while he was speaking at events in the USA.
Speaking at the Young Americans Foundation conference in Washington five years ago, he said: “When I was younger a trillion was an astronomic number. Now when I look at our national deficits, and your national deficits, actually it is an economic number.
“A number I couldn't possible imagine when I was younger is now the amount of money that is owed by my country, and soon more than that by your country, to other countries, paying for wasteful socialist programmes. And of course at the heart of this, the Reichstag bunker of socialism is the National Health Service.”
At the Conservative Political Action Conference in the same year he said: “This socialist government wastes money like you can't imagine. They have started doing every wasteful scheme under the sun ... The biggest waste of money of course in the United Kingdom is the NHS, the National Health Service.”
The news of his comments comes as Ukip MEP Amjad Bashir has defected to the Tories, calling Mr Farage’s party “amateur” and “delusional” over their ability to win more seats in this year’s election, while Ukip suspended Bashir for “extremely serious” issues on the same day.
But Mr Bashir said: “On Friday I met David Cameron and applied to join the Conservative Party.
”It is clear Ukip's action today is a desperate attempt to spoil this and is without any foundation.
“The issues raised in my notice of suspension are historic and well-known to the party. Indeed, on one of them, Nigel Farage has publicly defended me over it.”
Additional reporting by PAReuse content