Nigel Farage’s image as a plain speaking-politician suffered a severe blow today, when he became so rattled on live radio that his chief spin doctor intervened to try to bring the interview to a halt.
In a tense 22-minute confrontation on LBC, the Ukip leader looked increasingly uncomfortable as he was asked about his views on race, on “idiots” in Ukip, and his parliamentary allowance.
Mr Farage had once said in a reply to a question that he would be uncomfortable if a group of Romanian men moved in next door to him. He is married to a German and has bilingual children. He was asked by the presenter, James O’Brien, to explain what the difference would be if a group of German speaking children moved in next door.
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
“I think you know what the difference would be,” Mr Farage replied. “We want an immigration policy based on controlling not just quantity but quality as well.” He went on to talk about poverty in Roumania and the discrimination against the Roma minority in that country.
Asked about a comment he had once made about travelling on a train in Britain on which the only languages he heard spoken were foreign, Mr Farage said the experience had made him “slightly uncomfortable”. Asked if his wife spoke German, he replied: “I don’t suppose she talks it on the train. That’s the point I’m making.”
Read more: Ukip cancels Freephone number after protesters repeatedly called to push up costs
Farage 'refuses to go on London Live without professional make up-artist'
He was also challenged about a Ukip candidate in Gloucestershire who had tweeted: “I rather often wonder if we shot one ‘poofter’, whether the next 99 would decide on balance, that they weren’t after-all?”
Mr Farage said that he did not know about the tweet or the individual who tweeted it. He complained: “All anybody ever wants to talk about are the idiots in Ukip. There’s never a conversation about the idiots in the Labour Party.”
Mr Farage was also asked if he would submit the £3,500-a-month allowance he receives as a member of the European Parliament to the same scrutiny as Labour MEPs submit theirs. He replied: “They have an auditor to make sure they spend in accordance with the rules.”
“You say that as if there is something wrong it,” Mr O’Brien retorted.
At that point, Ukip’s Director of Communications, Patrick O’Flynn, interrupted to say that the interview had gone “massively” over length. It had actually lasted just over 21 minutes, when Mr Farage had agreed to appear for 20 minutes.
Afterwards, the programme prompted hundreds of comments on the social media, almost all of which were scathing about Mr Farage’s performance, which was compared with the disastrous appearance of the BNP leader Nick Griffin on BBC’s Question Time.
Asked about the interview during a campaigning visit to Lancashire, David Cameron said: “Mr Farage has done this interview and said frankly some pretty unpleasant things. I just hope people will look at this and recognise that we are an open, tolerant, compassionate country. Yes, we want to sort out the welfare system but we shouldn't put these labels on as Ukip do. It just sends out a terrible message about Britain.”