Ukip's women problem: Roger Bird harassment claims aren't the first sex scandal to hit Nigel Farage's party

It’s an issue that Mr Farage has so far been unable to solve – and which could ultimately hurt Ukip in the polls

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Ukip’s suspension of its general secretary “following allegations of impropriety” has seen the party descend into a sexual harassment scandal.

The claims involve one of Nigel Farage’s most prominent female prodigies, the potential parliamentary candidate Natasha Bolter. She told The Times newspaper that Roger Bird twice propositioned her for sex and said that he could advance her career in return.

In a statement, the party said it had acted “swiftly and decisively” in suspending Bird pending an investigation – but the allegations will come as a major blow to the Eurosceptic party which has been working hard to deal with what Mr Farage himself admitted is a women problem.

This is not the first alleged sexual harassment scandal to involve the party. In July last year a report revealed claims that a female activist had been assaulted, spat on and called a “whore” after her drink was spiked at a Ukip gala dinner.

That report was produced by the then-general secretary Michael Greaves, who said that “for what it’s worth something may have happened to her”. The unnamed activist did not take her allegations beyond a complaint to the Ukip director Lisa Duffy for fear of creating “a scandal for everyone who works so hard in Ukip”.

Two months ago the former Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom quit the party on the grounds that it was becoming too “politically correct”.

Bloom provoked national outrage in 2013 when he called female Ukip supports “sluts” at a conference, and when he was appointed to the European Parliament’s women’s rights committee told journalists: “No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age.”

In October Mr Farage admitted that the party does have a women problem in terms of its appeal to voters, saying that Ukip could at times come across as a bit “blokeish”.

But he then followed that up by making his own apparently sexist comment, saying: “What do you want me to do? Go sell flowers?”

It ultimately all adds up to a major issue for the party when it comes to the polls. Evidence from one poll ahead of the Heywood and Middleton by-election early in October suggested Ukip was ahead of Labour by 41 per cent to 38 per cent among male voters, but trailing with only 21 per cent support among women. Labour ultimately took the seat.