A Ukip MEP has been forced to apologise after allegedly accusing the CEO of a Christian charity of being a paedophile.
Jane Collins, Ukip MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, apologised to Mark Russell two days ago after wrongly implying on Twitter the head of Church Army charity was guilty of “criminal activity”.
Mr Russell, a Labour party member, tweeted his support of the party’s candidate in the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner by-election when Mrs Collins – who has been campaigning heavily for Ukip’s candidate in the election – replied.
“Yes because we’d soon stop your criminal activity. Paedos leave our kids alone.#UKIP”, she wrote.
A by-election was called following the resignation of Shaun Wright, the Labour police commissioner, in the aftermath of the Rotherham child exploitation scandal.
Mr Russell screen-grabbed the offending remarks, requested an apology – and an explanation.
“Stop my criminal activity? Have you heard of libel law?” He asked before requesting an apology.
Mrs Collins later attempted to explain her comment, suggesting that “it was aimed at the paedophiles not you”, adding: “I’ll take the tweet down because it read wrong but if you want to protect vulnerable people your [sic] with the wrong party Mark !!”
As the exchange attracted increasing attention from other social media uses, Mr Russell replied: “I’m not happy with an apology with a but in it. I’m ceo of @Church Army and I want an unreserved apology”.
In pictures: The rise of Ukip
In pictures: The rise of Ukip
1/8 1993: Alan Sked forms Ukip
History professor Alan Sked had been active in anti-EU politics for a while beore he founded Ukip in 1993. He resigned from the party after the 1997 election, concerned that it was attracting far-right members, and has been critical of Ukip since. Picture: Reuters
2/8 2005: Kilroy defects
Former TV presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk founded Veritas in 2005, after a failed bid to become leader, and took many of Ukip's elected members with him. But the party slowly lost its popularity and didn't put forward any candidates in the last election. Picture: REUTERS/Kieran Doherty REUTERS KD/RUS
3/8 2010: Farage becomes leader, again
Farage had led Ukip from 2006 until 2009, when he stood down to fight against the Speaker, John Bercow, for his Buckingham seat. He failed to win the election and returned to lead the party in November 2010. Picture: REUTERS/Kieran Doherty
4/8 2010: Ukip fights for election
Nigel Farage was injured in a plane crash on polling day in the 2010 general election, but his party increased its success in the votes. It fielded 572 candidates and took 3.1% of the vote, though failed to win any seats. REUTERS/Darren Staples
5/8 2013: Eastleigh gains
Ukip's candidate Diane James got the highest ever number of votes for any candidate from the party, but was beaten by the Liberal Democrats. The surge in support gave Ukip confidence ahead of local and European elections later in the year. Picture: Reuters
6/8 2013: Bloom kicked out
Godfrey Bloom, who served as an Ukip MEP from 2004 to 2014, had the whip withdrawn in 2013 after sexist comments and an attack on a journalist. He sat as an independent MEP until 2014, when he ended his term in office. Picture: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
7/8 2014: European election success
Ukip got a higher proportion of the vote than any other party in 2014's European elections, adding 11 new MEPs and taking its total to 24. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
8/8 2014: Carswell defects
Douglas Carswell defected from Ukip at the end of August, and was followed by Mark Reckless at the end of September, who resigned from the Tories amid rumours of many more defections to come. Picture: REUTERS/Toby Melville
Speaking to the Guardian Mr Russell claimed the accusation was especially damaging given his work, which includes supporting extremely vulnerable individuals. He also mentioned Mrs Collins’ original accusation was re-tweeted by Ukip supporters, furthering the spread of abuse.
Mrs Collins did eventually offer a full apology, writing: “Mark I have said it wasn’t aimed at you personally and it read wrong. I unreservedly apologise for implication.”
The MEP has also said she will donate to Mr Russell’s charity, an evangelist organisation – which counts the Queen among its patrons – linked to the Church of England, although Mr Russell claims this was only proposed after he had threatened to sue her.
Mrs Collins did not respond to emails. Mr Russell declined to comment further.Reuse content