Godfrey Bloom was repeatedly asked if his remarks were 'offensive' - but isn't that charge a bit weak?

His language wasn’t in any way insulting, he kept repeating, because “as far as I know there’s no such place as Bongo Bongo Land”. It may be that he’s missed the point

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The Independent Online

Next time someone needs publicity for some reason – such as launching a new bar of chocolate, or advertising a village fete – here’s a strategy that seems certain to work. Get yourself filmed saying “Bongo-Bongo Land” and the next day you’ll be on every television and radio show in the country.

Ukip member Godfrey Bloom did this spectacularly, getting on at least a thousand programmes to repeat his theory that we give a billion pounds a month to Bongo-Bongo Land. I expect he was on the shopping channel, saying, “Now look at this exquisite diamanté garlic crusher, an amazing £24.99, such good quality I expect President Um Bongo bought one as a present for his favourite cannibal with the money we send him.”

His language wasn’t in any way insulting, he kept repeating, because “as far as I know there’s no such place as Bongo-Bongo Land”. It may be that he’s missed the point, as most of us were aware he’d made it up. Similarly, if he’d given a speech about how we’re giving too much money to the disabled, saying, “We’re giving millions of pounds a month to Mrs Cripplespaz,” it might not help him if he assured us: “No one could be upset as there’s no such person as Mrs Cripplespaz.”

Or maybe he’s right, in which case he wouldn’t mind if everyone referred to Ukip as a variety of made-up names. On the news Fiona Bruce could say, “It was claimed today that immigration levels are destroying our culture, in a statement by a Buffoon-Packed Smeary Arsewipe Party.” The Times could publish headlines such as “New European Treaty Sure to Be Opposed by Smug Ponced-up Doolally Knobface Party”, and Godfrey Bloom would have no complaints, because the names were all made up.

But somehow Godfrey Bloom seemed to get away with his comments, as most of the interviews he took part in got stuck in a rut, in which he was repeatedly asked whether he thought his remarks were “offensive”.

This was unlikely to bother him, as it suggests that the problem with his choice of words was simply that some people get upset by them. The charge of being “offensive” usually seems weak for this reason, as it makes the targets seem as if they’re part of the problem, for being too touchy. But this seems to be the trend in dealing with bigots. If Oliver Cromwell were around now he’d be asked in interviews: “Do you think your slaughter of the Irish was in any way offensive?”

Then he’d say: “Hello James, and good morning. Look, the siege was an off-the-cuff joke, made in private – it certainly wasn’t intended to cause offence but I am sorry if anyone was offended by the destruction of their villages and being set on fire. Maybe it’s a generation thing; I was brought up in a different time, when this sort of exchange was seen as jolly banter, but I suppose mass murder is more frowned upon in these politically correct times.”

The point that can get lost is that words reflect actions. The name Godfrey Bloom made up couldn’t have come from any random household object, so he might just as easily have said Gravy-Boat Gravy-Boat Land. He used one that makes sense only if you regard Africa as a place so uncivilised, its inhabitants all sit in tribes banging bongos, an activity so dominant that the drum features twice in the name of the country. Even a country believed to be made almost entirely of ice wasn’t called Ice-Ice Land, but this place is just bongos bongos bongos.

Yet he claimed it was ridiculous to suggest he was in any way racist, as everyone does now. You could interview the treasurer of the Ku-Klux-Klan and he’d say, “I know the Grand Wizard  and I assure you he hasn’t a racist bone in  his body.”

One columnist agreed with him, saying he can’t be racist as “he employs two Kashmiri staff”. That goes to show there was no one less racist than plantation owners, as they employed black people all over the place, the soppy liberals.

Godfrey Bloom’s phrase suggests Ukip considers the world is the one portrayed by British history books in the 1930s, when the colonies and natives knew their place, which is impressive for a party whose entire outlook, including its name, revolves around the demand for a country to be independent.

He also insisted it was unfair to dwell on the bongo issue, as he had an important point to make about overseas aid. But if you say something daft in one sentence, you can’t expect to be taken seriously in the next. If Stephen Hawking started his book by saying, “I was down Ealing the other day – like bloody Calcutta, it was, Pakistanis everywhere,” he couldn’t have complained if no one trusted his opinions about light and time.

But the strongest part of Godfrey Bloom’s defence was that his views were those “of the common man”, in particular those held “in the cricket club”. So I suggest he tries talking about Bongo-Bongo Land in a variety of cricket clubs, starting with a team of West Indies veterans, including Curtly Ambrose, Viv Richards and Joel Garner. If you’re not familiar, look them up on Google Images, and I think you’ll agree that should settle it.