Ukip, no strangers to controversy, have done it again. This month’s party black sheep is Kerry Smith, the former parliamentary candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock forced to step down after mocking gay party members as “disgusting p****ers” and referring to someone with a Chinese name as a “ch***y bird”.
Those fond of Ukip may well be rolling their eyes, like an aunt at a Christmas party, affectionately exasperated by the actions of an inappropriate relative: “That Kerry, eh. What is he like?” And in this case, the exasperated aunt is the Ukip leader Nigel Farage, the defender of the racist (“but no harm done”) everyman. “If you and your mates are going out for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?” he told LBC this morning.
He went on to describe Kerry as a “rough diamond”, a “council house boy from the East End of London” who left school early and talks and speaks in a way that a lot of people from that school and background do”.
My family are East Enders, who left school early, too. But there’s a difference between them and Kerry Smith: they call a Chinese ‘a Chinese’, a Thai ‘a Thai’, and comments like this what they really are – racism, passed off as generational or geographical ‘slang’.
We’ve already suffered through the likes of former Radio 1 DJ Mike Read and his Ukip Calypso song, Ukip MEP Janice Atkinson calling a Thai constituent a 'ting tong' – she blamed “poor judgment and naivety” for that particular gaffe – and Enfield council Ukip candidate William Henwood suggesting comedian Lenny Henry should leave Britain to live in a “black country”.
Even Mr Farage himself admitted live on air that he felt “uncomfortable” at the thought of having a Romanian family move in next-door to him, later blaming the comments on being “tired”.
Ukip's confusing policies
Ukip's confusing policies
1/6 Deport migrants
Ukip MP Mark Reckless suggested he would deport existing EU migrants, a policy Nigel Farage rejected out of hand.
2/6 US-style NHS
Farage was caught on film in 2012 saying healthcare headed towards insurance-based system, though he has since said he would keep it free at the point of use.
3/6 Handbag tax
Ukip Economy spokesman Patrick O'Flynn said he would introduce a tax on high-price items like shoes, Nigel Farage disowned this idea.
4/6 Same-sex couple adoption
Ukip candidate Winston McKenzie likened adoption by same-sex couples to "child abuse", but the party rejects that view.
5/6 Gay marriage?
In early 2014 Ukip released a statement saying it would review its gay marriage policy, but later said that was an error.
6/6 Sex education u-turn
Nigel Farage told Leaders Live that he backed sex education for under-11s but later admitted that is not Ukip policy.
But a “working class background” is no excuse for bigotry. And neither is being under “great stress and taking strong painkillers”, as offered in explanation by Mr Smith. It’s funny, but even after three hours sleep, or on medication for a bad back, I still don’t notice any racist side effects (perhaps I’m taking them wrong).
That Nigel, eh. What is he like?