Nigel Farage's self-assured media persona rapidly came undone in a tense interview with LBC presenter James O’Brien on Friday, as the Ukip party leader was repeatedly challenged over his attitudes towards immigrants, allegations of racism and his expenses before his director of communications was forced to terminate the interview.
During the interview, O’Brien reminded Farage of remarks he made when he complained of feeling uncomfortable when travelling on trains and hearing passengers speak languages other than English.
At the time, he described being on a rush-hour train leaving Charing Cross, saying "it was not until we got past Grove Park that I could hear English being audibly spoken in the carriage".
When asked if he felt awkward when his German wife spoke German not English, Farage pointed out that they could also speak English, but admitted that he did not know whether the people on the train spoke English as well.
He went on to insist there was nothing racist about his position. "What is racism?" he asked.
"Is race about colour? Is race about race or is it about nationality? I made a comment there that wasn't intended to say any more than that I felt uncomfortable about the rate and pace of change.”
O'Brien cut in: "You felt uncomfortable about people speaking foreign languages, despite the fact that presumably your own wife does when she phones home to Germany."
"I don't suppose she speaks it on the train," an exasperated Farage responded.
O'Brien then questioned Farage on his claim that he would feel uncomfortable if a group of Romanian men moved in next door, pressing him to say whether he "would feel the same about a group of German children", asking "what's the difference?"
Farge somewhat ambiguously replied: "I think you know the difference. We want an immigration policy that is not just based on controlling not just quantity but quality".
He was also confronted over controversial comments made by his party candidates. "All anyone wants to talk about is the idiots in Ukip," Farage said. "Wherever we have found people who have had extreme, racist, unpleasant views we have unceremoniously got rid of them.
"To hold out the views of handful of people as being representative of Ukip frankly is not the truth."
Yet O’Brien read out a Facebook post from a Ukip candidate suggesting that "poofters" might reconsider their sexual orientation if one was made an example of and shot, which had been posted three months before. In an awkward exchange, Farage was forced to admit he knew nothing about the tweet or the individual who tweeted it.
The interview was brought to a close 22 minutes in by Patrick O'Flynn, the party’s head of communications, after Farage was accused by O'Brien of "reverse-ferretting" over a promise to have his EU expenses and allowances audited, before enquiring if Farage would be willing to sign up to a transparency arrangement used by Labour MEPS, which he had to hand in the studio.
When O’Flynn burst into the studio and interrupted, O’Brien explained: “This is Patrick O’Flynn, Ukip’s Director of Communications and former political commentator on the Daily Express. Is this a friend in the media, or a member of the political class?”
This came after Farage had been challenged earlier in the interview over a phrase where he discussed “members of the political class and their friends in the media”. O’Brien pointed out Farage writes columns for both The Independent and The Express, and regularly appears on Question Time.
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