U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said there had been “one or two teething problems” over preparations for local elections after the Daily Mirror newspaper pictured a UKIP candidate making a Nazi salute.
Farage, campaigning for the vote on May 2, said the photo, which was posted on Facebook along with racist comments, “does not look very pretty” although he denied it undermined the party’s central message that Britain should withdraw from the European Union. The candidate, who denies posting the comments and says his Facebook account was hacked, has been suspended pending an investigation, Farage said in a telephone interview.
“We have had, out of our 1,700 candidates, a handful who have embarrassed us, mostly because they simply haven’t told us the truth, but we are the only party in British politics who actually forbid former members of the British National Party or extreme organizations from even becoming members of UKIP, let alone candidates and, in one or two cases, people haven’t told us the truth,” Farage told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” radio program.
“A huge amount of time and money has been spent on researching every single UKIP candidate standing in these elections,” he said. “I would speculate if the same amount of scrutiny was put on the Labour and Conservative Party, they would find their own embarrassment.”
The local elections have drawn attention to UKIP’s policies and created divisions in Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives about how to deal with a threat that may divide traditional Tory votes and give gains to Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
In an interview with Sky News television on April 28, Ken Clarke, a Cabinet minister without portfolio, called UKIP a “collection of clowns,” earning him a rebuke from Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson in his Daily Telegraph newspaper column yesterday for the “ill-advised insults.”
The mayor urged his Conservative colleagues to calm down about the threat posed by UKIP, saying Farage, “with his pint and cigar and sense of humor,” is regarded by most Tory voters as a fellow Conservative.
“There is no doubt that the Conservative Party is losing votes more heavily to UKIP than are either the Liberal Democrats or Labour,” John Curtice, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, wrote in a study of the local elections published April 24. “On average recent polls suggest that some 16 percent of those who voted Conservative in 2010 and currently have a party preference would now vote UKIP.”
UKIP came second behind the Liberal Democrats in a special election to the House of Commons in February, pushing the Conservatives into third place.
Farage said today his party is considering whether to adopt a policy of a “two-tier” flat tax ahead of national elections in 2015. He also favors grammar schools, state-funded institutions that select on the basis of academic ability, and said he would revoke a nationwide smoking ban in public places to allow pubs and restaurants to have separate smoking rooms.
“We are the modern, forward-looking party saying we want a global future for Britain in the 21st century -- not to be tied to this completely outdated European model,” Farage said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at firstname.lastname@example.org.