Nigel Farage defended the use of the word "chinky". Photo: YouTube screengrab
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Nigel Farage defends Ukip candidate's racist remark

"If you go for a Chinese, what do you call it?"

Nigel Farage has defended the racist remarks of the former Ukip candidate, Kerry Smith, forced to pull out of the race for Basildon.

Among other offensive comments, Smith referred to a woman with a Chinese name as a “chinky”, and has since had to apologise and withdraw his candidacy.

However, his party leader defended his use of the word on LBC this morning:

Kerry Smith is a rough diamond. He’s a council house boy from the east end of London, left school early, and talks and speaks in a way that a lot of people from that background do. We can pretend if you like . . .  If you and your mates were going out for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?

Although he isn't known for his political correctness, Farage's controversial comments today are particularly significant. Firstly because any other of our party leaders saying such a thing would probably have to resign for doing so. This shows how untouchable Farage has become as a political figure. As his party's gained more power and prominence, and come under more scrutiny subsequently, his leadership remains largely unquestioned.

Secondly, if any other Ukip candidate or party official had made the comments Farage did today, they would probably have had to resign. The way the party leadership has reacted to ex-MEP and Ukipper Godfrey Bloom's gaffes, the Roger Bird scandal and the original remarks of Smith himself show a party attempting to clean up its image. It seems the same approach doesn't apply to its leader.

See the full interview here. Farage defends the racist comment from 21.50:

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.