Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom defends “bongo-bongo land” comments about foreign aid

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, the MEP said that he thinks “most people probably agree” with him.

Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom, who was filmed saying that we shouldn’t be giving aid to “bongo-bongo land” has defended his comments on the BBC’s Today programme.

He told the programme:

When a country has a trillion pounds of debt and we’re cutting our hospitals, our police force, and we’re destroying our defence services that the money should stay at home and people who want to give money to worthwhile charities, and I’m very glad that the money is going in that particular instance, but what I would argue is that it is for the individual citizen, it is not for the likes of David Cameron to pick our pockets and send money to charities of his choice. If I want to send money to charity, I’ll do it of my own accord, thank you.

In response to a reminder that David Cameron was elected, Bloom retorted: “So am I”. He did however conceded that he didn’t know where “bongo-bongo land” was, adding that he also didn’t know the location of “Ruritania” or “the third world”.

His original comments were made at a meeting in Wordsley, near Stourbridge. The video, obtained by the Guardian, showed him making the following remarks:

We’ve been let down time and time again, and how we can possibly be giving a billion pounds a month when we’re in this sort of debt to bongo-bongo land is completely beyond me. To buy Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, Ferraris and all the rest of it that goes with most of the foreign aid. F18s for Pakistan. We need a new squadron of F18s. Who's got the squadrons? Pakistan, where we send the money.

Ukip have issued a statement saying that Bloom’s remarks are being "discussed right at the very highest level of the party". When asked how he would feel if his party told him to reign in his language,  Bloom said:

I'd say right-o, sorry. If I have offended anybody in bongo bongo land, I will write to their ambassador at the court of St James’.

He  also said that the sending of “a billion  pounds a month going abroad with no audit trail” was “treason”.

Finally, he rejected the idea that anyone could find his comments offensive, saying that:

I’m standing up for ordinary people at the pub, the cricket club, the rugby club – the sort of people who remain completely unrepresented in the political system that we have.

UPDATE 07/08/2013 10:07

Ukip have released a statement about Godfrey Bloom's comments:

We're asking Godfrey not to use this phrase again as it might be considered disparaging by members from other countries.

Now read about Godfrey Bloom's views on women.

 

Godfrey Bloom, MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, in 2010. Photo: Getty

Caroline Crampton is head of podcasts at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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As long as the Tories fail to solve the housing crisis, they will struggle to win

The fall in the number of homeowners leaves the Conservatives unable to sell capitalism to those with no capital. 

For the Conservatives, rising home ownership was once a reliable route to government. Former Labour voters still speak of their gratitude to Margaret Thatcher for the Right to Buy scheme. But as home ownership has plummeted, the Tories have struggled to sell capitalism to a generation without capital. 

In Britain, ownership has fallen to 63.5 per cent, the lowest rate since 1987 and the fourth-worst in the EU. The number of private renters now exceeds 11 million (a larger number than in the social sector). The same policies that initially promoted ownership acted to reverse it. A third of Right to Buy properties fell into the hands of private landlords. High rents left tenants unable to save for a deposit.

Rather than expanding supply, the Tories have focused on subsidising demand (since 2010, housebuilding has fallen to its lowest level since 1923). At a cabinet meeting in 2013, shortly after the launch of the government’s Help to Buy scheme, George Osborne declared: “Hopefully we will get a little housing boom and everyone will be happy as property values go up”. The then-chancellor’s remark epitomised his focus on homeowners. Conservative policy was consciously designed to enrich the propertied.

A new report from the Resolution Foundation, Home Affront: housing across the generations, shows the consequences of such short-termism. Based on recent trends, less than half of millennials will buy a home before the age of 45 compared to over 70 per cent of baby boomers. Four out of every ten 30-year-olds now live in private rented accommodation (often of substandard quality) in contrast to one in ten 50 years ago. And while the average family spent just 6 per cent of their income on housing costs in the early 1960s, this has trebled to 18 per cent. 

When Theresa May launched her Conservative leadership campaign, she vowed to break with David Cameron’s approach. "Unless we deal with the housing deficit, we will see house prices keep on rising," she warned. "The divide between those who inherit wealth and those who don’t will become more pronounced. And more and more of the country’s money will go into expensive housing instead of more productive investments that generate more economic growth."

The government has since banned letting agent fees and announced an additional £1.4bn for affordable housing – a sector entirely neglected by Cameron and Osborne (see graph below). Social housing, they believed, merely created more Labour voters. "They genuinely saw housing as a petri dish for voters," Nick Clegg later recalled. "It was unbelievable." 

But though housebuilding has risen to its highest levels since 2008, with 164,960 new homes started in the year to June 2017 and 153,000 completed, this remains far short of the 250,000 required merely to meet existing demand (let alone make up the deficit). In 2016/17, the government funded just 944 homes for social rent (down from 36,000 in 2010). 

In a little-noticed speech yesterday, Sajid Javid promised a "top-to-bottom" review of social housing following the Grenfell fire. But unless this includes a substantial increase in public funding, the housing crisis will endure. 

For the Conservatives, this would pose a great enough challenge in normal times. But the political energy absorbed by Brexit, and the £15bn a year it is forecast to cost the UK, makes it still greater.

At the 2017 general election, homeowners voted for the Tories over Labour by 55 per cent to 30 per cent (mortgage holders by 43-40). By contrast, private renters backed Labour by 54 per cent to 31 per cent. As long as the latter multiply in number, while the former fall, the Tories will struggle to build a majority-winning coalition. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.