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 assistant editor of the New Statesman.

ELLIE FOREMAN-PECK FOR NEW STATESMAN
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Craig Oliver, Cameron's attack dog, finally bites

A new book reveals the spiteful after life of Downing Street's unlikely spin doctor.

It must be hard being a spin doctor: always in the shadows but always on-message. The murky control that the role requires might explain why David Cameron’s former director of communications Craig Oliver has rushed out his political memoirs so soon after his boss left Downing Street. Now that he has been freed from the shackles of power, Oliver has chosen to expose the bitterness that lingers among those on the losing side in the EU referendum.

The book, which is aptly titled Unleashing Demons, made headlines with its revelation that Cameron felt “badly let down” by Theresa May during the campaign, and that some in the Remain camp regarded the then home secretary as an “enemy agent”. It makes for gripping reading – yet seems uncharacteristically provocative in style for a man who eschewed the sweary spin doctor stereotype, instead advising Cameron to “be Zen” while Tory civil war raged during the Brexit campaign.

It may be not only politicians who find the book a tough read. Oliver’s visceral account of his side’s defeat on 24 June includes a description of how he staggered in a daze down Whitehall until he retched “harder than I have done in my life. Nothing comes up. I retch again – so hard, it feels as if I’ll turn inside out.”

It’s easy to see why losing hit Oliver – who was knighted in Cameron’s resignation honours list – so hard. Arguably, this was the first time the 47-year-old father-of-three had ever failed at anything. The son of a former police chief constable, he grew up in Scotland, went to a state school and studied English at St Andrews University. He then became a broadcast journalist, holding senior posts at the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

When the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson resigned as No 10’s communications director in January 2011 because of unceasing references in the press to his alleged involvement in the phone-hacking scandal, Oliver was not the obvious replacement. But he was seen as a scandal-free BBC pen-pusher who exuded calm authority, and that won him the job. The Cameron administration, tainted by its association with the Murdoch media empire, needed somebody uncontroversial who could blend into the background.

It wasn’t just Oliver’s relative blandness that recommended him. At the BBC, he had made his name revamping the corporation’s flagship News at Ten by identifying the news angles that would resonate with Middle England. The Conservatives then put this skill to very good use during their 2015 election campaign. His broadcast expertise also qualified him to sharpen up the then prime minister’s image.

Oliver’s own sense of style, however, was widely ridiculed when he showed up for his first week at Downing Street looking every inch the metropolitan media male with a trendy man bag and expensive Beats by Dre headphones, iPad in hand.

His apparent lack of political affiliation caused a stir at Westminster. Political hacks were perplexed by his anti-spin attitude. His style was the antithesis of the attack-dog mode popularised by Alastair Campbell and Damian McBride in the New Labour years. As Robert Peston told the Daily Mail: “Despite working closely with Oliver for three years, I had no clue about his politics or that he was interested in politics.” Five years on, critics still cast aspersions and question his commitment to the Conservative cause.

Oliver survived despite early wobbles. The most sinister of these was the allegation that in 2012 he tried to prevent the Daily Telegraph publishing a story about expenses claimed by the then culture secretary, Maria Miller, using her links to the Leveson inquiry as leverage – an accusation that Downing Street denied. Nevertheless, he became indispensable to Cameron, one of a handful of trusted advisers always at the prime minister’s side.

Newspapers grumbled about Oliver’s preference for broadcast and social media over print. “He’s made it clear he [Oliver] doesn’t give a s*** about us, so I don’t really give a s*** about him,” a veteran correspondent from a national newspaper told Politico.

Yet that approach was why he was hired. There was the occasional gaffe, including the clumsy shot of a stern-looking Cameron, apparently on the phone to President Obama discussing Putin’s incursion into Ukraine, which was widely mocked on Twitter. But overall, reducing Downing Street’s dependence on print media worked: Scotland voted against independence in 2014 and the Tories won a majority in the 2015 general election.

Then came Brexit, a blow to the whole Cameroon inner circle. In his rush to set the record straight and defend Cameron’s legacy – as well as his own – Oliver has finally broken free of the toned-down, straight-guy persona he perfected in power. His memoir is spiteful and melodramatic, like something straight from the mouth of Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It. Perhaps, with this vengeful encore to his mild political career, the unlikely spin doctor has finally fulfilled his potential. 

This article first appeared in the 29 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, May’s new Tories