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. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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