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 web editor of the New Statesman.

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BHS is Theresa May’s big chance to reform capitalism – she’d better take it

Almost everyone is disgusted by the tale of BHS. 

Back in 2013, Theresa May gave a speech that might yet prove significant. In it, she declared: “Believing in free markets doesn’t mean we believe that anything goes.”

Capitalism wasn’t perfect, she continued: 

“Where it’s manifestly failing, where it’s losing public support, where it’s not helping to provide opportunity for all, we have to reform it.”

Three years on and just days into her premiership, May has the chance to be a reformist, thanks to one hell of an example of failing capitalism – BHS. 

The report from the Work and Pensions select committee was damning. Philip Green, the business tycoon, bought BHS and took more out than he put in. In a difficult environment, and without new investment, it began to bleed money. Green’s prize became a liability, and by 2014 he was desperate to get rid of it. He found a willing buyer, Paul Sutton, but the buyer had previously been convicted of fraud. So he sold it to Sutton’s former driver instead, for a quid. Yes, you read that right. He sold it to a crook’s driver for a quid.

This might all sound like a ludicrous but entertaining deal, if it wasn’t for the thousands of hapless BHS workers involved. One year later, the business collapsed, along with their job prospects. Not only that, but Green’s lack of attention to the pension fund meant their dreams of a comfortable retirement were now in jeopardy. 

The report called BHS “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. It concluded: 

"The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. 

“The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners.”

May appears to agree. Her spokeswoman told journalists the PM would “look carefully” at policies to tackle “corporate irresponsibility”. 

She should take the opportunity.

Attempts to reshape capitalism are almost always blunted in practice. Corporations can make threats of their own. Think of Google’s sweetheart tax deals, banks’ excessive pay. Each time politicians tried to clamp down, there were threats of moving overseas. If the economy weakens in response to Brexit, the power to call the shots should tip more towards these companies. 

But this time, there will be few defenders of the BHS approach.

Firstly, the report's revelations about corporate governance damage many well-known brands, which are tarnished by association. Financial services firms will be just as keen as the public to avoid another BHS. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said that the circumstances of the collapse of BHS were “a blight on the reputation of British business”.

Secondly, the pensions issue will not go away. Neglected by Green until it was too late, the £571m hole in the BHS pension finances is extreme. But Tom McPhail from pensions firm Hargreaves Lansdown has warned there are thousands of other defined benefit schemes struggling with deficits. In the light of BHS, May has an opportunity to take an otherwise dusty issue – protections for workplace pensions - and place it top of the agenda. 

Thirdly, the BHS scandal is wreathed in the kind of opaque company structures loathed by voters on the left and right alike. The report found the Green family used private, offshore companies to direct the flow of money away from BHS, which made it in turn hard to investigate. The report stated: “These arrangements were designed to reduce tax bills. They have also had the effect of reducing levels of corporate transparency.”

BHS may have failed as a company, but its demise has succeeded in uniting the left and right. Trade unionists want more protection for workers; City boys are worried about their reputation; patriots mourn the death of a proud British company. May has a mandate to clean up capitalism - she should seize it.