It’s been a difficult past week for Ukip. Nigel Farage’s controversial comments about breastfeeding and immigrants causing traffic has led to mockery and derision. The harrassment row concerning Natasha Bolter’s allegations against general secretary Roger Bird rumbles on. A Ukip official in charge of vetting candidates, David Soutter, admitted half his time is spent “weeding out the lunatics”.
And the ex-Tory MP who is now a Ukip politician, Neil Hamilton, saw the Ukip finance committee querying his expenses claims. The Financial Times reported that Ukip’s second largest donor, Stuart Wheeler, refused to give further money to the party unless Hamilton stopped pursuing the South Basildon and East Thurrock seat.
Hamilton pulled out of the selection contest to find a Ukip candidate for the Essex seat, and now the party has lost its second candidate for the constituency. Kerry Smith has resigned as a prospective parliamentary candidate for using racist and homophobic language. The Guardian reports his offensive remarks: describing gay people as “fucking disgusting old poofters”, referring to a woman with a Chinese name as a “chinky”, and joking about “shooting peasants”.
Smith has issued an apology:
I wish to issue a wholehearted and unreserved apology to those who I have offended within the party and anyone else. With regards to the leadership and management of the party, I was completely wrong and my comments were fuelled by frustrations.
However, the party’s economic spokesman and Farage’s communications chief, Patrick O’Flynn, stood by Smith over the weekend, blaming the “prescription sedatives” Smith was taking when he made the remarks.
Although all this looks like a shambles for Ukip, it is telling how quickly the party is reacting to its internal problems. As it inches closer to winning a handful of MPs in the general election, it is clearly taking concerning behaviour by its members increasingly seriously.