Ukip's Paul Nuttall: "I don't feel responsible for verbal abuse because Brexit's great"

The candidates debated hate crime on the radio. 

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Labour MPs with slim constituency majorities haven’t had much to laugh about since the Brexit vote.

But if they tuned into LBC’s Ukip leadership debate, they may have finished the day feeling a little more relaxed.

Suzanne Evans, Paul Nuttall, Peter Whittle and John Rees-Evans managed to set out their plans for the party for approximately five minutes before the debate took on a life of its own. 

When asked if he felt responsible for how a Spanish caller had been verbally abused since the referendum, Nuttall responded: “I'm very sorry you've been verbally abused, but the bottom line is this, I don't feel responsible because Brexit is a great thing."

Evans said she was sorry for the lady because: “I know what it's like. I've been abused on the street for voting Leave."

Rees-Evans blamed the media for connecting the Leave vote to racism, which he said had encouraged “real racists” after the vote. 

Tory plants

Ukip pulled off a stunning victory when British voters opted to Leave the EU in June 2016. Nigel Farage, the leader, resigned, and the party duly picked Diane James to steer the good ship Ukip. 

But 18 days later, she resigned, Farage had to become leader again, and the party’s factional divides were left bare. Steven Woolfe, the original favourite to replace James, had a punch up with Defence spokesman Mike Hookem, and quit. Then Raheem Kassam, another rising star, withdrew his leadership bid. 

Of the remaining four, Evans is seen as the ally of the faction following Douglas Carswell, Farage’s rival. Nuttall is viewed as a potential unifier. Peter Whittle ran for London mayor. 

Asked by a caller if Evans was a Tory stooge, Rees-Evans at first said he didn’t “have sufficient data” on her.

However, he pointed to her attempt to shut down Alan Craig, a man who refers to gay rights activists as the Gaystapo, saying: “That doesn't sound Ukip to me."

Whittle was more interested in the motivations of Carswell, Ukip’s only MP, and “would like to get to the bottom of it”.

Trump vs Clinton

While Farage might be happy to defend Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, the Kippers vying to succeed him sounded a little lukewarm.

Evans refused to say who she preferred, and Nuttall pledged to back the third, libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson. 

Rees-Evans said that Trump was “not in anyone’s pocket” but he was concerned about both candidates. As for Whittle's take? “Right cause, wrong man.”

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.