Ukip stands by Rotherham local election candidate with BNP links

Party’s treatment of Caven Vines contrasts with its withdrawal of support for Cornwall candidate who had been BNP member

Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip

Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip. A spokesman for the party said pressure had been put on its chairmen to sign up local council candidates.

The UK Independence party’s local election candidate in Rotherham has had close links to the British National party and thinks there are too many Muslims in Britain – but having been alerted to his views and background, the party’s central command refused to condemn his remarks.

Caven Vines, 62, used to work closely with the BNP‘s Rotherham organiser, Marlene Guest, in a campaign group called Council Watch. He has never been a BNP member but spent 2004-2006 as an independent councillor for the Rotherham West ward and is well known locally for his rightwing views.

But his treatment is in stark contrast to Ukip’s withdrawal of support for Sue Bowen, a Ukip candidate in Cornwall, after it emerged that she was once a BNP member.

Bowen, a retired sheep farmer from Boscastle in north Cornwall, had been selected to stand in the Tintagel ward on 2 May. She was once a BNP activist and had spoken at a far-right meeting in 2010 which is captured on footage on YouTube.

The party’s Cornwall chairman, Tom Hobbs, said he had been placed under pressure by central office to put forward as many candidates as possible as Ukip seeks to capitalise on its 15% showing in national polls.

“The truth is that the party did want us to field as many candidates as we could. It is not easy to get candidates to stand. When you are looking to fill 20 seats in my division, there’s a lot to do,” he said.

Bowen approached the party, he said, at the end of March and a few days later became a member. He had never met her when she was confirmed as a candidate two weeks ago, he added.

“As soon as I was made aware that she had been a member of the BNP I asked her and she said she had been,” said Hobbs. “I told her that her membership of Ukip would be terminated.”

A spokesman for Ukip said the party had put pressure on its chairmen to sign up council candidates and conceded that it would have been better if the local party chairman had met Bowen before accepting her nomination.

“Maybe he should have [met her] before she signed as a council candidate. But we do not apologise for putting pressure on our chairmen to sign people up for the good reason that we want Ukip to do well in these elections.

“But we do not accept far-right candidates and in this case we made sure that she could not stand for Ukip,” he said.

But in Rotherham, Vines is standing in the Rawmarsh ward despite his BNP connections – in a byelection triggered by the resignation of Labour’s Shaun Wright, who became South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner last year. Wright’s wife, Lisa, is hoping to keep the seat in the family and is standing for Labour.

Vines, a father of three, kept a less-than-literate blog when campaigning for re-election to the council in 2009. On one post in March that year he mocked “our very own Muslim Lord Amed” – a misspelled reference to Pakistan-born peer Nazir Ahmed, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham since 1998, who had recently received a light jail sentence for a fatal car accident. “If are a Muslim in Britain you can almost do what you want with the good old Labour Governments blessing,” he wrote.

Vines also complained that: “Muslims go to war warring [sic] the same cloths as ordinary people who they hide behind they cover their faces, they hide behind women and children they set up rocket launches in school yards they use children to push wheel barrows into crowds and soldiers then detonate it killing innocent people SO WHO ARE THE COWARDS.

“Its about time the Government and the Police stopped pandering to these so called British Muslims and other foreign nationals.”

Contacted by the Guardian on Tuesday, Vines stood by the blog. The Rotherham-born engineer said too many Muslims had been allowed into Britain. “When they get here, suddenly – you don’t have to be born in this country – you can come here, live here for a while and stand as MPs and that sort of thing. We are giving ’em power which they shouldn’t have. We couldn’t go to Pakistan and stand as an MP. All I’m saying is we’ve opened ourselves up to this.”

However, when the Guardian asked Nigel Farage’s spokesman whether Ukip endorsed Vines’s views on Muslims, he said: “I have been instructed not to comment.”

Marlene Guest, a pensioner who perennially stands for the BNP in Rotherham, founded local campaigning group Council Watch with Vines over 10 years ago. The pair have now fallen out, and Guest said Vines is “very rightwing, just as rightwing as us”.

But Vines insisted his views were not identical to the BNP’s. “They say everybody should be scooped up and sent back. I don’t say that at all. Basically, I say if you want to come and live in this country, fine. But you follow our rules. We’ve got us own rules for us own British culture. They want their own laws. I mean they are wanting this sharia law, aren’t they?”

Jahangir Akhtar, deputy leader of Rotherham council (Labour), said when he beat Vines in Rotherham West in 2006, Vines wrote a letter to the local paper falsely accusing him of “bussing in Pakistanis” to vote for him. “Round here we say Ukip are just BNP in nicer suits,” said Akhtar. “Vines has extreme views more in line with the BNP. It exposes the lie that Ukip are a respectable, non-racist party.” Vines admits penning the letter and says Akhtar used “intimidation tactics” to win in 2006 – an accusation Akhtar denies.

• This article was amended on 25 April 2013. The phrase “despite his BNP connections” was moved to make clear that it applied to Caven Vines.

 From The Guardian . Report by  and . 24.04.2013

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