Ukip official says party should ‘stand up for bigots’

Labour also produces footage of party secretary Matthew Richardson calling Britain’s NHS ‘a waste of money’

Ukip rosette

Richardson later said his comments were ‘clearly light-hearted harmless banter in the pub’. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA

Ukip is facing embarrassment after a senior official claimed the party should stand up for “bigots” and claimed that the NHS was the “biggest waste of money in the UK”. The remarks were made by Matthew Richardson, the party’s secretary and a member of its national executive council.

According to the Sunday Times, Richardson told a meeting last month: “I’ve said before, people talk about Ukip being bigots. There are hundreds of thousands of bigots in the United Kingdom and they deserve representation.”

He also joked about party leader Nigel Farage, saying: “He’s a Kent man. Well, sounds like Kent, anyway.” Richardson added that the Ukip leader would “have to be a moron” to put the party’s plan for a turnover tax for businesses in its manifesto.

He later insisted the comments were “clearly light-hearted harmless banter in the pub” and did “not reflect any seriously held belief”. He added: “I don’t recall the conversation taking place, but some of the words attributed to me are actually a quote from the late [Tory MP] Eric Forth, which, if they were spoken at all, would have been on a discussion about him.

“None of this is reflective of my own views or those of the party, and I am sure any reader would recognise the difference between a formal party position and the sort of jag lots of people have with their mates while having a drink.”

Meanwhile, footage from 2010 of Richardson attacking the health service at events in the US were released by Labour. Speaking at the Young America’s Foundation conference in Washington, he said: “When I was younger, a trillion was an astronomic number. Now when I look at our national deficits, and your national deficits, actually it is an economic number.

“A number I couldn’t possible imagine when I was younger is now the amount of money that is owed by my country, and soon more than that by your country, to other countries, paying for wasteful socialist programmes. And of course at the heart of this, the Reichstag bunker of socialism, is the National Health Service.”

At the Conservative political action conference in the same year he said: “This socialist government wastes money like you can’t imagine. They have started doing every wasteful scheme under the sun … The biggest waste of money of course in the United Kingdom is the NHS, the National Health Service.”

The release of the footage signals a more aggressive approach towards Ukip from Labour, which faces losing ground to Farage’s party in some of its northern heartlands – as shown in the Heywood and Middleton by-election in October, where Ed Miliband’s party managed only a narrow victory.

Richardson was reportedly appointed last year to help prevent “bad stuff” about the party making it into the media, but Ukip insisted that he was not involved with the press operation.

Labour’s Jon Trickett, shadow minister without portfolio, said: “Either Nigel Farage supports this, or Mr Richardson cannot stay in post. Nigel Farage cannot simultaneously defend these comments and claim that his party stands for the NHS free at the point of use.

“The man chosen by Nigel Farage to control Ukip’s image has compared the NHS to Hitler’s Nazi bunker. This is Ukip’s real agenda on the NHS. Today Labour is shining a light on Nigel Farage and his party’s true views on the future of the NHS. They claim to defend the service we cherish, but they want to dismantle its foundations.

“Ukip can no longer attempt to fool people. They are a party of Tory people, Tory money and they want to extend the worst Tory policies, which would have horrific effects on working people.”

A Ukip spokeswoman played down the significance of Richardson’s comments, pointing out that he was not an elected representative or party spokesman. “He is a very talented barrister and does his job extremely well. He is not involved with the party’s press operation.”

From The Guardian . 24.01.15

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