Tape recording reveals UKIP’s internal war over race row candidate Victoria Ayling
Party activists are heard branding her a racist and withdrawing their support for her bid to represent the party in Great Grimsby
In an explosive 111-minute tape heard by the Sunday Mirror, activists trade a barrage of insults while a key party strategist threatens to “lay waste” to an entire branch.
The eruption centred around the alleged racism of would-be MP Victoria Ayling – and fears that compromising photos of her could be enough to destroy their support.
Ms Ayling is standing for the party in the Labour seat of Great Grimsby, where she lost out by just 700 votes as a Tory candidate in 2010.
The seat is second on UKIP’s target list after Clacton, where Tory turncoat Douglas Carswell is the UKIP MP.
It is seen by Mr Farage as a key chance to show UKIP can take seats from Labour as well as the Tories.
The meeting was called by David Soutter, the man in charge of vetting UKIP’s election candidates, after it emerged many members are refusing to campaign for Ms Ayling.
She sparked a racism row last year after she was recorded discussing the number of foreigners entering the UK.
She is heard to say: “I just want to send the lot back, but I can’t say that.” And she has been accused by her own mother of being a member of the extremist National Front but has consistently denied the claim – saying she attended meetings in the 1970s only for student research.
On the tape of the meeting, branch member Chris Osborne is heard to say: “I cannot endorse or support a candidate who I genuinely believe – whether anybody else does or not – who I genuinely believe is racist.”
He adds that Ms Ayling is “possibly the worst candidate we could have”.
The emergence of the recording comes just days after UKIP suspended MEP Janice Atkinson over allegations about fraudulent expenses claims, and Scunthorpe candidate Stephen Howd over an “incident at his workplace”.
Ron Shepherd, leader of the Grimsby group, claimed the party was already “haemorrhaging candidates like mad” and that, since Ms Ayling’s selection, “we’re haemorrhaging members”.
The UKIP councillors also expressed concern over the alleged existence of saucy photographs of Ms Ayling, which they feared could harm the party’s election chances. The pictures are expected to cause her embarrassment.
She has previously hinted the photos could surface, explaining they date from a time when she visited nightclubs with her ex-husband, music company executive Rob Ayling.
She alleges he took the pictures and later posted them online in an attempt to discredit her.
But Mr Ayling insisted last night: “I am not going to be drawn on any pictures I may or may not have of my ex-wife. I’m not getting involved.” In the damning recording, Mr Soutter says Mr Farage is aware of the allegations against Ms Ayling. He claims they are without foundation and suggests she is the victim of a smear campaign.
He tells the meeting: “As far as the evidence which has been produced to date, nothing that has not been looked at before has been provided.”
Revealing that UKIP was planning to spend £36,000 on its campaign to win the seat, he warned: “I do not want to lay waste this branch, I really don’t.”
Mr Soutter launched into an astonishing tirade against UKIP renegade Chris Pain, a former regional party chairman who set up a breakaway party after being expelled in a dispute over expenses.
He describes Mr Pain, whose Facebook page once carried a rant about illegal immigrants, as “one of the most poisonous people to have been involved with this party”.
He is heard telling members: “If I could bury Chris Pain on the sands of Grimsby I would do, but I can’t.”
Below: UKIP Conference Leaflet
Ms Ayling hit the headlines last month when she asked business leaders looking to invest in local projects: “What happens when renewable energy runs out?”
A party spokesman insisted they would stick by Ms Ayling. He said: “We are aware photographs exist of Victoria in what some people might see as a compromising position.
“They were taken privately in the confines of a relationship. We will not be blackmailed into making her stand down because of private photographs, even if they emerge.
“The National Executive Committee is aware that people once close to Victoria could make allegations but we are satisfied they are not true.
“Mr Soutter was sent to the branch to put a stop to any arguing – but he of course has opinions of his own too.”
And he added: “We would argue we are not haemorrhaging members. In Great Grimsby we have gone up from 110 members to 120.”
From The Daily Mirror . Report by Grace Macaskill. 22.03.15