Ukip muzzles foot-in-mouth candidates by ordering them to avoid discussing RSPCA and moral issues
Nigel Farage’s anti-EU party has issued “vital” guidance for would-be MPs in an extraordinary clampdown following a string of embarrassing gaffes.
The media strategy is a last-ditch bid to stop candidates getting into trouble with unguarded comments.
Three were forced to quit in 24 hours last month (March) as the campaign hots up and the party comes under greater scrutiny.
And officials are desperate to prevent losing more as the countdown to May 7 continues.
The guidance, which critics claim amounts to an attempt to gag candidates, comes in UKIP’s Elect 2015 Campaign eZine, seen by the Mirror.
Headed “Timely advice on avoiding the pitfalls”, it warns: “The media in general is looking for the unwary and the unsuspecting to talk to them.”
And it orders: “Do NOT answer or complete surveys/opinion polls, however phrased.
“Do NOT give any form of support to any third party organisation seeking support from PPCs (prospective parliamentary candidates), the RSPCA for example.
“Do NOT attend meetings of third party organisations unless alerted to the press office where it is a single issue matter, like abortion, animal rights, etc
“Do NOT respond to journalists over the phone or by email before checking who they are and ensuring that you understand who you are talking to, what you are being asked about and more importantly what answers you want to give.
“ALWAYS ensure that any and all requests made to any candidate or team for a press interview, radio or TV go through at least the regional press officer and, if not available, the national press office at Brook’s Mews.
“Finally do not give your own opinion on moral issues to anyone.”
Mr Farage was last week forced onto the back foot after being grilled about UKIP members caught expressing racist, homophobic and other offensive views.
He snapped: “I am not for one moment saying everybody in UKIP has been perfect – far from it – and we weed out those who do say or do inappropriate things.”
Meanwhile, campaign chief Patrick O’Flynn has told candidates to use the word “reprioritisation” in interviews – despite admitting it is “ugly” and they should not put it on leaflets.
Mr Farage used the term during Thursday’s crunch leaders’ debate where he was accused of “dangerous scaremongering” over comments about foreign HIV sufferers.
In a regular email update to candidates, passed to the Mirror, former newspaper columnist Mr O’Flynn says: “Reprioritisation – it is an ugly word but an important argument.
“As the campaign goes on one of our major themes is that UKIP is offering the British public different choices from those put forward by all the establishment parties.”
He goes on: “A key message to put forward in debate is that only we will reprioritise public spending in ways we believe the British public will approve because only we are prepared to take the axe to politically correct and vanity spending programmes.
“You may even make a joke about reprioritisation being an ugly term as a way of earning yourself time to explain what UKIP means by it.
“However, only use the word itself in broadcast interviews and direct exchanges with voters. It is not a good term to stick on a leaflet.“