A UK Independence Party member of European Parliament was yesterday (18 August) embroiled in a race row in Kent, days after Nigel Farage said he would stand for election in the county.
Farage confirmed on Tuesday (19 August) he had thrown his “hat in the ring” to contest the Kent seat of South Thanet, which is currently held by the Conservatives, in the UK’s 2015 general election. He will quit Brussels in favour of Westminster if elected.
South East MEP Janice Atkinson yesterday apologised for calling a UKIP-supporting woman of Thai origin a “ting tong from somewhere”. Her remarks were recorded by BBC South East Today after an interview. She was still wearing a microphone after the interview in Ramsgate, Kent.
Ting Tong was the name of a Thai transsexual mail order bride played by comedian Matt Lucas in popular sketch show Little Britain (see picture). She offers sex in exchange for, among other things, residency in the UK. Ting Tong is also a Thai colloquial term for a mentally ill person.
Elected in the 2014 EU elections, Atkinson is a substitute member on the European Parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, which is responsible for the protection of minorities.
Last week Farage clashed with the BBC on a separate issue regarding allegations made by former MEP Nicki Sinclaire in the EU Parliament.
Another race gaffe
Atkinson’s gaffe is the latest race scandal to hit UKIP. In May, the party was forced to take out national newspaper adverts denying it was racist after widespread condemnation of its characterisation of Romanian immigrants.
Victim Fa Munday, a mobile food seller, told the BBC, “I’m from Thailand. I’m married to an Englishman and now I’m British. No-one has ever spoken about me like that before.”
Husband Vincent Munday said the couple were withdrawing their UKIP membership. “I don’t think UKIP are a racist party, but that comment certainly wasn’t the brightest thing I’ve ever heard,” he said.
Atkinson said, “I deeply regret the words I used and am incredibly sorry. I am devastated that I have caused hurt and apologise profusely to both Mr and Mrs Munday.”
Farage to quit Brussels?
The UKIP leader, MEP for South East England since 1999, told EURACTIV in JUne that if he wins a Westminster seat in the general election, he will quit the European Parliament. His seat would pass to the next UKIP member on the party list, without the need for another election.
He has represented South East England in the Parliament since 1999. Many of the leading UKIP candidates for the general election are also MEPs. Any who are elected will give up their seats.
They are looking to build on their triumph on the EU elections, which saw them return more MEPs than any other British party. A poll of marginal constituencies found last month that UKIP could take two seats from the Conservatives, including South Thanet, and come close to a third.
Writing in The Independent, Farage said his candidacy still needed to be approved by UKIP members.
He said, “The situation is that there will be a hustings in the constituency[…] at which the branch will decide who they wish to represent them.
“It may seem silly to some that the leader of a party would have to go through the process of being approved and selected but, I assure you, rank means nothing in UKIP.”
The national elections have added significance for the UK and the EU, as Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold a 2017 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, if elected.
Farage’s clash with the BBC
Farage last week wrote an open letter to Elizabeth Bryne about the BBC Panaroma special on UKIP she is producing.
He refused to co-operate with the making of the programme, and accused Byrne of “adopting a specific agenda, which clearly conflicts with the well accepted BBC principles that a programme for public consumption should be fair and balanced”.
“A Panorama programme aimed at explaining the workings of the EU, as your Charter obliges you to do, would be far more beneficial to the British people than a tedious BBC hatchet job at the behest of your pro-EU contacts,” he added.
It is thought the special will cover allegations made by former UKIP MEP Nicki Sinclaire.
Sinclaire used EU parliamentary privilege to accuse Farage of having extra-marital affairs. Because the accusations were made in the Parliament, she cannot be sued for libel.
She has been accused of holding a grudge against Farage after being passed up for promotion. She lost her seat in the 2014 EU elections.