UKIP leader Farage sorry for MEP Janice Atkinson's 'offensive' term

Mr Farage offered the couple "mega, mega apologies"

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UKIP leader Nigel Farage has visited a Thai constituent and her husband to apologise after another of the party's MEPs described her as a "ting tong".

South East MEP Janice Atkinson was recorded commenting about mobile food seller Fa Munday, by BBC South East Today in Ramsgate, Kent, on Friday.

Mrs Munday's husband Vincent said it was outrageous, rude and offensive.

Mr Farage told the couple he was "deeply sorry" and "it shouldn't have happened". Ms Atkinson has apologised.

Mr Farage, who is also a UKIP MEP for the South East, told the BBC: "I didn't want the thing to happen in the first place but, given that it happened, I'm the leader, the buck stops with me.

"Something has happened that was offensive, unpleasant, didn't need to happen and I thought the only thing that I could possibly do was to come up personally and say 'I'm sorry for causing offence'."

He said Ms Atkinson would be "spoken to" and "reprimanded", because "this is not the kind of behaviour that we want from anybody, at any level, in UKIP".

Despite suggesting on Monday they would withdraw their UKIP membership, the couple have told Mr Farage they would not leave the party.

Vincent and Fa Munday Vincent and Fa Munday have met Janice Atkinson at party rallies

Ms Atkinson previously said: "I deeply regret the words I used and am incredibly sorry.

"It was poor judgement and naivety on my part rather than words spoken with any malice.

"I am devastated that I have caused hurt and apologise profusely to both Mr and Mrs Munday."

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Analysis

Louise Stewart, political editor, South East

Nigel Farage took the unusual decision of personally visiting a Thai woman described as a "ting tong" by UKIP's South East MEP Janice Atkinson.

He went to the home of Fa Munday to reassure her and her husband that UKIP in no way condones the use of language that may reflect prejudice or cause offence.

The last time I remember a senior politician making a personal visit to say sorry was when Gordon Brown - then the prime minister - was forced to apologise to Gillian Duffy, a Rochdale pensioner, during the 2010 general election campaign after being caught on microphone calling her a "bigoted woman".

Arguably, that was the turning point in the 2010 election campaign. The crucial difference is that he was apologising for his OWN mistake.

Nigel Farage has previously been forced to apologise for one of his MEP's outspoken comments.

Last year's UKIP conference was overshadowed when the Yorkshire MEP Godfrey Bloom said women who didn't clean behind the fridge "were sluts".

He was suspended and subsequently quit the party.

So will Mr Farage's apology - on behalf of Janice Atkinson - be enough to draw a line under this story?

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Janice Atkinson was recorded making the remark by BBC South East Today

Ms Atkinson was interviewed by the BBC on Friday and had agreed to be filmed while she met local people and UKIP members in Ramsgate.

She wore a microphone and was aware she was being recorded.

Mr and Mrs Munday have met Ms Atkinson at UKIP rallies.

Mrs Munday said: "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."

Mr Munday said "ting tong" in Thai meant that a person was mad and the comment had come as "a bit of shock".

"I don't think UKIP are a racist party, but that comment certainly wasn't the brightest thing I've ever heard," he said.

The couple have said that Ms Atkinson should resign.

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