Pitfalls of UKIP's 'major party status'

Nigel Farage Nigel Farage will take part in a televised debate about Europe with Nick Clegg in April

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It's been a pretty good week for UKIP and Nigel Farage.

The broadcast regulator Ofcom ruled the party must be given the same coverage as the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats in the run up to the European elections.

And today a second victory, the BBC has confirmed that it will televise a live debate between Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage. The pair will go head-to-head on Britain's future in Europe in an hour-long debate, hosted by David Dimbleby, on BBC2 at 19:00 on 2 April.

So far, so good.

But with the move into the mainstream and the recognition that goes with being granted "major party status" come possible pitfalls.

Lewes District Council UKIP councillor and South East MEP candidate Donna Edmunds has been forced to apologise after saying that business owners should be able to refuse service to women and gay people.

'Libertarian stance'

According to the Argus newspaper, Ms Edmunds posted the comments on an internet forum when she was asked whether she supported remarks made by Henley-on-Thames UKIP councillor David Silvester, who said the floods this winter had been caused by the government's support for gay marriage.

In the comments, Ms Edmunds said: "I believe that all business owners, Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, should be allowed to withhold their services from whomever they choose whenever they choose.

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Three years ago she had to apologise after referring to one of her constituents as 'the village idiot'”

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She added: "It's their business. Why should they be forced to serve or sell to anyone?"

Ms Edmunds has since apologised, and in a statement said: "I regret what I wrote and can see how an essentially libertarian stance could be broadly misinterpreted."

She also said in no way did she "endorse any form of discrimination" but strongly believed in an "individual's personal and religious freedoms".

Ms Edmunds concluded by saying she hoped her "remark has not caused any embarrassment for the party".

Growing pains

A UKIP spokesman said: "Ms Edmund's comments appear somewhat misguided and we do not endorse the position intimated, but we believe she has apologised for the remarks."

She may have apologised but it's not the first time she's been in trouble for comments she's made.

Three years ago she had to apologise after referring to one of her constituents as "the village idiot" on Twitter.

There's no doubt the UK Independence Party has come a long way since David Cameron described it as a "a bunch of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists" back in 2006.

But gaffes - like the latest one made by Donna Edmunds - show the party may still face some growing pains if it wants to be seen as a major force in British politics.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    So how come the Green Party of England and Wales which has an MP or the Scottish Green Party which has two MSPs are not getting major party status. UKIP has neither. Why do we have to be bombarded by their xenophobic nonsense but the parties which stand up for social justice and protecting the environment are excluded from so many debates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Imagine for a moment substituting the word 'gay' ....

    Personally as a small hotel owner I prefer not to allow black people or Jews to stay at my premises, as I am orginally from Germany. I prefer British citizens where possible. This is 'my right' of course as both these groups go against my 'beliefs' - therefore I reserve the right not to do business with them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Can anyone be sure that this kerfuffle isn't just the media doing a hatchet job on the only party to "break the mould"? Whilst special pleading is not acceptable, many will notice the investigations into UKIP electees' views and dicta not being paralleled by investigations into those of other parties- and be suspicious of motives!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    @ PaulR05
    Not at all. I find jokes that poke fun at anyone in poor taste. What I do object to though is people with deeply held religious beliefs being discriminated against because of them. You think society has grown up and become more inclusive? You obviously live in a different part of the country from me, and like the state controlling your every opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    To suggest her comment is discriminatory is ludicrous. Most businesses have standards that they expect from their customers. I presume you would say that a restaurant that requires customers to wear a tie, or a nightclub that refuses to admit people in trainers are also being discriminatory.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    @ visionary1....errr,so if we aren't allowed free speech or the the right to express an opinion anymore,how come you've just posted a comment on public forum?? I think what you're complaining about is that because you cant make sexist or racist comments or jokes anymore (because society has actually grown up and is becoming more inclusive),you're somehow denied a basic principle of freedom. Aww!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    It was a long held principal that an innkeeper had the right to refuse anyone. Even 20 years ago you wouldn't get a double room in the north of Scotland if the lady wasn't wearing a wedding ring!
    But then we aren't allowed free speech or our own opinions anymore!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    @Welshandproud......how would you feel if you were refused services and goods in England because you are Welsh? Are you one of the thankfully minute number of your countrymen and women who revert to Welsh when an English person is around to discomfit them and make them feel unwelcome? The refusal to serve someone on grounds of race,sex or anything else is discrimination. Shameful remarks from you

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    @itspastyourbedtime. A gaff is a gaff,it's not made up by anyone or misinterpreted. One of the problems with UKIP is that it has fostered and has attracted xenophobics,racists,sexists and others who can't get their head round the fact this is the 21st century and it is unacceptable to discriminate and to treat people differently because of race,age or sex etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Guess that means the BBC will have to reduce the number of times it gives air time to Farage when there is a news item about the EU or immigration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The concept of "gaff" is really a construct of the media. The mistake is really with the listener or reporter who chooses to interpret comments in a particular way. I notice Harriet Harman is still deputy leader of the Labour Party and various Conservative Party folks are still in place, even though their "gaffs" are far more affecting and dangerous than mis-interpreted words.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    If you've been voting since the 1960s, you will have had a vote on the 1975 referendum on EC membership, at which the country voted two-to-one to remain in Europe. It was inevitable that the EC was going to both grow in size and grow closer together. It is one of only 2 policies that the people of the UK have ever had a direct vote on. No government has ever been elected on a pledge to pull out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    10 suffolk123
    'you earn the right through the ballot box'.
    In the case of the last governments mass immigration policy, obtained by not declaring the party's intentions.
    Not many ballot boxes involved in anything connected to the eu project though, and I've been voting since the '60s. I think I'd remember.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    And your comment about "what gives you the right..." - I am happy to inform you that I am in no position to influence visa controls at our borders, so will not be able to "impose" the consequences of my view on immigration to the wider electorate. But equally, what gives someone the right to throw up the barricades and prevent all immigration? You earn the right through the ballot box.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Whether I support free movement is irrelevant to the argument that UKIP on the one hand claim to be libertarian, and on the other hand wish to restrict liberty to a huge degree, it doesn't make sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    6 suffolk123

    So does this mean that you support free movement between UK and the rest of the world?

    All comers welcome?

    And just what gives you the right to impose the consequences of your wishes on the rest of us?
    We've already seen what happened when the last government (?) deliberately encouraged massive immigration for political advantage.
    No affiliations to any of 'em.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    With the arrival of UKIP the previously hidden world of the cartel parties has become self evident.
    The Cartel Party Propaganda machines of the Media are also now exposed as being gratuitously biased against the new grouping.
    and against the majority http://lawandfreedomfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Easy-Meat-Multiculturalism-Islam-and-Child-Sex-Slavery-05-03-2014.pdf

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    How UKIP can call themselves "libertarian" when one of their major policy planks is a massive restriction on free movement is mind-boggling.

    It is just the right trying to use the notion of equality to justify their prejudices. The intent is clear, no matter how much she dresses it up as "libertarian", it is just about giving majorities the legal right to marginalise minorities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Ms Edmunds said: "I believe that all business owners, Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, should be allowed to withhold their services from whomever they choose whenever they choose.
    So generally speaking she is just taking the long way round saying that business' should be able to decide who they work with, only the PC brigade could make something out of that, UKIP is the most closely watched party

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    UKIP is a new kid on the block, and it will take years to weed out problem councillors, MEPs, maybe even MPs.
    The mainstream parties are still getting frontline people arrested for criminal matters despite well established party machines & selection processes.
    Even so, libertarian attitudes do not judge or take away from anybody, it's about freedom.
    We don't all have to agree with everybody.


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