UKIP's Godfrey Bloom under fire over 'demeaning' joke
A UKIP politician has had the party whip removed after joking that a group of female activists were "sluts".
MEP Godfrey Bloom made the comments while addressing a "women in politics" event at UKIP's annual conference.
Challenged afterwards, he said it had been a joke. The remark prompted laughter from some of those present.
But UKIP leader Nigel Farage said he believed disciplinary action should be taken, since the row had overshadowed his earlier conference speech.
Mr Farage said he did not have the power to suspend him without the authority of the party chairman and governing executive but would recommend sanctions against the Yorkshire and Humber MEP who he said had "gone beyond the pale".
UKIP chairman Steve Crowther later confirmed the whip would be removed from Mr Bloom, suspending him from formal involvement in party business.
The sanction does not affect his position as an MEP.
In a fringe meeting at the party's annual conference in London, Mr Bloom made reference to previous comments he had made about women not cleaning behind the fridge.
When the women at the meeting said they had never cleaned behind their fridges, he said: "This place is full of sluts."'Behind the fridge'
He was appearing on a panel with three female UKIP activists.
Confronted afterwards about his remarks, Mr Bloom said: "It was fun. It was a joke and most people in Britain have a sense of humour."
He said he was using the word as it was originally intended.
"It means you're untidy, you leave your kit lying around," he told BBC's Newsnight.
Recent UKIP gaffes
- In September, UKIP leader Nigel Farage defended claims about his schooldays after Channel 4 claimed to have a letter from his teachers from 1981, who described him as "fascist" and a "bully".
- In August, MEP Godfrey Bloom was filmed on camera saying British aid should not be sent to "Bongo Bongo Land". In footage obtained by the Guardian he said payments were being used to buy items like sunglasses and luxury cars. He later said he regretted his remarks.
- Former UKIP member Chris Pain stepped down as regional chairman after a Sunday Mirror investigation in May revealed alleged racist comments he posted on Facebook. He was expelled from the party in September for undisclosed reasons.
- The Sun newspaper in May revealed Bradley Monk, a former Hampshire County Council UKIP candidate, had posted a picture of himself online wearing a Jimmy Savile mask at a Halloween party. He later apologised, saying it was a "harmless joke".
- Local election candidate for Somerset Alex Wood was suspended from UKIP after pictures appeared of him apparently making a "Nazi-style" salute in April.
- Another UKIP candidate, Richard Delingpole, caused a storm in May by posting a doctored image of himself standing next to Adolf Hitler.
- UKIP local councillor candidate Geoffrey Clark was suspended in December 2012 after calling for an NHS review to look at compulsory abortion of foetuses with Down's syndrome or spina bifida in his online manifesto.
Laughter can clearly be heard following his comment in an audio recording from inside the meeting, which has been published by the Huffington Post website.
One of the women present, Janice Atkinson - who is a prospective candidate for the party in next year's European elections - said she did not take offence at the remark.
She suggested that people were "out to get" Mr Bloom after a string of recent controversial comments.
Mr Bloom was later filmed hitting Channel 4 News reporter Michael Crick over the head with a party leaflet after he asked him why there were no non-white faces on a campaign flyer.
He responded by accusing the journalist of being "racist".
In his conference speech later, the MEP told activists it was "good to know who your real friends are".
The word "slut" has different meanings to different generations.
It is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "a woman of dirty, slovenly or untidy habits or appearance" or "a woman of low or loose character".'Racist'
Mr Bloom - who sits on the European Parliament's women's rights and gender equality committee - provoked controversy last month when he talked about British foreign aid going to "bongo-bongo land" - a reference to third world countries.
Asked about the latest furore, Diane James - one of the most senior female figures in the party - said the language was "demeaning" but "did not reflect the views" of most UKIP members.
Despite his friendship with Mr Bloom, Mr Farage indicated that he had lost patience with him and his behaviour was distracting from the party's electoral success and new policy initiatives.
Explaining the suspension to party members, he said: "It's all about Godfrey hitting a journalist and using an unpleasant word. It's gone. And we can't put up with it.
"We can't have any one individual however fun or flamboyant or entertaining or amusing they are, we cannot have any one individual destroying Ukip's national conference and that is what he's done today."'Earthquake'
The row came just hours after Mr Farage hailed the progress that the party had made in the past 18 months and predicted the party would win next year's European elections.
"My ambition and my conviction is that we can come first across the United Kingdom," he told activists in his conference speech.
"Let us send an earthquake through Westminster politics and let's say we want our country back."
Britain would prosper outside the EU, he argued, and talk of its losing trade was not credible.
The party sought to broaden its appeal beyond its core message of EU withdrawal, announcing policies in recent days on energy and welfare.
But, in a speech dominated by Europe, Mr Farage said the European Commission had "hijacked" the EU's original ideals and the UK would begin a process of "national renewal" by going its own way.