Wales Election 2016

UKIP migrants rubbish row candidate 'wasn't being racist'

Gareth Bennett Image copyright Media Wales
Image caption Gareth Bennett sparked a row when he blamed immigrants for problems with rubbish in Cardiff

A controversial assembly candidate who linked rubbish problems in Cardiff to immigration was not outrageous enough to be deselected, a UKIP insider has said.

UKIP's National Executive Committee (NEC) endorsed Gareth Bennett's candidacy on Monday, following a vetting panel recommendation.

There were calls for de-selection, and 16 party candidates had complained.

But a source said it was thought his comments were not offensive or racist.

UKIP is still yet to issue an official statement in response to the decision to endorse Mr Bennett, the lead candidate for South Wales Central, despite the move having been taken by the NEC on Monday.

One UKIP Wales source previously called the decision a "complete joke".

It is understood that Mr Bennett's candidacy was discussed at a meeting of the party's vetting committee on Sunday, ahead of making a recommendation to the NEC.

The UKIP source said Mr Bennett was "guilty of being clumsy" but his comments were not deemed "offensive or racist".

"He was clumsy, he was inexperienced," he said.

"He should have chosen his words better."

The source said Mr Bennett wasn't "so outrageous he deserved to be kicked off the list".

The decision had "absolutely" nothing to do with Nigel Farage's leadership, the source added.

'Toys out of the pram'

On the 16 candidates' complaint, the source said: "The vetting panel considered the evidence. The vetting panel did not consider whether they were going to throw their toys out of the pram.

"If 16 people say they are going to walk if they don't get their way, that's their decision."

The source said that the candidacy of former number two South Wales Central candidate Alexandra Phillips was discussed as well by the committee, but said there was no evidence to "get rid of her either".

The insider added that the decision had nothing to do with the leadership of Nigel Farage.

Ms Phillips resigned as number two South Wales Central candidate on Monday morning before the decision of the NEC was leaked.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionApril 2016: UKIP's Gareth Bennett on rubbish problems and East European immigrants in Cardiff

The move to keep Mr Bennett prompted Neath constituency and South Wales West No.4 list candidate Llyr Powell to step down from running for the assembly.

Mr Bennett linked rubbish problems in Cardiff's City Road area to eastern European immigration in a Wales Online interview in March. He later stood by what he said in interviews with the BBC.

Some 16 candidates demanded disciplinary action against Mr Bennett in a letter to UKIP chairman Steve Crowther.

The letter, signed by candidates for the assembly and Police and Crime Commissioner elections said Mr Bennett "undermined the party and our own ability to campaign through his offensive... comments about immigrants to Wales".

"We as candidates and many members who support us are deeply considering whether UKIP really represents us," they said.

Nigel Farage, party leader, also said he was "less than impressed" with Mr Bennett.

The party announced their regional lists for the assembly elections in March.

Mr Bennett told a BBC Radio 5 Live reporter that he was not "hunting for media coverage at the moment" and would speak to him after 5 May.

A UKIP spokesman has said there would not be an investigation into the 16 who complained.

More on this story