Somerset

UKIP Facebook 'Nazi salute' candidate Alex Wood suspended

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Media captionAlex Wood: "Racist, homophobic, fascist views absolutely disgust me"

A UKIP candidate in Somerset has been suspended from the party after a photo of him apparently making a Nazi-style salute appeared on his Facebook page.

Alex Wood, 22, said the photo actually showed him trying to grab a phone and said "fascist views disgust me".

Mr Wood said comments associated with the photos were not written by him and told police his account was "hijacked".

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said any members proven to have extreme right wing views would be expelled.

'Silly bravado'

Mr Wood said he still intended to stand in Thursday's council election.

Image caption Alex Wood denied he was making a Nazi-style salute and said his Facebook page was "hijacked"

Mr Farage told BBC News he did not know Mr Wood but confirmed he had met him on a regional tour last week.

The party chief said: "I would think it's more about silly youthful bravado than it is a statement of political intent.

"But we will investigate it and if we discover that Mr Wood has extremist links, he'll be gone."

As well as the picture which showed Mr Wood appearing to perform a Nazi-style salute, there was also a second picture showing him clutching a knife between his teeth in front of a Union flag.

When asked about the first picture, he told BBC news: "The supposed wrong hand salute is actually me grabbing after a friend's phone."

He described the second picture as a "Halloween prank" in which "he had dressed up as a pirate".

He said: "You don't expect to go into politics, so it was a silly prank at the time."

Mr Wood insists his Facebook page has been hacked and statements written on it are "completely untrue".

"Racist, homophobic, fascist views absolutely disgust me," he said.

"I'm completely against such views so these statements are not mine."

He said he had reported the incident to the police "some days ago" but Avon and Somerset Police said it had been reported to them just after midnight.

Insp Tim Coombes said: "We received a report of malicious communication in the early hours of this morning and our inquiries are ongoing."

'Emerge victorious'

UKIP's Somerset county committee chairman Dorothy Baker said: "It's regrettable that such a thing as this has happened.

"It's a police matter, so we can't really comment because we don't know the outcome of the investigation."

She said she accepted Mr Wood's explanation of what had happened and said the fact he had gone to the police "speaks for itself".

She added: "You could be flippant and say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but of course we don't like to have our candidates embroiled in things like this."

UKIP said Mr Wood's party membership "was suspended pending the police investigation".

But a statement issued on behalf of Mr Wood said he would "continue to stand in Thursday's election where he hopes to emerge victorious".

Last week, the party confirmed it had expelled Susan Bowen, due to stand in Cornwall's Tintagel ward, because she had not disclosed her membership of the BNP.

Mrs Bowen said she had only been in the BNP for six months three years previously.

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