A UKIP candidate has defended tweets in which he said comedian Lenny Henry should emigrate to a “black country” and compared Islam to the Third Reich.
William Henwood, who is standing in a council election, said he did not think the messages were offensive. He tweeted after Henry said there should be more black and ethnic minority people in creative industries.
UKIP said it was a “non-racist, non-sectarian party whose members are expected to uphold these values”.
Mr Henwood told BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: “I think if black people come to this country and don’t like mixing with white people why are they here? If he (Henry) wants a lot of blacks around go and live in a black country.”
On another occasion Mr Henwood tweeted: “Islam reminds me of the 3rd Reich Strength through violence against the citizens.”
Mr Henwood, who is standing in next month’s local council elections in Enfield, north London, later declined to be interviewed on camera.
Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt described Mr Henwood’s comments about Lenny Henry as “absolutely disgusting”.
“I think it is for Nigel Farage to make absolutely clear that that isn’t UKIP’s official view but also to explain why so many people with those kinds of views seem to be attracted to becoming candidates for UKIP,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics. Asked if he thought the comments were racist, he said: “Yes I do and that’s why I’d like to hear a very clear denunciation from Nigel Farage. I think it’s totally unacceptable, and he is as British as you or I are.”
UKIP’s deputy chairman Neil Hamilton, a former Conservative MP, said Mr Henwood’s comments were being investigated by the party but he claimed they were a “complete distraction” from the European election campaign and “every party” had “unknown” activists who “who may have said something unpleasant on social media”.
BNP leader Nick Griffin was also asked if he considered Mr Henwood’s comments about Lenny Henry to be racist. He said the “real racism” was the “bullying by the BBC and by the political elite of ordinary British people, of various parties, who stand up and say what most ordinary people think” that “we are going to be an abused minority in our own homeland”.
Roger Helmer, a UKIP MEP for the East Midlands who is standing for re-election, said Mr Henwood’s comments did not represent his party and were only being reported because of a campaign against it. Mr Helmer told the BBC:
“We have an individual who has made totally unacceptable comments but you will find individuals like that in all parties, and behaviour like that in all parties. I understand why the media and the other parties want to focus on those particular claims about UKIP. We will deal with this appropriately when the party has had time to look at the facts and in the meantime we are quite clear that we are not a racist party and we do not accept comments of that kind.”
A UKIP spokesman said: “Any breach of our rules will be duly investigated and action will be taken. However one has to question why the other parties are spending hours behaving like secret police and trawling through the social media of UKIP candidates who are everyday men and women, rather than actually doing politics.
“Perhaps if they did they would be better able to tackle us on policy, rather than having to rely on smear campaigns to try to undermine UKIP’s increasing popularity. Were we to return the favour we would find an even greater wealth of embarrassment and disgrace in the other three parties’ ranks to also spread across the media.”
In the past week UKIP has been attacked by its political opponents for featuring an Irish actor on an election poster about British workers losing out to foreign labour. And the party has also suspended a council candidate in south London for sharing “repellent” opinions on Twitter. Builder Andre Lampitt, who featured in a party election broadcast, reportedly tweeted criticism of Islam and Nigerians.
Despite the attacks, a poll for a Sunday paper suggested UKIP was in the lead in the European election contest despite a week of controversies, including criticism of its campaigning and comments by activists. The party recorded 31% support in the YouGov survey for the Sunday Times, three points ahead of Labour with the Conservatives third on 19%.