Controversial Ukip politician Godfrey Bloom is at the centre of another row after hitting a journalist round the head with a brochure and joking that a room debating women in politics was “full of sluts”
Godfrey Bloom, a Yorkshireman who has enjoyed the limelight generated by a string of forthright outbursts, directed the comment at a former Ukip candidate at a conference fringe event hosted to underline the importance of women to the Euro-sceptic party.
He has had the whip withdrawn, pending an investigation.
Mr Farage, who hours earlier had told members party members of his determination to win the 2014 European elections by turning the vote into an early referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, said Bloom had been “selfish” and had overshadowed “all the good things” that the conference had achieved.
“There is no media coverage of this conference. It’s gone, it’s dead, it’s all about Godfrey hitting a journalist and using an unpleasant four-letter word,” Mr Farage said.
“The trouble with Godfrey is that, he is not a racist, he’s not an extremist or any of those things and he’s not even anti-women, but he has a sort of rather old fashioned Territorial Army sense of humour which does not translate very well in modern Britain.
“We can’t have any one individual, however fun or flamboyant or entertaining or amusing they are, destroying Ukip’s national conference and that is what he’s done today,” Mr Farage told members. “I’m sad about that but we can’t tolerate this.”
The announcement was met with gasps and applause from delegates.
The incident, which was witnessed by Mr Farage’s wife, Kirsten, occurred after Mr Bloom was challenged at a women’s fringe event by Jane Collins, a former by-election candidate, who told him: “I have never cleaned behind my fridge”.
Mr Bloom replied: “This place is full of sluts.”
Challenged about the incident afterwards, Mr Bloom said: “We all had a jolly good laugh. Everybody in the room thought it was funny.”
Mr Bloom was then asked why, of the 300 faces on the front of the Ukip conference brochure, all are white.
Mr Bloom said the question, posed by Channel 4’s Michael Crick, was “racist” and struck Mr Crick on the head with the brochure. “You’re picking people out for the colour of their skin! You disgust me! Get out of my way!” he said before hailing a cab. Footage of the incident was shortly appearing on rolling news channels.
He later told Allegra Stratton, the BBC Newsnight reporter, the term refers to an untidy person, adding: “Did your mother never call you a slut?”
Annabelle Fuller, a Ukip press aide, tried to defend the comment, saying: “I think people don’t understand the difference between “slut” and “slag”. Do you know what the word “slut” means?”
It is the latest in a series of risqué remarks by Mr Bloom, a former fund manager and Territorial Army soldier who serves as MEP for Yorkshire and Humber.
On being appointed to the European Parliament’s women’s rights committee in 2004, he told reporters: “I am here to represent Yorkshire women who always have dinner on the table when you get home. I am going to promote men’s rights.”
He has described some of Ukip’s female members as “s— hot” and claimed his wife is jealous of Gigi Ferrari, his French secretary.
He has admitted visiting brothels in Hong Kong, adding that most prostitutes enjoy their work. On one occasion he reportedly had to be assisted from the chamber of the European Parliament after apparently making a speech after drinking excessively.
Last month he was criticised after saying Britain should stop providing aid to “Bongo Bongo Land” because its recipients spend the money on sports cars and designer sunglasses.
Yet Mr Bloom’s colleagues said they were “shocked and surprised” by Mr Bloom’s behaviour on the day of Mr Farage’s keynote speech.
“He is an intelligent man. But he gets drunk on his own rhetoric. He thinks he is funnier than he is and he plays to the gallery,” a source said.
The row came hours after Mr Farage’s keynote speech, in which he urged the party to attract “normal, decent” people who inhabit the political centre ground.
Mr Farage warned party activists that their rivals would fight a “rough, tough game” and would seize on offensive comments made by candidates.
He later said Ukip could win seats at Westminster and hold the balance of power after the next general election.
The conference included addresses on energy policy, the economy and foreign affairs included appearances from Digby Jones, the former head of the CBI, Mark Littlewood, the head of the Institute for Economic Affairs, and Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester.
Mr Farage is trying to find a balance between encouraging candidates to speak their minds, which he believes voters find attractive, while presenting an increasingly professional face.
Mr Farage had earlier told the conference that he had “blistering rows” with Mr Bloom, but Ukip’s success depended on championing free speech and rejecting “political correctness”. Voters are repelled by “cardboard cut-out politicians” in Westminster, Mr Farage said, but a string of racist outbursts by candidates on social media had created “difficulties”.
“The essence of our recent success is our ability to push the boundaries of debate,” he said.
“It would be tragic if we lost our rough edge – it is part of who we are,” said a Ukip source. “However, we have to recognise that we live in a modern, inclusive society and we could help mould the future of that society. We have to recognise certain ways of thinking and speaking have changed.”
Mr Farage’s bid to modernise the party has found support among members. One motion presented to conference today calls on the leadership to curtail their expenses claims in order to protect the party’s image.
Delegates have also proposed updating the party emblem, removing the pound symbol to reflect the fact it is no longer a single-issue group.
Separately, a man has been charged with three counts of common assault after allegedly striking three partygoers at a ball hosted by Young Independence, Ukip’s youth wing.