UKIP: Courting Controversy

With UKIP hitting front page again this week for all the wrong reasons, will the party ever be able to silence its critics?

Another week, another controversy. The General Secretary of UKIP, Roger Bird, has been suspended over claims he had a relationship with activist and prospective parliamentary candidate Natasha Bolter. Since the story broke, there have been accusations flying from both parties, with Bird stating he had a consensual relationship with Bolter, while the latter accuses him of lying and sexual harassment.

Having quit the hustings to become parliamentary candidate for the winnable seat of South Basildon and East Thurrock, Ms.Bolter told Newsnight she had “joined the party and was thrown to the wolves.” It comes as fresh embarrassment for UKIP, who have often been regarded as having a problem when it comes to women. Even Farage has suggested that the party used to be “very male dominated…in every aspect.”` No surprise then, that UKIP HQ have been vocal in taking swift action, suspending Bird and announcing a full investigation, to take place in January.

There is no denying that UKIP have struggled to move beyond their portrayal of sexist in the media, not helped by the comments of certain party members. Just when the party seems to be doing well, consistently increasing their polling figures and gaining MP’s, new negative stories pop surface. First it was the now infamous Godfrey Bloom, who hit the headlines after allegedly calling female supporters “sluts” at a conference, then the party’s own MEP Marta Andreasen accused Farage of being “anti women.” Not to mention Farage’s comments only last week about breast-feeding in public places.

There must come a point, however, when the regular emergence of such stories stops being something UKIP can merely deflect or bounce off seemingly unscathed. If such controversies continue to surround the party, sooner or later voters will not be satisfied just with talks of investigations or denials.