Nigel Farage has said that critics of the lack of ethnic diversity in the Ukip manifesto have got it wrong, because along with “one fully black person” it also features a “half-black” party spokesman.
The spokesman the Ukip leader was referring to is Steven Woolfe, the party’s migration spokesman, whose grandfather was African American.
Farage’s response comes after controversy at the manifesto launch last week when he was asked to justify why there was only one “black face” in the document – a woman who appears in a section dealing with overseas aid.
He failed to respond at the time after party supporters shouted down the questioner, the Telegraph journalist Christopher Hope. The issue has since given ammunition to opponents who want to portray Ukip as racist.
Farage told Magic Radio: “Well firstly there was one fully black person. There was another one of our leading spokesmen who is half-black and that didn’t get a mention. And he featured very prominently on page six. So the premise was wrong.
“I thought what happened was really interesting. There was a journalist from one of our leading daily newspapers who made the comment you know, there’s only one black. And what happened was that there was an eruption in the room as our black and ethnic minority candidates stood up and looked at this guy in a pretty hostile way.
“What they were saying was we’re just about sick to death of the sneering media class trying to make Ukip out to be something completely other than it is. We’re a non-racist, non-sectarian political party but we don’t have all-female quotas, we don’t have all-black quotas, we treat everybody as being equal.
“I think we’re a multiracial society. I think the multicultural society is a much more contentious point and perhaps that’s the bit that may have gone slightly wrong. Over 10% of our candidates come from BME [black and minority ethnic] backgrounds. We’re probably more diverse in our membership than some of the other parties who talk about all of this in a sort of holier-than-thou way.”
A spokesman for Operation Black Vote said it would prefer not to comment on Farage’s response and that there were “far more important issues”.
Farage also spoke about Ukip proposals to amend the smoking ban to allow pubs and clubs to open smoking rooms, saying the party’s policy was a matter of “freedom of choice”.
He said: “Thirty pubs a week are closing and a lot of them particularly in built-up areas where they haven’t got a big food trade. They rely on people going into the pub at five, six o’clock after a hard day’s work and a lot of those people might not smoke all day but they want a smoke with their drink that evening.
“Would that burden the health service? Well, let’s put it like this. The NHS says, that smoking-related illnesses cost it £2bn a year, all right? Tobacco tax is £12bn a year so I don’t quite buy the argument.”
This article was written by Damien Gayle, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 21st April 2015 17.40 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010