A group of Ukip activists say they have “hit a brick wall” after complaining to the party leadership about the Scottish spokesman David Coburn’s “unsavoury, bullying and gaffe-prone” behaviour.
Richard Lucas, one of 10 Scottish signatories to a letter warning that Coburn is “not suited to being the Scottish face of the Brexit campaign”, said the concerns had not even merited a reply from Ukip’s leader, Nigel Farage.
The letter, which was sent to the party chairman, Steve Crowther, in February, and seen by the media this week, alleged a “persistent culture of bullying in the Scottish region”.
It described incidents where Coburn – Ukip’s only MEP in Scotland – referred to the Scottish government minister Humza Yousuf as the hate preacher Abu Hamza and intentionally mispronounced the name of the SNP MEP candidate Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh in an attempt to undermine her.
The letter, signed by five local party chairmen, concluded that “failure to act will seriously impair our Holyrood campaign and jeopardise the referendum”. The party is fielding 26 candidates on the eight regional lists for the Scottish parliament election in May, including Coburn himself.
Lucas, who has written for the Guardian on the nexus between Christian values and Ukip policies, said: “We tried to do things behind the scenes, but drew a total blank. It feels like it doesn’t matter what he does, the response is: ‘Oh, David’s just being David, a bit of a jack-the-lad.’ How much worse does it have to get?”
Lucas, who has since left the party, added: “I think that gaffe is too mild a term for his behaviour. What he shows is a really unsavoury side of his character.”
Coburn, who recently blamed EU regulations for the poor performance of his toaster, responded on Twitter: “10 disgruntled people out of more than 1,000 members represents 1% in fact 0.5% as half of them have left.”
His record was defended by Farage, who dismissed Coburn’s critics as “a few disappointed people who are not in positions to win seats. Totally and utterly irrelevant”.
On a visit to Inverness with Coburn on Wednesday, during which a Ukip supporter ran away with a Scottish nationalist’s Saltire, Farage said: “We could become puritans, I suppose, and follow an Oliver Cromwell approach to politics, but it’s never going to happen.
“Perhaps we say some things sometimes that don’t fit in with the PC agenda that now dominates the whole of Edinburgh – so what?”
This article was written by Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent, for theguardian.com on Thursday 21st April 2016 10.57 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010