Farage defends ex-Ukip candidate
Nigel Farage has defended a former Ukip parliamentary candidate who stood down after being recorded using derogatory terms about homosexuals and Chinese people.
The Ukip leader said that Kerry Smith was "not suitable" to stand for election to Parliament for the party, but insisted that his comments were not made with malice.
He described the Essex councillor as a "rough diamond" and criticised what he said was metropolitan snobbery against people form outside the capital using "colloquial" language.
But Mr Farage appeared to cast doubt on Mr Smith's explanation that he had been taking strong painkillers at the time of the comments.
The Ukip leader told LBC radio: " I haven't found sedatives have had that effect on me, I have to say. I might have said a few things after other forms of medication that I shouldn't have done, but then again we all have, haven't we?"
Mr Smith stood down as candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock - regarded as one of Ukip's most winnable target constituencies - earlier this month after the release of a recording of a phone call in which he mocked gay party members as "poofters", joked about shooting people from Chigwell in a "peasant hunt" and referred to someone as a "Chinky bird". He later resigned as a party member.
Mr Farage told LBC: "I'm a bit sad, because Kerry Smith is a rough diamond. He's a council house boy from the East End of London, left school early and talks and speaks in a way that a lot of people from that background do.
"I feel a bit sorry for Kerry Smith, because I think he's a genuine fellow.
"Even the 'poofter' comment - the next sentence he was saying how good a candidate was and the fact he was gay would be an asset to the party.
"I think he's had a tough time. However, he's not suitable to be a parliamentary candidate.
"I think we are very snobbish in London about condemning people for the colloquial language they use, particularly if it's not meant with really unpleasant intent.
"Kerry himself said that he used language that Del Boy used to use on Only Fools and Horses, and nobody objected then.
"Kerry Smith is not suitable to be a parliamentary candidate. I don't think that in the comments he used he meant malice, that's the only point I'm making."
Challenged over Mr Smith's use of the word "Chinky" to describe a Chinese person, Mr Farage asked: " If you and your mates are going out for a Chinese, what would you say you were going for?"
And asked if he would himself say he was "going for a Chinky", Mr Farage replied: " No, but a lot of people would. I don't think I've ever used that word."
He insisted that only a "small proportion" of Ukip candidates had caused the party problems through their comments, but added: " Of course we have people who do things and say things that are wrong.
"So do the other parties as well. We do not have a monopoly on stupidity, I promise you."
Mr Farage said the problems his party has suffered in Basildon - where former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton withdrew his candidacy after questions about his expenses, and another would-be candidate Natasha Bolter made allegations of sexual harassment against the party's general secretary - were caused by a struggle to secure what might be one of Ukip's most winnable seats.
"In a seat like Basildon, where the pollsters say we are probably going to win it, suddenly there's a big fight going on for people to get it," he told LBC.
"We've suffered a bit with some egos, we've suffered a bit from some personal ambition. I don't like it but it's happening.
"There's lots of egos floating around."
Asked if he was referring to Mr Hamilton, Mr Farage responded: "Oh, I wouldn't have thought so, would you? Neil has been a member of Ukip for 12 years. He is a complete believer in our cause. We've had some battles going on, it's not been the easiest few weeks, I accept that."
He denied that cases of offensive language were rife among Ukip activists.
"We've had the case of Kerry Smith. Yes, he was loutish in what he said and is not fit to be a parliamentary candidate, but I don't think there was anything malicious or evil about what he was trying to do," he said.
"I haven't heard of any other cases of this for a very long time, I really haven't."
He said his own comment about traffic delays on the M4 being due to immigration was "a joke", adding: "I've learnt something. Never joke. There's no point, is there? No one's got a sense of humour any more."
Mr Smith said he had been the victim of a "witch-hunt against working-class people" and had to "fall on my sword to save the party's honour".
The councillor, who resigned from the party in the wake of the row, said: "I think Nigel Farage would rather talk about the issues at hand than the media going around having a witch-hunt."
Hinting at internal divisions within Ukip, he told LBC Radio the phone conversation in which he made the derogratory remarks was with "an employee of Tim Aker MEP" in 2012.
Asked if he would rejoin the party, he said: "I have got no problem with Nigel and virtually 99% of people in Ukip. But there's a couple of people in Ukip ... I would rather jump in a bath of battery acid and snakes before I would ever rejoin Ukip."
Mr Smith, who admitted he was "politically incorrect", said he heard "all sorts of words that make me look like an angel" when out speaking to his constituents in Basildon.