UKIP leader Nigel Farage has attacked the media establishment for portraying his party as racist. He said the Scottish National Party were the real racists responsible for stirring up anti-English sentiment.
Speaking during a visit to Hartlepool ahead of the general election, Mr Farage said: “The SNP are openly racist. The anti-English hostility and the kind of language that is used about and towards English people is totally extraordinary.”
Last year, during a visit to Edinburgh, Mr Farage found himself surrounded and mobbed by a gang of SNP supporters. He found sanctuary inside a pub and was locked in by police for his own safety before being rescued.
Highlighting the incident, he said: “If my supporters behaved in the way that some of those pro-independence supporters behaved in the referendum I’d have been painted out to be the worst person that had been seen for 70 years in British politics.
“I was surrounded by people in the street shouting racist anti-English comments.
“I think the one I blame is [former SNP leader] Alex Salmond. When I was attacked by a group of thugs in the street in Edinburgh with the most extraordinary anti-English sentiments being shouted, when Salmond was asked whether he condemned that behaviour he didn’t.”
The current SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, also came in for criticism for turning a blind eye to racism. “She hasn’t stop anything to stop it. I haven’t heard her say anything to encourage it” Mr Farage said.
Earlier, he told BBC Radio 5’s John Pienaar that pollsters had underestimated UKIP support in the lead-up to polling day next week as many supporters were “sky kippers” – people who were unwilling to admit to voting UKIP. He attacked the “establishment” for spinning a yarn that UKIP is full of “racist, bad, nasty, inward looking, backward looking people,” which is why “people are actually frightened on telephone polls to say what they really think.”
Mr Farage highlighted the double standard at play in the attacks on UKIP for being a racist party, when the SNP were allowed to get away with anti-English rhetoric quite routinely.
“I think it is ironic that all the talk about extremism within British politics is pointed towards Ukip when there are others who are far more guilty,” he said.
“When I say that I don’t think we should have an open door to Poland, Latvia and Lithuania I’m accused of being racist and yet when it’s the Scots being rude about the English you don’t think it is.
“The fact is UKIP is a non-racist non-sectarian political party and we’ve got more members of black and ethnic minority standing for us than the Green Party or the Liberal Democrats. We’re an all embracing party.”
UKIP currently has 24 black and ethnic minority parliamentary candidates, while the Green Party has just 15, equivalent to four per cent of its slate. UKIP also has the lowest percentage of candidates with jobs directly linked to politics. Just 22 per cent of its candidates fall into that category, compared with 26 per cent of Greens, and 35 per cent of Labour and Lib Dem candidates.
At the meeting in Hartlepool, Mr Farage reportedly appeared to lose his temper when again questioned by reporters on racism within his party, protesting that the questions were “wholly unjustified, grossly unfair”, and that they led to “people out there who agree with UKIP to almost feel shy about talking about it such is the level of demonisation”.
When asked by a second reporter whether he was in “denial” about racism within UKIP ranks, he responded “Your media obsession with attempting to make UKIP out to be a racist party is something I am getting really rather bored with.” His supporters applauded.