UKIP MP Douglas Carswell has backtracked after initially supporting party leader Nigel Farage over his comments on HIV-positive migrants and health tourism, according to City AM.
Speaking in the leaders’ debate during the election campaign, UKIP’s leader brought up the issue of how health tourism is costing the United Kingdom’s National Health Service up to £2bn a year, £1bn of which he believes is easily recouped.
Initially, both Mr Carswell and UKIP’s former economic spokesman Patrick O’Flynn MEP went to great lengths to defend Mr Farage’s comments.
But both men have since backed away from the positions they took at the time – with Mr O’Flynn recently describing Mr Farage’s tone as “snarling” and “aggressive”. UKIP sources say Mr Carswell is believed to be attempting to malign Mr Farage in the run up to the European referendum campaign, so that he and his friend, Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, may take centre-stage.
Mr Carswell told BBC Radio 5 earlier: “I think some of the tone we deployed, for example, the comments about HIV, were plain wrong. Wrong on so many levels. Not just wrong because they were electorally unhelpful, but wrong because they were wrong.”
At the time of the debates, Mr Carswell remarked that it is “reasonable to want our national health service to be a national health service and not an international health service”, appearing to support Mr Farage’s comments and tone.
Mr O’Flynn even went so far as to appear on television defending the comments, ready with statistics of the costs of retroviral drugs, and how much of the UK budget for HIV was used for health tourists.
A senior UKIP source said of Mr Carswell’s comments, “What is wrong with that guy? Why doesn’t he stop?” While another told Breitbart London, “[He’s] a joke.”