Farage stays silent over Ukip MEP’s ‘copy Hitler’ comments
Nigel Farage is remaining silent over a newspaper story revealing one of its MEPs encouraged young people to emulate Adolf Hitler.
A party spokesperson told Politics.co.uk there were no plans for the party leader to issue a statement about Bill Etheridge's selection of the Nazi leader as a good example of a public speaker.
Bill Etheridge, a Ukip MEP for the West Midlands, had cited the Nazi leader as an example to follow at the Young Independence Conference in Birmingham.
Etheridge had been giving a class on public speaking when he suggested those hoping to do well in front of large audiences might want to "pick up little moments" rather than "direct copy" Hitler's rhetorical technique.
The Mail on Sunday quoted him as saying: "When Hitler gave speeches, and many of the famous ones were at rallies, at the start he walks, back and forth, looked at people – there was a silence, he waited minutes just looking out at people, fixing them with his gaze.
"They were looking back and he would do it for a while. And then they were so desperate for him to start, when he started speaking they were hanging on his every word."
The comments has prompted a predictable backlash.
— Jonathan Wood (@JonathanWood) August 10, 2014
Labour's councillor in Dudley, Khurshid Ahmed, told the Birmingham Mail newspaper he wanted to see the police investigate the comments.
"My worry is about community relations, not just in Dudley, but in the rest of the country – this could escalate further," he warned.
In response to the story Ukip put out a statement from Etheridge in which he defended his comments – and attacked the media for promoting the story.
"At no point did I endorse Hitler or anybody else. I was merely discussing public speaking and the techniques used down the years," he said.
"Hitler and the Nazis were monsters and I am angry that I am even being asked questions about whether we would wish to be linked with them. Yet another cheap shot to deal with from the media."
— Otto English (@Otto_English) August 10, 2014
The decision to allow Etheridge to defend himself contrasts with Farage's public comments during this year's local elections campaign when evidence of Ukip candidates' racism emerged.
Even when faced with embarrassing examples of bigotry within his party, Farage resisted with the suggestion that "we haven't got a monopoly on stupid people".
This was his claim after it emerged Andre Lampitt, a Zimbabwean decorator who appeared on a Ukip election broadcast, posted messages online calling Islam "evil" and declaring that Africans should "kill themselves off".
His claim that "all parties at the local level suffer with these difficulties" was noted by observers for containing the assumption that the press are unfairly targeting Ukip.
Now the party is ignoring Etheridge's comments, leaving Ukip's critics suggesting its problem may be as much its insensitivity as it is its xenophobia or racism.
"Etheridge's comments don't make him a Nazi. But they do show him to be either crass, moronically stupid or – quite possibly – both," political analyst Max Wind-Cowie told Politics.co.uk.
"Acknowledging Hitler's skill as an orator is a bit like telling someone they're fat or pointing out to new parents that their child is ugly."
Wind-Cowie acknowledged that the Ukip MEP's comments about Hitler's speaking ability may be true, but insisted that pointing this out is "crass, insensitive and fundamentally bad-mannered".
He added: "Whatever Etheridge may find to admire about Hitler – and whatever merit there might be in his argument for those attributes – one has to ask why he is looking?
"It is the behaviour of a teenage controversialist, not a grown-up politician."