UK Politics

UKIP's Kerry Smith apologises for leaked phone call remarks

Kerry Smith Image copyright PA
Image caption Kerry Smith has apologised for the remarks

A UKIP candidate for one of the party's target seats has apologised for offensive remarks made in a phone call.

Kerry Smith was selected for the South Basildon and Thurrock seat this week, after former Tory MP Neil Hamilton pulled out of the contest.

In a recording obtained by the Mail On Sunday, he is heard making offensive remarks about gay people, other UKIP members and Chigwell in Essex.

He later issued a "wholehearted and unreserved apology".

UKIP said the phone call was made some time ago, when Mr Smith had been prescribed sedatives after an injury.

During the recorded conversation, Mr Smith talks about UKIP's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) group and he can be heard jokingly referring to it as BLT UKIP, and adds "what the old poofter groups call themselves".

He jokes about "shooting peasants" from the Essex town of Chigwell and supporting "a peasant's hunt through Chigwell village".

'Unreserved apology'

Last week Mr Smith was chosen as UKIP's candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock, a seat in which the party hopes to make a serious challenge.

A UKIP spokesman confirmed to the BBC that Mr Smith had apologised to the party's leader Nigel Farage for allegations made against him during the phone call - which Mr Smith has since retracted.

Patrick O'Flynn, UKIP MEP for the East of England, told BBC One's Sunday Politics that the phone call had been made "some time ago while he was on sedatives" and he had not been "speaking and thinking rationally".

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Media captionUKIP MEP Patrick O'Flynn: "Clearly what he said there is unacceptable"

He said the party's candidates had to "watch how to express themselves" adding: "What many people call political correctness is often just politeness and using derogatory terminology, pejorative slang is not right at this level of politics and you shouldn't do it."

He said Mr Smith was not homophobic but needed to "learn to express himself more respectfully about minorities of all kinds".

He pointed out that this week other parties had suffered gaffes by members - with Labour MP Frank Doran apologising for suggesting the post of fisheries minister was not a "job for a woman", while Conservative peer Baroness Jenkin of Kennington apologised for saying "poor people don't know how to cook".

"The hand grenades are rolling down the corridor. We're still way up in the polls, we've had a fantastic year, we've won two by-elections."

"He's a young man he's learning politics - we also have to have a balance, we don't want to become so anodyne speaking in such non-colloquial language that we lose touch, and I think some other parties risk doing that.

"But clearly what he has said there is unacceptable - he's apologised unreservedly there. There are big mitigating circumstances here, it was from some time ago, and so we are willing to judge him on his performance from now on."

'Dirty tricks'

In a statement made by a UKIP spokesman on his behalf, Mr Smith said: "I wish to issue a wholehearted and unreserved apology to those who I have offended within the party and anyone else.

"With regards to the leadership and management of the party I was completely wrong and my comments were fuelled by frustrations."

Former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton pulled out of the selection contest for South Basildon and East Thurrock after a letter from UKIP's finance committee was leaked to Channel 4 News querying Mr Hamilton's expenses claims for the party.

The former MP has suggested there is a "dirty tricks" campaign against him.

A report in the Financial Times said party officials were accusing one of its biggest funders of trying to pressure them into accepting Mr Hamilton's candidacy. He previously pulled out of another selection process, in Boston and Skegness.

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