UK Politics

UKIP is not a racist party, Lord Heseltine told

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Media captionUKIP's Amjad Bashir: "Here I am, look at my ethnicity"

A UKIP candidate has lambasted former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine for branding the party "racist".

The Tory peer's comments came after rows involving their former European Parliament member Godfrey Bloom.

But Amjad Bashir, running for the European Parliament, told said he was "incensed" by Lord Heseltine.

Speaking on BBC Two's Daily Politics, Mr Bashir, who is of Pakistani origin, asked: "If this was a racist party, would they select me?"

UKIP, which calls for withdrawal from the European Union and greater restrictions on immigration, has enjoyed much-improved opinion poll ratings in recent months and is expected to gain seats at next year's European Parliament elections.

But it has come under greater media scrutiny, with much focus on the description of countries receiving overseas aid as "bongo bongo land" by MEP Godfrey Bloom, who has since had the party whip withdrawn following separate comments about women.

'Mainstream'

Lord Heseltine, appearing on Daily Politics on Wednesday, compared UKIP's appeal with that of one-time Conservative minister Enoch Powell and his 1968 anti-immigration "rivers of blood" speech and with the former French National Front leader Jean-Marie le Pen.

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Media captionLord Heseltine on UKIP: "Of course it is racist, who doubts that? The language, the rhetoric, the membership, who doubts it?"

He warned against an electoral pact between UKIP and the Conservatives, saying: "Beware of what happens to your pivotal vote in the centre ground.

"You always have these right-wing, racist operations pandering to the lowest common denominator in politics. That is what happens."

Asked if this meant he was calling UKIP racist, he replied: "Of course it is racist. Of course, who doubts that? The language, the rhetoric, the membership - who doubts it?"

However, Mr Bashir, a businessman, told the show: "I'm incensed that you've given this has-been politician the chance to come and level these accusations."

He added: "We are a mainstream political party. We've got 30,000 members. We got over one million votes in the last election in May. We are a serious player and you cannot treat us like this."

Mr Bashir also said: "Every time it's 'racism', 'racism', 'racism'. We are trying to have a serious debate about immigration... Michael Heseltine said yesterday that everyone was a racist. Here I am. Here's my ethnicity."

'Stifling debate'

He went on: "We've just selected someone to run for Orpington as our potential MP. He's of Indonesian origin and Muslim. Here I am as a potential MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. Where is the racism?

"I'm of Pakistani background. I've worked hard in this country for 53 years. Where is the racism? If this was a racist party, would they select me?"

Asked about Mr Bloom's "bongo bongo land" comments, Mr Bashir said: "The party has distanced itself from those remarks, those two sentences... He's no longer going to run for the party."

He called recent criticism of UKIP "political correctness gone mad", which was "stifling the debate on racism".

"I'm someone of Pakistani background who lives in this country. I've experience racism. Lord Heseltine hasn't experienced these things. He doesn't know anything about racism," Mr Bashir said.

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