Yorkshire MEP Godfrey Bloom has had the UKIP party whip withdrawn after branding a roomful of women “sluts”.
The UK Independence Party Euro politician was suspended pending a formal disciplinary hearing after being adjudged to have “gone beyond the pale” by party leader Nigel Farage.
The outspoken 63-year-old, who has insisted his remark was a joke, further raised eyebrows when he hit Channel 4 journalist Michael Crick over the head with a copy of Ukip’s conference guide and then called him a racist after being confronted as they walked down a street over why there were “no black faces” on the cover of the conference brochure.
Mr Bloom’s latest public blunder was labelled as selfish by the Ukip leader yesterday, who said the politician’s behaviour was overshadowing “all the good things” at the Ukip party conference, in Westminster.
Mr Farage later told party members: “There is no media coverage of this conference. It’s gone. It’s dead. It’s all about Godfrey hitting a journalist and using an unpleasant word. It’s gone. And we can’t put up with it.”
Conference delegates applauded and he continued: “We can’t have any one individual, however fun or flamboyant or entertaining or amusing they are, we cannot have any one individual destroying Ukip’s national conference and that is what he’s done today.”
Pressed about the slut remark made during a meeting to increase the amount of women in politics, Mr Bloom told Sky News yesterday: “I made a joke and said ‘oh well you’re all sluts’ and everybody laughed including all the women.”
In a reference to previous comments, dating back to 2004, that he was keen to deal with women’s issues because they did not “clean behind the fridge enough”, a woman was recorded joking: “I, too, have never cleaned behind my fridge.”
Mr Bloom is then clearly heard responding “this place is full of sluts” on the audio clip recorded by the Huffington Post website.
In an interview explaining his use of the word, he later asked the BBC Newsnight political editor Allegra Stratton whether her mother ever called her a slut. “You’re untidy, you leave your kit lying around, has your mother never called you a slut?”
Ms Stratton, laughing, replied: “I don’t think she has. She’s called me other things but not that.”
“Perhaps you’re very tidy,” he said. “There was no malice, it was a joke, it was all on camera.”
The row came after Mr Farage, himself no stranger to controversy, accepted the media spotlight has exposed unpalatable views among the party’s “eclectic” membership and he had had a “blistering row” with Mr Bloom, although he did not give details.
But he insisted Ukip was “a free-thinking, egalitarian party opposed to racism, sectarianism and extremism” of all kinds.
Within hours, however, he was forced to explain Mr Bloom’s conduct, telling reporters: “The trouble with Godfrey is that he is not a racist, he’s not an extremist or any of those things and he’s not even anti-women but he has a sort-of rather old fashioned Territorial Army sense of humour which does not translate very well in modern Britain.
“What he ought to have learnt is that time and time again he says things that overshadow the whole agenda that Ukip is fighting for.”
He added: “My opinion is Godfrey has gone beyond the pale. He’s a friend of mine and I’m sorry to say it but he has gone beyond the pale and I think we have no option but to remove the whip from him.”
Mr Bloom sparked a storm of criticism earlier this year for an attack on Britain sending aid to “Bongo Bongo Land”.
It was the latest in a string of political gaffes that began in 2004, just weeks after he was elected and within hours of joining the European Parliament’s Women’s Rights Committee, when he was forced to deny that his claims no “self-respecting businessman with a brain in the right place” would hire a woman of child-bearing age were sexist.
In 2009 he was filmed congratulating the French for bombing Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior, which killed a photographer in 1985, and in 2010 was ejected from the European parliamentary chamber after making a Nazi jibe while a German MEP was speaking.
The row diverted attention from Mr Farage’s keynote speech, in which he predicted the party was on course to “cause an earthquake” by winning next year’s European elections in what will effectively be a referendum on Britain’s future EU membership.
Mr Farage said Britain is “moving Ukip’s way” on issues such as benefits, education and Europe.
It came a day after Mr Farage was forced to defend himself over claims he was viewed as a “fascist” at school. He described allegations made in a 1981 letter obtained by Channel 4 News that claims he marched through a Sussex village singing Hitler youth songs as “baloney”, saying he was a bolshy teenager who pushed boundaries.