Scotland’s UKIP hopeful defends “chummy” deal with Breivik fans; Farage cash-grab “not illegal”Posted: May 22, 2014
[Note: this was due for publication in today’s Morning Star, 22/05/14. But writing for tabloid newspapers is always an exhausting battle to cram vast amounts of information into a word count shorter than your average takeaway menu, and inevitably stuff gets cut for space. Here’s what we wanted to print but couldn’t.]
by Rory MacKinnon in Glasgow
UKIP’s bid to bolster its presence in Brussels with a Scottish seat hit the buffers again yesterday after protesters scuppered candidate David Coburn’s hopes for a folksy media event in a Glasgow supermarket.
The Morning Star was there as Shettleston Tesco Extra’s management led Mr Coburn away, heckled by the protesters.
Call centre worker Sam Baxter, who joined the protest, said it was important to confront UKIP wherever it appeared: “They spread racist lies, sit in alliance with fascist parties in Europe, and put forward ideas that harm working class people.”
The party’s allies in Brussels proved a thorny issue for Mr Coburn, whose leader Nigel Farage sought last week to dismiss comments by the alliance’s co-president Francesco Speroni praising Norway’s white supremacist mass murderer Anders Breivik for acting on “ideas [that] are in defence of western civilization”.
Mr Farage, who shares the presidency with Mr Speroni, had insisted his party tried to “draw a line”.
When quizzed yesterday, Mr Coburn told the Morning Star that UKIP had “to chummy up with all sorts of strange, weird and wonderful people”.
“In the European parliament in order to get speaking rights, every party whatever they are – the Labour party, the Liberal party, the Conservatives – all have to be in groups with people you wouldn’t want to take home to meet your mother”.
But Mr Coburn appeared unable to explain why UKIP, unlike Britain’s other MEPs, had allied with organisations like Speroni’s Lega Nord.
“There are no other parties,” he said.
Europe of Freedom and Democracy is one of seven active political groupings in the European parliament, with more than 200 parties between them.
Mr Coburn also appeared to falter when asked whether he approved of leader Nigel Farage’s decision to keep wife Kirsten Mehr on his payroll courtesy of parliamentary allowances worth up to £20,000 a year: an activity that the pro-austerity politician infamously listed among “games you could play” to acquire up to £250,000 a year in taxpayer funds.
Yet the European parliament’s officials had ordered MEPs as far back as 2009 to cease the practice in light of a rule change, with all close relatives and partners phased out by the 2014 election.
Mr Coburn initially denied any knowledge of the rules, saying he had “no idea what they are”, before insisting that Mr Farage had acted “according to the rules”.
“The rule is in the next parliamentary term that you’re no longer allowed to. But at this time you are.
“They were allowed to do it and will cease to be allowed to do it as of this year. But they are allowed to do it. Are you suggesting he’s done something illegal?”
“I’m just saying it’s not illegal,” he said.