Public believe UKIP is ‘overflowing with homophobes’ warns member
A leading, gay UKIP member has warned that the party has to “open its eyes” if it is to win the support of the LGBT community.
Richard Hendron – who organised UKIP’s controversial involvement with this year’s London Pride parade – told a party conference that their attempts to change their homophobic reputation had been a “catastrophic failure.”
He also claimed homophobic comments made by UKIP leader Nigel Farage and other party members had cost them “tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands” of votes.
“UKIP does not have the trust and confidence of the LGBT community,” he stated.
“We are perceived to be on the side of the bigots, as opposed to the side of say the gay lesbian couple who may be immigrants, but none the less who want to work hard, provide for their family and contribute to society.”
Criticising the party as one that is only known for its “white heterosexual male” members, he added, “UKIP is not seen as a party that supports diversity, values difference or tackles discrimination.
“The perception is that UKIP is overflowing of homophobes racist and bigots of all descriptions.”
Mr Hendron said that he blames the public’s distorted impression of the party on its leadership, attacking Farage – who attended the conference – directly, as well as the comments he made about HIV sufferers in the run up to this year’s general election.
He said: “We must show more sensitivity and understanding. To be clear choosing HIV medication as a topic to target did no one least of all Nigel Farage any favours.
“People living with HIV and Aids in the country already suffer unimaginable stigma and Nigel or the party did not help that.
“Why Nigel chose HIV to target over less stigmatised conditions such as cancer is beyond me. We must not defend the un-defensible.”
Using the party’s London Pride ban this year as an example, Mr Hendron said he he believed the party had been banned from taking part, “partly because, and regrettably, the perception is that UKIP does anything but support LGBT issues and anything but support equality.”
“I had many people speak to me along the route and ask, ‘How is it as a gay man can I could support a homophobic party’.
“I also had many people say to me, ‘You must be brave being openly Gay in UKIP’
“It was only at Pride that I fully realised the gravity of the situation that UKIP is in.”
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Mr Hendron told those in the room who disagreed with him to, “open your eyes because if they were open you would realise just how badly” UKIP is perceived.
“I am sure that many of you sitting there will be thinking right now, ‘UKIP’s not homophobic, UKIP’s not racist’, and to a large extent I agree”, he said.
“But just simply saying we are not homophobic does nothing to tackle those within the party who may be.
“Simply saying we are not homophobic does nothing to win the support, trust & confidence of such communities.
“We must stop being in denial, stop talking sound bites, we must stop talking and put words into action.”
Last month, UKIP’s only elected MP also attacked party leader Farage over the comments he made about HIV-positive migrants and “health tourism” in the lead up to May’s election.
Douglas Carswell said: “I think some of the tone that we deployed – for example the comments about HIV I think were plain wrong. Wrong at so many levels.
“Not just wrong because they were electorally unhelpful but just wrong because they were wrong.”