UKIP politician blasts own party as ‘vehicle for hate’ towards gay people
Another UKIP politician has quit the party, branding it a “vehicle of hate” towards gay people and Muslims.
The pro-Brexit UK Independence Party has faced an exodus of moderate members and officials after its new leader Gerard Batten led a drive to adopt more extreme stances and admit members with links to white supremacists.
The party unveiled a divisive new manifesto last month that included pledges to gut LGBT+ rights laws and ban inclusive sex education in primary schools. Senior UKIP officials at the party’s conference described transgender-inclusive education as “child abuse.”
UKIP Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Bill Etheridge announced his resignation from the party on Tuesday, just days after the departure of fellow MEP William Dartmouth.
In a resignation letter addressed to Batten, Etheridge said: “The changes you have made since becoming leader have changed the party beyond all recognition. You have allowed your personal obsessions free reign.
“The party is now seen by large swathes of the British public as a vehicle for hate towards Muslims and the gay community.”
The letter raised objections to Batten’s manifesto policies which “you and your entourage have imposed.”
Etheridge added: “While there is a place for extreme nationalist and reactionary views in politics and I defend the right of you and others to hold and express your opinions, I do not believe these were the opinions and policies that UKIP MEPs were elected to represent.”
The MEP had been a rare proponent of LGBT+ rights within UKIP, calling on the party over several years to embrace rights reforms and clamp down on a spate of homophobic candidates.
In his resignation on September 26, William Dartmouth also raised homophobia, claiming the party had been “hijacked” by extremists and had become “widely perceived as both homophobic and anti-Islamic.”
The party won 24 European Parliament seats at the last election in 2014, but now holds just 16, following an assortment of feuds and scandals.
Seven former UKIP MEPs (Bill Etheridge, Janice Atkinson, Jonathan Arnott, Jim Carver, William Dartmouth, Diane James and Steven Woolfe) now sit as independents, while one (Amjad Bashir) defected to the Conservative Party. One MEP, Roger Helmer, resigned his seat entirely, permitting UKIP to assign a replacement.
The party holds few official positions of power outside of the European Parliament. UKIP has no MPs and holds just 0.5 percent of local council seats across the UK.
The leadership of UKIP’s LGBT+ group resigned en masse in March in protest of the party’s hardline views.
The leadership of the party’s LGBT+ group all resigned after Batten appointed Alan Craig to serve as Families and Children spokesman, despite a long history of extreme views on LGBT+ rights and criticism of gay parenting.
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Craig, who has repeatedly referred to the LGBT+ lobby as the ‘Gaystapo’ and other terms evoking Nazi imagery, came under scrutiny during the 2015 election when it emerged he had ties to gay ‘cure’ practitioners.
PinkNews broke the news that Craig was set to speak at the ‘Transformation Potential’ event for people trying to cure “unwanted same-sex attraction,” hosted by the Core Issues Trust.
Craig dropped out of the event following the PinkNews report.
Dartmouth had been among those critical of Craig’s appointment earlier this year, raising objections in a meeting with Batten in July 2018.
According to a previous statement on his website, Dartmouth “questioned the appointment of Mr Alan Craig as a newly created national spokesman on Family Affairs and Children… [and] pointed out that according to many press reports Mr Craig had made homophobic remarks.”