'Affable' Farage impresses despite 'liars' in UKIP ranks
Cigar-smoking leader wins praise as his party comes under scrutiny ahead of Thursday's local elections
NIGEL FARAGE labelled some of his own candidates "liars" this morning, but the UKIP leader remained cool as he faced fresh criticism about the ugly face of some members of his party.
Farage was questioned on the BBC Today programme about a story published in the Daily Mirror which revealed that Alex Wood, a UKIP candidate in Blackmore Vale, Somerset, had put a photograph of himself giving a Nazi salute on his Facebook page.
"It doesn't look very pretty," Farage admitted. "I agree with you that out of 1,700 candidates there are a handful who have embarrassed us precisely because they haven't told us the truth… We have a couple of very bizarre cases and two members who were former BNP who basically lied to us."
Wood this morning claimed his Facebook page had been "hacked". Farage said his party did not have the resources to trawl through the social media sites of all its candidates. It was a sticky moment for Farage, who had a furious spat at the weekend with veteran Tory MP Ken Clarke. Clarke accused UKIP of being packed with "racists".
But Farage drew praise for the affable way he handled the questions when he was confronted by John Humphrys, the Today programme's interrogator-in-chief. Tim Montgomery, former editor of the Tory grassroots website, ConservativeHome immediately Tweeted: "Stellar performance from @Nigel_Farage on @BBCr4today. Friendly. Direct. Reasonable. Stated some compelling views. A formidable opponent."
Farage, a cigar smoker, went on to defend UKIP policies for the lifting of the smoking ban in bars and laughed off Humphrys' suggestion that he was no better than a taxi-driver spouting right-wing policies from the cab.
Farage – described by Boris Johnson yesterday as a "rather engaging geezer" – has plenty to be affable about. A YouGov poll in The Sun this morning gives UKIP a record 14 per cent of the vote ahead of Thursday's local elections in the Tory shires. No wonder the Tories are getting rattled and David Cameron has gone on the attack, warning Tory voters that if they vote for UKIP, they will get Labour by default.
Farage's relatively affable encounter with Humphrys was in complete contrast to Ed Miliband's tetchy "car crash" interview with Martha Kearney on the World at One programme yesterday. The Labour leader was challenged more than ten times to admit his party's plans for reviving the economy would mean more immediate borrowing. At one point, the normally sweet-talking Kearney told 'Red Ed' that his ratings suggested he was more popular than Michael Foot, but less popular than Neil Kinnock. OUCH!