A UK Independence Party Euro MP who complained about taxpayer-funded aid going to “bongo bongo land” says he will not use the term again after being rebuked by his party’s leadership.
Godfrey Bloom, Ukip MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, was recorded questioning the UK’s overseas aid payments, claiming the recipients spend the money on luxuries.
He told a meeting of supporters in the Midlands that those who received aid spent the money on “Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, Ferraris and all the rest of it”.
In a statement issued last night, Mr Bloom said he never intended to cause any offence and now understood that he must not use the phrase in the future.
He said: “At a public speech in the West Midlands in early July, I used a term which I subsequently gather under certain circumstances could be interpreted as pejorative to individuals and possibly cause offence.
“Although quite clearly no such personal usage was intended, I understand from Ukip party chairman Steve Crowther and leader Nigel Farage that I must not use the terminology in the future, nor will I and sincerely regret any genuine offence which might have been caused or embarrassment to my colleagues.
“My aim, successful as it appears, was to demonstrate the immorality of sending £1 billion per month abroad when we are desperately short of money here. Ring-fenced overseas aid at nearly 70 per cent of estimated GDP growth next year, some to buy arms – Mirage fighters in Argentina for example.
“My constituents come first and always will.”
Earlier, Ukip chairman Steve Crowther said: “We are asking Godfrey not to use this phrase again, as it might be considered disparaging by members from other countries. However, foreign aid is an extremely important debate.”
Mr Bloom said charity began at home and he believed he was standing up for “ordinary people” who were unrepresented.
He said: “What I am suggesting is, when a country has £1 trillion of debt and we’re cutting our hospitals, our police force and our defence services, that the money should stay at home. What I would argue is that is for the individual citizen, it’s not for the likes of David Cameron to pick our pockets and send money to charities of his choice.
He added: “There are people in this country who can’t get treatment for cancer. There are people who are waiting in a queue for dialysis machines. Charity begins at home.”
Asked if he believed some people might be offended by his comments, as UK aid money helped people who were dying, Mr Bloom said: “No. I think I’m standing up for ordinary people at the pub, the cricket club, the sort of people who remain completely unrepresented under the political system we have.”
In response to suggestions that people might not want to vote for a party that had a member who referred to “bongo bongo land”, Mr Bloom added: “We live in a free country, I’m a libertarian. Please don’t vote for me if you don’t agree with me. I wouldn’t expect you to.”
In the footage of his July speech at the meeting in Wordsley, near Stourbridge, Mr Bloom said: “How we can possibly be giving a billion pounds a month, when we’re in this sort of debt, to bongo bongo land is completely beyond me.”
Later in the speech, herailed against the European Court of Human Rights for ruling against full life sentences. He said: “You can torture people to death, but you jolly well can’t give them a full life sentence because that’s against their human rights.”