Yorkshire MEP tries to shrug off criticism of “bongo bongo land” comments

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A UKIP MEP who represents Bridlington and Yorkshire in the European Parliament has dismissed the furore over comments he made about overseas aid and joked that he will apologise to the ambassador of “bongo bongo land” if anyone is offended by what he said.

Godfrey Bloom, Ukip MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, was recorded questioning the UK’s overseas aid payments, claiming the recipients - from a fictional “bongo bongo land” spend the money on luxuries.

He told a meeting of supporters in the Midlands those who received aid spent the money on “Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, Ferraris and all the rest of it”.

Asked what he would do if Ukip said “mind your language”, Mr Bloom told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’d say, Righto, sorry, sorry everybody’. If I’ve offended anybody in bongo bongo land I shall write to the ambassador at the Court of St James’s and apologise to him personally.

“Look, my job is to upset The Guardian and The BBC - I love it, I love it.”

Mr Bloom said charity begins at home and he believed he was standing up for “ordinary people” who are unrepresented in the current political system.

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 we are destroying our defence services, that the money should stay at home and people who want to give money to worthwhile charities... 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.

“If I want to send money to charity, I will do it of my own accord thank you.”

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. All I’m saying is, and I think you’ll find most of your listeners will agree with me rather than The Guardian, that money should stay at home. Charity begins at home.”

When questioned if he believed some people might be offended by his comments as UK aid money helps people who are dying, Mr Bloom said: “No I think I’m standing up for ordinary people at the pub, the cricket club, the rugby club, the sort of people who remain completely unrepresented under the political system that we have.”

Mr Bloom, in response to suggestions people might not want to vote for a party that had a member who referred to “bongo bongo land”, 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.

“But if you’re fed up with £1 billion a month going abroad with no audit trail when we’re cutting our police and hospitals, vote for me.”

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.

“To buy Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, Ferraris and all the rest of it that goes with most of the foreign aid. F18s for Pakistan. We need a new squadron of F18s. Who’s got the squadrons? Pakistan, where we send the money.”

A Ukip spokesman told The Guardian Mr Bloom’s comments were being “discussed right at the very highest level of the party”.

Later in the speech, Mr Bloom railed against the European Court of Human Rights for ruling that full life sentences could not be handed down.

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.

“We can’t hang them because we’re now a member of the European Union and it’s embedded in the treaty of Rome.

“It’s a personal thing, but I’d hang them myself.”

He added: “I do hope they would ask me to throw the rope over the beam because I’d be delighted to do so.”

Mr Bloom told The Guardian his comments were not racist.

He said: “What’s wrong with that? I’m not a wishy-washy Tory. I don’t do political correctness. The fact that the Guardian is reporting this will probably double my vote in the north of England.”

Laura Pidcock, from campaign group Show Racism the Red Card, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What I can tell you is that in the classrooms that I visit as an anti-racism education worker, these crude stereotypes that see Britain as a civilised place and overseas as tribal is an extremely homogenising sentiment and I think it’s incredibly damaging.

“I think what Godfrey needs to understand is that intention is irrelevant in defining the outcome of prejudice or the existence of prejudice and actually who defines what political correctness is? Political correctness is not homogenising people, is not saying that they are the ones who need to be civilised - they are still part of this colonial idea of bongo drums.

“Actually he needs to understand that it is highly offensive and what he meant by it isn’t important - it’s the outcome that’s important.”

Labour MP Rushanara Ali, shadow minister for international development, told the BBC Mr Bloom’s comments were an “offensive set of remarks” and commended British people for being among the most generous in giving to charity.

She said: “They donate a huge amount of money themselves and they recognise that Britain has led the way on international development.”

She added: “Of course there will be some people who, like Godfrey, have got a very narrow-minded, very objectionable set of views who will make offensive comments about an entire continent.

“But that thankfully is a small minority of people. Most people will recognise, yes times are tough, we need to spend our money effectively, but there’s a great value in supporting developing countries because these are the economies that we are starting to trade with and in future we will be doing more of that.

“And we need to look to Asia, to Africa, to improve our economic fortunes. We can’t do that if those countries face extreme poverty and they cannot do well and thrive economically. That’s when we start to see the gains both for ourselves as well as the populations of that country.”