‘Golliwog’ row MEP quits UKIP

Bill Etheridge, seen as leader of UKIP’s libertarian faction, with ex-partner Lorraine Chew

The latest leading figure to quit UKIP is West Midlands MEP and former leadership candidate Bill Etheridge. This follows last week’s resignation of the Earl of Dartmouth, MEP for SW England.

Mr Etheridge is perhaps best known for the incident in 2011 when he and his then wife Star Etheridge (who were both Conservative council candidates) were forced to quit the Tories after they posted images of golliwogs (seen as a ‘racist’ symbol) on Facebook.

A remarkable number of UKIP’s MEPs have quit since the party’s finest hour in 2014 when it elected 24 members to the Brussels / Strasbourg parliament.

Roger Helmer (East Midlands) quit the Parliament entirely in July 2017, but the rest of the defectors have continued to sit as independents or for other parties. Janice Atkinson (SE England) was expelled in March 2015; former leadership candidate Steven Woolfe (NW England) left UKIP in October 2016 and has recently applied to join the Tories; former leader Diane James (SE England) left in November 2016; Jim Carver (West Midlands) walked away from UKIP in May 2018.

And within the last ten days Dartmouth and Etheridge have been the latest departures.

Bill Etheridge was forced to quit the Tories in 2011 after he and his then wife posted golliwog pictures on Facebook.

Bill Etheridge has long been seen as leader of the ‘libertarian’ faction in UKIP, which until recently was seen as especially strong among the party’s younger members. These are people whose main interest in politics is what they see as extending the Thatcher revolution – shrinking the state, cutting taxes and reducing the ‘burden’ of regulation on business.

The likes of Etheridge are far less concerned about issues such as immigration.

In his resignation letter to UKIP chairman Gerard Batten, Etheridge wrote:

“The changes you have made since becoming leader have changed the party beyond all recognition.

“You have allowed your personal obsessions free rein. The party is now seen by large swathes of the British public as a vehicle for hate towards Muslims and the gay community.

“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.”

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