JUSTIN WEBB: The news that the UKIP leader, Gerard Batten has appointed Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who uses the name Tommy Robinson as his advisor on rape gangs and prison reform is being greeted by some with a shrug – a sense that that was anyway the direction that UKIP was travelling in, but by others with either outrage, because Tommy Robinson is regarded by them as a thug, or with concern about UKIP’s ability to influence people in the mainstream of British politics. Among those who've expressed concerns in the past about UKIP flirting with the far-right is the former leader Nigel Farage and Mr Farage is on the line. Morning to you.
NIGEL FARAGE: Good morning.
JW: What do you say to Gerard Batten about this appointment?
NF: Well I'm appalled. I mean the NEC of the party voted overwhelmingly last week not to have a ballot of members to let the man potentially join the party, but Gerard Batten’s got this sort of fixation with Tommy Robinson and discussing Islam and dragging UKIP into a direction of effectively being a sort of street activist party, right at the moment when we have a betrayal of Brexit going on by both the Conservative and Labour parties, where UKIP’s potential reach out amongst the electorate is the highest it's ever been. This narrows it down. It goes against all the things I did as leader, to say we will talk about immigration, we will talk about the extreme forms of Islam, but we'll do it as a non-racist, non-sectarian party. This blows a hole in all of that.
JW: Does it blow a hole to the extent that it kills UKIP?
NF: Well I haven't given up yet. I will be writing to the National Executive Committee of the party today, urging that we have a vote of no confidence in Gerard Batten as leader, that we get rid of him. I'll be meeting the UKIP MEPs, those that haven't already resigned, in Brussels on Wednesday next week. We’re going to have one last go at getting rid of somebody who as leader is dragging us in a shameful direction. And even worse . . .
JW: (interrupting) And if he stays on, let me just ask you this, if he stays on will you resign?
NF: Well, why should I? I mean I've been, you know, I was a founder member of it. I've been there right from the very start.
JW: Well, I suppose because I mean the answer to that would be because it has moved in the direction you've just described . . .
NF: Well . . .
JW: . . . and doesn't represent you anymore?
NF: Well, it’s moving in that direction because the leader’s taking it there. He doesn't have the support of the party to do this. Even a poll of party members shows that his issues are very low down on our list of priorities. So no, I'm going to fight try and save it, but if it continues in this direction electorally it is finished.
JW: Of course, there are people who’ll be listening and saying, ‘Come on, this is just hypocrisy from Nigel Farage because he started UKIP down this path,’ and people remember that Breaking Point poster during the referendum campaign et cetera et cetera, the use of ‘the other’, the use of a fear of strangers to whip up support . . .
NF: (speaking over) Well . . .
JW: . . . actually that was you. And the difference between you and Ukip might be now that they don't do it so subtly but you still did it?
NF: No I wanted to talk about real issues, issues that politicians are afraid of, issues about uncontrolled mass immigration, illegal immigration, the growth of terrorism across Europe, the huge mistakes that the EU made people coming across the Mediterranean . . .
JW: (speaking over) But you had posters with Syrian refugees, you were never really (word unclear due to speaking over)
NF: (speaking over) How do you know they were Syrian refugees? And why were they refugees when almost every single one of them was a young male between 18 and 30 years old? Hardly any of them would ever have qualified as refugees. And I wanted to have these conversations, but to do so from a political party that did it from a non-racist . . .
JW: (speaking over) But that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s the conversation that leads to this and it leads to appointment of Tommy Robinson?
NF: (speaking over) Well if you don’t have this . . . if you don't have this conversation, you don't get parties like UKIP doing well, you don't get referendums happening in the country and then the far right does exist. If I've got one real achievement in British politics is that I did pretty much single-handedly kill off the BNP.
JW: Hmm. You said at the beginning that you didn't approve of what Gerard Batten was doing, you want him to step down as leader, does that mean you're going to step up again?
NF: Oh that . . . this is not about me. This is about UKIP being a sane electoral vehicle and even worse than that. What Batten and Robinson are now planning is a Brexit march in London on the 9th of December. They've decided they want to put Tommy Robertson up there as a big player in the Brexit debate too and that's . . . and that is far more important than UKIP. That will damage the Leave cause in this country. So from every single aspect it's time we got rid of Gerard Batten and reclaimed the party.
JW: Do you . . . a final one on Brexit, do you fear another referendum? Because you've sort of flirted with the idea of having one, haven’t you?
NF: Well, I’ve said, over a year ago, that we have to face up to the possibility that it could happen, and that's because our parliamentary system can't cope with Brexit. Most of our MPs don't agree with Brexit. And I would say it's now 50/50 whether we're going to get a suspension of Article 50 that could well lead to it.
JW: (speaking over) And do you fear it?
NF: I don’t fear it, but I think for our democracy it would be a dreadful thing. But if it, if it happens, if we have to fight that battle again, we'll win it again.
JW: Nigel Farage, thank you.