LONDON – Bill Etheridge, a UK Independence Party (UKIP) Member of the European Parliament, triggered a storm of protests when it was disclosed that he told wouldbe parliamentary and local council candidates to emulate Hitler.
Throughout the last year, UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage has attempted to rid his fledgling party of extremists, however this latest episode and the publicity given to it, could tarnish UKIP’s chances in next May’s general and local elections.
Etheridge, who represents the West Midlands in the European Parliament and intends to stand for a Westminster constituency next year, was hired to lecture the Young Independence conference last weekend in Birmingham on public speaking.
About forty under 30-yearolds attended, most of whom are likely to stand in forthcoming elections.
According to the Mail on Sunday, he described the Nazi dictator as a “magnetic and forceful public speaker” who had “achieved a great deal” before advising the candidates to copy the rhetorical style Hitler deployed at the Nuremberg rallies.
“Look back to the most magnetic and forceful public speaker possibly in history.
When Hitler gave speeches, and many of the famous ones were at rallies, at the start he walks, back and forth, looked at people – there was a silence, he waited minutes just looking out at people, fixing them with his gaze” he is reported as saying.
He added, “They were looking back and he would do it for a while. And then they were so desperate for him to start, when he started speaking they were hanging on his every word.” He told the potential UKIP candidates that, “I’m not saying direct copy – pick up little moments.”
A senior Labor MP Mike Gapes described the report as “simply unbelievable.”
He said, “I thought nothing could surprise me anymore, but this just goes to show that Farage has completely failed to clean up his party.”
Etheridge later told the paper that he had mentioned other public speakers during his lecture, including Italy’s dictator Benito Mussolini. He claimed he had made clear that he thought that both Mussolini and Hitler had changed the world in a “very negative way.”
“I was talking about a whole range of public speakers and the techniques they used. I also mentioned Tony Blair but at no point did I endorse Hitler or anybody else. I was merely discussing public speaking and the techniques used down the years,” he said.
“Hitler and the Nazis were monsters and I am angry that I am even being asked questions about whether we would wish to be linked with them. Yet another cheap shot to deal with from the media.”
A UKIP party spokesman criticized the Mail on Sunday for running the story saying they were “disappointed but not surprised” that the Conservative Party supporting newspaper was “terrified by the rise of UKIP and apparently will stoop at nothing to attack the party.”
Etheridge, he added, had given a seminar on public speaking and highlighted great speakers of the past, like Churchill, Blair, Martin Luther King and Hitler as people whose style, not content could be studied.” He said, “during a period of respectful and pensive commemoration of those who gave their lives in war, the Tory Mail on Sunday’s tasteless and desperate front page attack is truly disgusting.”
Meanwhile Mark Gardner communications director of the Community Security Trust (CST) which tackles anti-Semitism on behalf of the Jewish Community told The Jerusalem Post: “It is clearly highly offensive to hear these reported remarks. UKIP needs to distance itself from them.”