'I now gather referring to bongo bongo land could cause offence': UKIP MEP issues half-hearted apology in foreign aid row
- Godfrey Bloom rebuked by party for comments at meeting with supporters
- Said foreign aid used 'to buy Ray-Ban sunglasses' and Paris apartments
- Today he stood by his remarks and denied they were racist
- But he said he regrets causing any offence and won't use phrase again
- Accused David Cameron of picking taxpayers pockets for charity
The outspoken MEP suggested foreigners used aid to ‘buy Ray-Ban sunglasses’ and ‘apartments in Paris’.
In a speech to activists in Birmingham last month he also complained about Pakistan buying ‘a new squadron of F18s’ with British money.
As a political storm grew over the remarks, he initially remained defiant.
He insisted he was standing up for 'ordinary people' and claimed only people in the ‘Westminster bubble’ would think referring to bongo bongo land it was racist.
But UKIP leader Nigel Farage ordered him to issue an apology.
In a carefully-worded statement Mr Bloom 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.’
He went on: ‘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.’
In the recording leaked to The Guardian Mr Bloom was heard saying: ‘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.’
The phrase 'bongo bongo land' was controversially used by former Tory minister Alan Clark to refer to Africa in the 1980s.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Farage said: 'Godfrey 100% right over foreign aid budget but pleased he's apologised over the wrong language he used.'
During a series of interviews defending his remarks today, Mr Bloom said people in Yorkshire would not think the term 'bongo bongo land' was racist because there is no such country.
Asked why he used the term when the majority of people would think of it as racist, he told Sky News: 'No, they wouldn't. They might in your Westminster bubble, your little world of Westminster, but out here in Hull and Yorkshire, where we tell it like it is, they don't feel it's racist at all.
GODFREY BLOOM: A MASTER OF COURTING CONTROVERSY
A former economist, he was elected as an MEP in 2004 and has been making headlines ever since with his views on women, climate change and Germans.
Soon after the Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire MEP was appointed to the European Parliament's Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality he declared that 'no self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age'.
He added that he wanted to deal with women's issues because: 'I just don't think they clean behind the fridge enough.'
On climate change he once remarked: 'As far as I am concerned man-made global warming is nothing more than a hypothesis that hasn't got any basis in fact.'
The bowler-hat wearing 63-year-old also admitted visiting brothels and argued that instead of being exploited most prostitutes 'do it because they want to'.
In 2010 he was ejected from a Brussels debate after using the Nazi slogan 'Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer' to insult German social democrat Martin Shulz.
Asked what he would do if he was reprimanded, he 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.'
The UKIP leadership believes Mr Bloom was right to speak out about the amount of money Britain spends overseas – equivalent to 0.7 per cent of GDP – but feared the row risked tarnishing the party’s image.
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 that needs wider discussion.'
Mr Bloom's remarks emerged in the week his party is due to publish its list of approved candidates for next year’s European elections – at which the party hopes to get the biggest share of the vote.
Two months ago UKIP leader Nigel Farage ensured an Italian MEP was expelled from UKIP’s European alliance for saying a black minister in Italy was part of a ‘government of bongo bongo’ who would want to impose ‘tribal traditions’, and would be better suited as a housekeeper.
Mr Bloom denied the phrase carried any suggestion of racism and stood by his comments, saying: ‘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.’
Today he went further, accusing David Cameron of 'treason' for giving taxpayers' money to charities working overseas while inflicting cuts at home.
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 citizens 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.
'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. If you don't believe that's (aid) treason - treason, I use the word advisedly - that's how I feel. That's it.'
‘It’s a personal thing but I’d hang the b****** myself.’
Mr Bloom’s remarks caused outrage among many MPs and campaigners.
Rushanara Ali, a Labour development spokesman, said: ‘If Nigel Farage is serious about getting rid of racism and intolerance in his party, he should take action against politicians who think it’s acceptable to speak of people in developing countries in that way.’
A spokesman for the anti-racism Hope Not Hate campaign said Mr Bloom’s remarks were reminiscent of the ‘Tory party of 1985’, when Alan Clark, former MP for Kensington and Chelsea, provoked outrage by referring to Africa as ‘bongo bongo land’ in an official meeting.
Laura Pidcock, from campaign group Show Racism the Red Card, said: '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.
'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,' she told the BBC.
Mr Bloom has previously caused controversy over comments he made about women.
The Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire MEP was criticised for asking why businesses would ever hire ‘a lady of child-bearing age’ and once joked that he wanted to get involved in women’s rights issues because ‘I just don’t think they clean behind the fridge enough’.
In April a leaked email from Mr Bloom suggested he was concerned about excessive 'political correctness' among new recruits to UKIP.
He also complained that forging UKIP's policy platform was like 'herding cats' and suggested the party could buy its policies 'off the shelf' from think-tanks.
Earlier this week Tory strategist Lynton Crosby was accused of planning a campaign to expose UKIP members as ‘extremists’.
It was suggested he wanted to launch a ‘below-the-radar’ operation to undermine UKIP politicians by catching them making embarrassing comments. This was denied by the Tories.