The Ukip Vice-Chairman of Clayton Parish Council in Bradford, James Vasey, has resigned from the party over what he described as “vulgar and inappropriate comments” made by national leadership candidate Lisa Duffy, writes Nafees Mahmud.
Speaking in Westminster earlier this week, Ms Duffy – currently a councillor in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire – proposed banning the full face veil in certain public places such as transport networks, banks and shopping precincts.
The leadership hopeful also promised to ban Sharia councils and Muslim faith schools but made no mention of legal councils nor schools of other faiths.
Speaking to 5Pillars, Mr Vasey said Ms Duffy’s comments “don’t help integrate the people of Bradford; they seek to create a divide, and if this were to be the major policy platform of a political party, I don’t want to be associated with it.”
James Vasey joined Ukip in 2014 prior to which he was a member of the Conservatives. He switched parties as he felt the Tories no longer serve his core beliefs in individual liberty. He believes Ms Duffy’s comments also directly contradict this core principle of libertarianism.
Mr Vasey resigned in a letter to Jason Smith, Chairman of UKIP Bradford & District. In the letter he stated: “It is such a shame… that a leadership candidate in our party has called for Muslim faith schools, independent or state, to be closed down. You are no doubt aware that in my parish is the highly successful, and rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted, Jaamiatul Imaam Muhammad Zakaria School, an independent Muslim faith school.”
He continued: “Even if the leadership candidate is not elected, we do not live in an age where the selectorate (party members) hear a different message from the public. We cannot hide people saying stupid things and when a leadership candidate stands up and says they want to close down Muslim schools or prevent women from wearing the face veil in public, these matters resonate, people will associate all of the party and members with these comments… I do not want to be dragged down with them by association.”
Speaking to 5Pillars, Mr Vasey said Lisa Duffy’s comments “risk making Ukip end up as a mix between a poor man’s Donald Trump and Pegida.”
Duffy’s comments were also criticized by two of her fellow leadership contenders. Philip Broughton believes his party should not be “wanting to ban things. UKIP needs to be a broad based political party not a protest movement.” And his rival, MEP Bill Etheridge said: “I’d hate to think Lisa’s views represent the majority of UKIP members. She seems totally out of touch with branch activities. In Yorkshire and the Midlands we have a very diverse membership and we don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.”
In his resignation letter Mr Vasey said he was proud Ukip had three Muslim parliamentary candidates in Bradford in 2015. He also told 5Pillars he had never encountered Islamophobia in Ukip’s Bradford branch nor in the party nationally.
Whilst he thinks Ms Duffy’s comments were “stupid,” he doesn’t think she is Islamophobic. She has “simply not had the benefit of living in an ethnically diverse area like Bradford.”
Asked why he never stood down earlier this year when North West Ukip MEP Paul Nuttall called for a ban on the veil and Nigel Farage unleashed his controversial Breaking Point poster, Vasey replied: “Farage’s poster was wrong, let’s be clear about that. As for Paul Nutall’s comment, it was not declared to be Ukip’s top number one policy as Lisa is saying. She is saying ‘elect me on this basis.’ She has put this front and centre of Ukip”.
Having been elected without contest Vasey will continue as an Independent councillor and Vice Chairman of the council. His focus, he says, will remain on protecting of public services such as local libraries and securing funding for a new park.
5Pillars contacted Jason Smith to ask how Ms Duffy’s comments and Mr Vasey’s resignation might impact his party’s support in Bradford. He declined to comment.