Ukip Demands Apology From Swedish Broadcaster

Nigel Farage
The leader of Britain's United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage announces his party's key election pledges in central London yesterday REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The British Ukip party, which wants stricter controls on UK immigration, has demanded a "contrite apology" from Swedish public broadcaster SVT after a reporter referred to the party as an "extreme right-wing populist party" during a news programme.

The Swedish correspondent was reporting from Brussels about the UK prime minister David Cameron's tough line on immigration, when he made the comment. A member of the Swedish public subsequently reported SVT's 'Aktuellt' news programme to Sweden's media watchdog.

According to local media, the reporter said: "How many [immigrants] can be restricted and how many can be blocked? This is a political debate being driven by Ukip, and Cameron now needs to stem the flow from his party to the extreme right-wing populist party, so that's why he is doing this."

But the Swedish Broadcasting Authority, Granskningsnämnden, ruled yesterday that the comments meant that SVT had not remained "duly impartial" in its coverage, a ruling that SVT rejected.

In a statement, SVT partly defended its coverage, arguing that "the phrase 'extreme right-wing' could have been nuanced more in the segment but should be viewed in the context of a quick live report delivered at short notice in a vibrant city environment and with very limited time in the programme."

Ukip, despite a string of controversial statements and gaffes from party members over the years, has long maintained that although the party wants stricter restrictions on immigration, it is not racist.

Responding to the comments, Ukip's migration spokesman Steven Woolfe MEP defended his party, describing it as both "moderate" and "libertarian". He said: "Ukip looks forward to a contrite apology from Swedish TV. As a moderate party, we welcome members and candidates of all races and religions. Unlike other major British political parties, we bar from membership anybody who has ever been in an extreme party of the left or right".

"As someone of mixed race myself with African, Irish and Jewish heritage, I am a member of Ukip because its migration policy welcomes people on merit rather than ethnicity," Woolfe continued. "We are a moderate libertarian party which believes in liberty and democratic self-determination - there is nothing either left-wing or right-wing about that."

Nigel Farage, the Ukip party leader, launched his party's campaign yesterday in London ahead of the UK general elections at the beginning of May. He vowed to put David Cameron under pressure on the issue of immigration, implement better control of the UK's borders, and cut foreign aid spending.

"We are the only party in this campaign saying Britain should have a trade relationship with Europe, but not membership of the European Union," Farage told reporters yesterday. "Directly as a consequence of that, we are the only party in this election that is actually offering a solution to the immigration crisis."

Earlier this year, newspapers reported that the party was in "crisis", with one parliamentary candidate standing down after complaining of a culture of bullying and racism within the party. In the past, Farage's more controversial suggestions include denying migrant children automatic access to the UK's state-funded education system. Last year, he suggested live on air he would be nervous if a group of Romanians or Bulgarians moved in next door to him.

The party is currently polling in the low double figures, and Mr Farage himself is contesting the South Thanet seat in Kent.