- Russell Cheyne / Reuters
LONDON – UKIP’s colourful Scottish MEP David Coburn will bid to become the party’s new leader to reverse the “tremendous damage” caused by the outgoing Paul Nuttall, he told Business Insider on Monday.
Coburn, who leads UKIP in Scotland, said that he intends to put the party back on its “usual trajectory” by campaigning more vocally for grammar schools and restoring it to its libertarian roots. He also intends to increase the party’s focus on preserving the Union.
Coburn is a controversial figure. He has compared SNP minister Humza Yousaf to convicted terrorist Abu Hamza, he was accused of calling rival SNP candidate Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh “Pashmina, Jasmine, and Tamzin,” and he was mercilessly trolled by internet pranksters during an attempt to conduct a live television broadcast.
He said he would immediately step aside from the leadership campaign if close friend Nigel Farage announces a bid, describing the former leader as “the best man for the job.”
“Brexit isn’t done and dusted”
Nuttall announced that he would resign as leader after UKIP collected less than 500,000 votes in last week’s general election – with a vote share of around 2% – as voters flocked to the Conservatives and Labour. The party faced a £168,500 bill as 337 of its candidates failed to gain the 5% vote share required to keep their £500 deposits.
Many have predicted that last week’s election spells the end for UKIP with Theresa May courting the party’s 2015 votes, but Coburn said that the party will gain support again when voters realise Brexit is “not done and dusted.”
“Many people thought UKIP had done its job, but clearly we haven’t. We still have to make sure it’s a hard Brexit and I’m going to be there to ensure that happens,” he said.
“The Tory party has moved onto our policies for the time being but that won’t last. Once they feel they’re back in the saddle, they’ll revert to type again. I want to make sure we are there to pick those votes up.”
“I also want to make sure we’re a Unionist party. There’s a sense of English nationalism [associated with the current party] which I don’t think is welcome any more than Scottish nationalism,” he said.
Nuttall was “extremely ill-advised”
Coburn said the party fared badly in the election because Nuttall was “extremely ill-advised” by a “small clique” of people around him, saying that very few people had seen the party’s manifesto before it was published. He pledged to run a more “inclusive” party.
The most widely-mocked part of UKIP’s manifesto was a pledge to ban the burka – a face veil worn by some Muslim women – partly on the grounds that it could cause the wearer a Vitamin D deficiency.
Coburn said he supported the party’s previous policy of opposing all face coverings in public.
“Nuns used to wear wimples, people may want to cover their hair in an Islamic fashion, but the thing is that I think face coverings are really too much. I think it’s divisive and most importantly I think it’s a security issue as well.”
“I am just as opposed to people wearing crash helmets when they go to banks as I do people wearing face coverings. We’ve got to be sensible about that,” he said.
Coburn later clarified that he did not advocate a ban on nuns wearing wimples.