I have long had doubts about the suitability of UKIP’s newly-binned prospective Parliamentary candidate for Porstmouth South, Douglas Denny. When I first heard he had been selected by the local party, a quick bit of Googling soon revealed something of a horror story for a party keen to distance itself from allegations of bigotry and extremism. The Sunday Mirror ran a story on UKIP in January 2013 which quoted Mr Denny from a party members’ forum:
“Another member, Douglas Denny from the Bognor Regis branch in West Sussex, used the forum to attack gay sex as “disgusting”. He wrote: “What irritates me is they (sic) way they and their leftie, neo-Commie followers seem to want to force the rest of us to consider them as normal. I just wish they would keep their homosexual nature and practices to themselves and stop trying to ram it down my throat telling me they are ‘normal’ when they are not.”
Yesterday Denny said: “Private forums and private posts should stay private. I have no further comment to make and don’t wish to discuss it with a newspaper.”
The News eventually cottoned on to the story and asked Mr Denny if he had any comment to make:
“Mr Denny told The News he considered gay people to be ‘abnormal’ because they were a minority of the population.
He said: ‘I wish that they wouldn’t try to keep ramming it down my throat that they are normal in their sexual practices.’”
Of course he has a right to his opinion, nobody would dispute that. But we are entitled to judge it as we see fit, and in my view it is a repugnant, bigoted and extreme opinion which disqualifies him from representing a community as diverse as ours in Portsmouth. So I am delighted that he is no longer UKIP’s PPC. What on Earth Mrs Denny, who is a Portsmouth UKIP councillor herself, will do remains to be seen. Denny himself has started raving about his deselection being “immoral” and “deeply corrupt”.
What puzzles me are the internal operations of UKIP, locally and nationally. I first heard rumours in January this year that, having only recently voted him in as candidate, the local party might force Denny out:
Other UKIP news: the Portsmouth party now realise they have selected a no-hoper in Douglas Denny and are trying to see if they can boot him.
— Stuart Crow (@stucrow) January 17, 2014
About a week after that, Mike Hancock was in crisis after the breakdown of the “deal” he and Gerald Vernon-Jackson struck with Nick Clegg, and a frenzy of speculation erupted that there would be a by-election, that Farage would stand in it, and all sorts of other empty-headed nonsense. In the light of what happened at Clacton and Rochester, we now know that UKIP have no problem at all kicking a democratically-selected candidate out of the way if it suits the party, so perhaps Farage might have stood in place of Denny.
Then in May, the rumour emerged that Portsmouth South is on a list of UKIP ‘target seats’. I’m told by an unhappy Kipper that isn’t quite true; the party does have a list of primary targets, but Portsmouth South isn’t on it. The party will target resources here if Hancock stands, but otherwise they are scrapping with Labour for 3rd and 4th place. It was when this list was confirmed (and immediately leaked) that the decision was taken to remove Denny by the party HQ.
Confirmation that Denny was being removed only came on Wednesday, and it immediately split the local party, with chairman Cllr Stuart Potter saying he is “not happy” about the decision. It’s amazing that Denny himself seems to have been the last to know, and that the local party wasn’t even warned or consulted until the row had already broken on Twitter.
I’d caution Cllr Potter against being too public in his unhappiness, given Farage’s track record of punishing dissent. It is just as likely that Doug Denny was kicked out for daring to question the Supreme Leader as because the party has any pangs of conscience about bigotry. Have a look at this Youtube video and you will see the red mist descend as Farage responds:
Clearly, the antagonism between Denny and Farage goes back some way; Denny some years ago compared Farage to a “soggy sheep”. The News quotes Farage as saying, rather arrogantly, “As party leader, I don’t respond to people like Mr Denny.” But the evidence is that he clearly does listen to people like Mr Denny when they dare to question him, and that he sacks them.
The party in Portsmouth was already splitting over support for a motion, to be debated at the next full meeting of the City Council next Tuesday. Cllr Galloway, the UKIP group leader, is the seconder:
Cllr Galloway should be congratulated for taking a stand against the sordid activities of his party’s MEPs. Whether he survives for very long, having challenged Farage, only time will tell. Whether he survives at all, having split his own party, is another matter. There is a lot of unhappiness:
Cllr Swan has explained that she thinks the motion is “playing politics” with the Holocaust. I can think of circumstances and wordings of motions where that would be a fair objection, but I think she’s wrong in this specific case.
She later deleted the above tweet, no doubt not wanting to make the split in the local party any worse. The press have dubbed her a leading contender to take over from Denny, but Cllr Swan would need to be on the approved list of candidates to be eligible when the new selection process happens on December 12th. We know that another self-declared candidate, John Thompson, isn’t even a member of UKIP yet, but defectors seem to get preferential treatment. Mr Thompson’s candidacy is extraordinary, having been a Lib Dem councillor in Fareham some years ago and seems to be motivated by a desire to beat Mike Hancock. We don’t even know yet if Hancock will stand in 2015. I suspect he will, as he has become much more active at Westminster lately, and looks in better health than he has done for a long time.
Whoever is chosen to replace Mr Denny is going to have very little time to get going in the constituency, and they will be at the head of a divided party. Whoever is chosen will be selected by the same people who saw fit to select the homophobic Mr Denny. The way the whole affair has been handled reduces UKIP in Portsmouth to the same level of incoherence as city’s civil war-stricken Lib Dems.