Raheem Kassam: 'Former BNP members should be allowed to join Ukip'

Raheem KassamBBC screengrab

A Ukip leadership hopeful has said the party should end a blanket ban on former members of far-right groups like the British National Party (BNP) from joining.

Raheem Kassam, a former aide to Nigel Farage, said Ukip membership should in the future be decided on a "case-by-case basis" and said those who renounced far-right views should be welcomed into the party.

Current party rules impose a strict ban on granting membership to anyone who had been members of groups like the BNP, the National Front, the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First.

Advertisement

The ban had previously been used by Farage to counter accusations his party harboured members with extreme far-right views.

Kassam, currently editor-in-chief of alt-right news website Breitbart London, said he wasn't talking about rewriting party rules but instead changing "an interpretation of the rule".

In response to a question during a Facebook Live video, he wrote: "I said we would hear individual people's arguments on a case-by-case basis for why they deserve to be in Ukip and why their BNP membership was an accident or mistake.

"People, especially people who don't study and follow politics all day every day, make mistakes sometimes. We need to be forgiving and help people who want to reform do so. Otherwise what? They will always be disenfranchised and that creates division."

He insisted the policy was "definitely not opening the doors" to far-right activists when asked whether the rule change could lead to a backlash from those concerned it could taint Ukip's image.

A Ukip NEC source told PoliticsHome the prospect of ex-members of far-right groups being admitted to the party was "highly concerning".

"I think that would be highly dangerous for the party's future and highly toxic," the source said.

Advertisement

Kassam is one of several candidates looking to take over the leadership of Ukip after Farage's replacement, Diane James, quit after just 18 days as party leader.

© Copyright 2017 IBTimes Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.