Ukip leadership hopeful Bill Etheridge calls for BBC to be privatised


A Ukip leadership hopeful has called for the BBC to be privatised to stop voters having "left-wing propaganda rammed down our throats".

Four of the five candidates campaigning to replace Nigel Farage at the top of Ukip addressed party members in Westminster on Thursday evening during the final leadership hustings of the race.

And arguably the loudest cheer of the night was reserved for MEP Bill Etheridge who suggested the national broadcaster should be sold off.

Mr Etheridge said: "Ladies and gentleman, I'm so glad we have coverage here for this tonight because I know how much they are going to enjoy this: I want the BBC privatised.

"We pay taxpayers' money to have left-wing propaganda rammed down our throats."

He said the BBC should "stop picking our pockets to feed us this stuff that we don't want to hear".

Mr Etheridge also acknowledged divisions within his party as he said a "difference of philosophy, a difference of belief" existed within Ukip.

He said some figures in the party had been "downright disloyal" to Ukip and to Mr Farage, while others seemed to be "in thrall to big money donations".

"People who have done that, especially the one responsible for hijacking our 2015 manifesto, need to think on before they continue to attack this party," he said.

Mr Etheridge was joined at the event by fellow candidates Elizabeth Jones, Lisa Duffy and Phillip Broughton.

However the fifth candidate in the race, Diane James, did not attend.

Ms James, the favourite to win the leadership contest, faced criticism from her fellow candidates for not turning up.

She has been conducting her own leadership events.

Ms Jones was one of the candidates to directly address the absence of Ms James.

She said: "There has been one leadership candidate notable by her complete absence. Even tonight at our finale, at the very final hustings, I would like to ask, where are you Diane James, in the cut and thrust of our leadership election?"

The candidates faced a broad selection of questions from audience members.

They were asked how much they thought the Ukip leader should be paid.

Ms Jones said she would work for free. She said: "I don't need a salary. I will do it for free. I really need to see us leave the EU. I want Brexit to happen."

Candidates were also asked what they thought the party's post-Brexit aim should be.

All of them stressed the importance of increasing Ukip's representation in Parliament.

Mr Broughton said: "Our main purpose going forward should be to win as many Westminster seats as we can. It's as simple as that."

The candidates seemed to agree that targeting Labour seats was the best way to make that happen.

Referencing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's recent row with Virgin Trains over seating, Ms Duffy said: "Whilst they are looking for empty train seats we are actually going to be taking their votes."

The winner of the leadership contest will be announced at Ukip's annual conference in Bournemouth on September 15.

Mr Farage announced his resignation as Ukip leader in the wake of the UK's vote to leave the European Union on June 23.