Tackling radical Islam 'next big battle' for Ukip, leadership candidate says


Tackling radical Islam should be "the next big battle" for Ukip following its successes over migration and the European Union, leadership candidate Suzanne Evans has said.

Her stance was echoed by the frontrunner in the race to succeed Nigel Farage, former deputy leader Paul Nuttall, who told a campaign hustings in London: "We need to tackle radical Islam. We need to say 'No' to Sharia courts in our towns and cities and 'No' to any Saudi funding of mosques in our country."

And a third candidate, London Assembly member Peter Whittle said the party must defend "British values and British institutions" by "fighting the advance of Sharia law" and enforcing the legal ban on female genital mutilation (FGM).

Mr Nuttall was loudly applauded at the first hustings of Ukip's second leadership election in a matter of months as he declared his ambition to replace Labour as "the party of patriotic working class people"

And he declared: "Ladies and gentlemen, we are the future. We have a fantastic opportunity to not only ensure that Brexit means Brexit but to shape the future of our country."

Mr Nuttall has positioned himself as the "unity" candidate following vicious faction fighting within Ukip which has seen the party described as being in a "death spiral" by MEP Steven Woolfe, who pulled out of the leadership contest after being involved in an altercation at the European Parliament.

In an LBC radio debate ahead of the hustings, the former deputy leader admitted Ukip had been "dysfunctional" over the past year and appealed for feuding activists to "let bygones be bygones".

At the hustings, rival candidate John Rees-Evans said that "Ukip is sick" as he set out plans for members to determine policies for the party's manifesto. The party was currently "pandering to the Westminster bubble" and trying to "get pally with the media" rather than following its members wishes, he said.

Ms Evans, who presented herself as the candidate able to "reach out" beyond Ukip's traditional support and attract ethnic minorities and Labour voters, said it was time for the party to fight multiculturalism as strongly as it previously tackled uncontrolled migration.

And she said: "One of things I feel very strongly about is radical Islam. I really think this is where the next big battle is going to be fought. The EU we've fought, immigration we've fought. This is, I think, the next big battle.

"I want to fight this from a feminist perspective, because I think the way women are treated by Sharia law and FGM is staggering. How can this be happening in our country in this day and age?

"I get so angry about the fact that I have certain rights as a white middle-class woman that a woman in a minority community doesn't have. That is unacceptable."

Following speculation that victory over Brexit has left Ukip a spent force, Mr Nuttall said that the way forward for the party was to "replace the Labour Party".

"We replace them and we take away a party that dislikes our flag, refuses to sing our anthem and says nice things about the IRA," he said. "We replace them and we become the party of the patriotic working class."

Mr Whittle told the audience of around 200 that he would like to see every school in the UK flying the Union flag and putting a picture of the Queen on the wall.

And he said it was "disgusting" that Olympic gymnast Louis Smith should be subjected to a "show trial" after being caught on video mocking Islamic prayers.

During the earlier radio debate, the four candidates split over capital punishment.

While Ms Evans and Mr Whittle opposed the death penalty, Mr Nuttall said he backed its reintroduction for child killers and Mr Rees-Evans said he would bring it back for paedophiles and child murderers.

Challenged over whether all paedophiles should be executed, Mr Rees-Evans said "Yes", before adding that he would not necessarily impose the death penalty in cases involving "someone who looked 18 and was 15-and-a-half".

"It obviously depends what you define as a paedophile," he said. "I would have the death penalty for somebody who is (targeting) pre-pubescent (children)."