Inside Croydon has discovered that Winston McKenzie, UKIP’s most high-profile black member until he resigned last week amid accusations of racism in the party, openly used homophobic language in communication with Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader.
McKenzie texted a message to Farage complaining about “bloody queers”, but the high-profile UKIP leader neither rebuked his friend and colleague nor took any sanction against the sometime chair of his party’s Croydon North branch.
And McKenzie, who has admitted that his political ambitions in the past were thwarted by a police investigation into his running of a pub in Thornton Heath, may yet be subject to further enquiries over his accounting for thousands of pounds of donations made to UKIP towards election campaigns in 2014 and 2015.
McKenzie’s own brand of bigotry has been displayed in Croydon before. “A caring loving home is a heterosexual or single family,” McKenzie said in 2012, when he was his party’s candidate in the Croydon North by-election. “I don’t believe [a gay couple] is healthy for a child.”
As well as opposing gay marriage, McKenzie also described adoption by gay couples as “akin to child abuse”.
That ill-judged outburst appeared to be tolerated at the time by Farage, who described McKenzie as “the only candidate in this by-election that is opposed to the imposition of gay marriage”.
But McKenzie’s homophobic attitudes did have some repercussions, seeing a gay action group dump a pile of steaming horseshit outside UKIP’s offices in Croydon. The office’s landlords asked UKIP to vacate the premises soon after.
The message did not seem to get through to McKenzie, though. According to Following Farage, Owen Bennett’s book on the campaign trail with UKIP which was published earlier this year, McKenzie openly disclosed the content of SMS text messages between himself and Farage to the author, in which he used homophobic language.
“Good morning, Guv,” one McKenzie text sent to Farage read. “The bloody queers dumped a load of horse manure outside my office on Monday to commemorate World Aids Day. It’s on the internet under Croydon Guardian. Just shows what a load of crap they are. CHAMP.”
McKenzie then told Bennett, “I don’t think the guv’nor got back to me on that one.” Which strongly suggests tacit acceptance of that sort of language and attitudes by Farage.
But last week, McKenzie made his allegation of racism in UKIP, ostensibly because he had been passed over for selection as the party’s candidate to run next year for London Mayor. UKIP’s choice, Peter Whittle, is openly gay.
In the book by Bennett, a former Express journalist, McKenzie merits an entire chapter to himself and his erstwhile branch treasurer, Marianne Bowness – the ex-wife of former Croydon Council Tory leader Lord Bowness.
Bennett eventually got an interview with McKenzie and Bowness, after they had hustled him for a £500 fee.
They had to settle for a free lunch at the Croydon Park Hotel instead. “I was having dinner with the real-life version of Alan Partridge and his put-upon assistant Lynn,” Bennett notes at one point.
Senior sources at UKIP headquarters were openly briefing against McKenzie even until just a couple of days before he announced his resignation. They clearly approved of Bennett’s characterisation of one of UKIP’s loosest of cannons. “It’s hilarious. He has a whole chapter to himself,” Inside Croydon was told. “And it is entirely accurate. He’s exactly like that.”
The back-pedalling over their view of McKenzie since he quit the party and accused UKIP of racism has been widspread and consistent: “He was never influential,” is the party line now of their one-time “Commonwealth spokesman” who would readily text messages to Farage.
Breitbart London, the right-wing website whose columnists have included Katie Hopkins and Farage himself, also turned on McKenzie, presumably after briefings from the UKIP leadership: “Despite his consistently embarrassing behaviour, including circumventing the UKIP press office and booking himself in for high profile, car crash interviews, McKenzie was repeatedly given the benefit of the doubt.”
Now, having been scorned so publicly by McKenzie, the UKIP leadership is unlikely to provide in future the support that the perennial political loser received earlier this year when under attack from his own branch members, which saw UKIP Lambeth and Croydon North suspended and McKenzie relieved of its chairmanship.
An internal UKIP investigation into his and Bowness’s handling of a few thousand pounds in campaign donations proved inconclusive, but sources in the party have suggested that individual members may have already lodged a complaint with the police alleging the mishandling of party funds.
McKenzie, meanwhile, is threatening to run for public office again, as an independent standing for London Mayor, as he did in 2008, when he finished last, and was even beaten by one candidate who had withdrawn from the election before polling day.
“I’ve been pushed around from pillar to post. I’ve been ignored. But I took it on the chin. I took it like a man,” he told one local paper. “I’m not leaving politics. The people of Croydon North could do with a good politician. There’s a lot of suffering out there.”
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