Raheem Kassam: Former members of far-right groups should be allowed to join Ukip
A Ukip leadership hopeful has pledged to end the blanket ban on former members of groups like the English Defence League and BNP from being allowed to join the party.
Raheem Kassam said applications should be assessed on a “case by case basis”, opening the door for ex-members of the far-right groups to be admitted.
Such a move could make the likes of Tommy Robinson, the controversial former English Defence League leader and friend of Mr Kassam, eligible for Ukip membership.
At the moment, new Ukip members must declare they have never been a member of far-right groups - including the BNP, National Front, EDL and Britain First - before they are allowed to join.
But Mr Kassam, who until May last year was a top aide to Mr Farage, told supporters in a live Facebook chat on Sunday that the party should practise the “Christian value of forgiveness”.
“I believe that this rule needs to be implemented on a case by case basis to look at whether these people meant harm, meant ill will, whether they actually bought into a lot of the hatred that [former BNP leader] Nick Griffin spewed,” he said.
“If they didn't, if these people were just people who made a mistake or these people were just looking for an outlet and they want to join Ukip, I don't see why they can't have an interview with somebody and say 'I don't abide by these things anymore, I am a penitent sinner' or whatever it is.
“We believe in forgiveness, don't we? We believe in the Christian value of forgiveness. So maybe we should learn to forgive people and allow things to move on.”
Mr Kassam also said he would hand controversial Ukip member Anne Marie Waters a top job in the party.
Ms Waters was blocked by Ukip from standing for the London assembly due to her alleged ties to Pegida UK - a group Mr Robinson helped set up to campaign against the supposed “Islamisation of the west”.
“Anne Marie Waters is a good personal friend of mine, I absolutely love her,” Mr Kassam said.
“I wouldn't just welcome people like Anne Marie Waters by the way, I would put Anne Marie Waters in a senior policy position inside the party. She is a magnificent individual, a really brave woman. So she has top billing.”
A Ukip NEC source told PoliticsHome the prospect of Ms Waters getting a top job, or Mr Robinson and other 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 added.
Elsewhere Mr Kassam suggested a “bunch of us” should go to Ukip MP Douglas Carswell's office and demand he make a public apology for his previous criticisms of Mr Farage and sign a contract pledging never to bad mouth the party again.
The NEC source told PoliticsHome: “Raheem has this sort of vicious, American-style politics about him – the alt-right, American-style stuff where if you don't like them you try to destroy them.
“That tone wouldn’t go down well with Ukip.”