Tory MP: The public will back Ukip MEP over 'bongo bongo' jibe

Ian Dunt By

Godfrey Bloom's reference to "bongo bongo land" was not racist and the majority of the public would back his arguments, a Tory MP has said.

Phillip Davies' comments follow a day of controversy over the comments by the Ukip MEP, which ended with him storming off halfway through a TV interview.

Davies, a right-wing Tory backbencher, said he did not see "how anyone is particularly offended" by the phrase.

"Whatever people make of the language ... in terms of the substance of the message I don't doubt that the majority of the public is on Godfrey Bloom's side," he said.

Peter Bone – another right-wing Tory MP – said the language was poorly chosen but that he backed Bloom's broader criticism of international development.

"It doesn't mean that we shouldn't be vigilant to the problems of overseas aid being wasted," he said.

David Cameron was much less sympathetic, saying the comment was "offensive".

"It’s an offensive remark anyway, but I think that where he’s wrong is this sort of 'stop the world I want to get off' approach – it just doesn’' work. Britain is a very open, international country," he told the BBC.

"The problems elsewhere come and visit us so it makes sense, I think, to have an aid programme that helps solve those problems at source."

During a speech last month Bloom said: "How we can possibly be giving a billion pounds a month when we're in this sort of debt to bongo bongo land is completely beyond me."

A video of the speech was handed to the Guardian and Bloom spent much of yesterday touring TV and radio studios trying to move on from the row without offering an explicit apology.

By the afternoon he released a statement saying he "sincerely regretted any genuine offence" caused, but later insisted it did not amount to an apology.

He was then drawn into a discussion on the ethnic group in South Sudan, but insisted that if he had them in mind when making the speech the influence was only "subliminal".

He added:"I have issued no apology and I will issue no apology. However, if I have offended these people I would like to publish an apology.

"If their chief writes to me I will issue a public apology to the Bongo people, and I will do so wholeheartedly.

"I come from a generation that used that phraseology without any implication of unpleasantness, no offence was meant. It is a bit of fun, a bit of light hearted sport."

The MEP became visibly angry later in the evening when he faced a tough interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

The Channel 4 News journalist refused to be drawn into a broader discussion of Bloom's points on international aid, as had happened earlier in the day when the MEP took part in a much-criticised interview on the Today programme.

Asked whether he was a racist, Bloom answered: "Move on, there's a good fellow. If you're not going to move on to serious issues, I'm not going to continue - I can't be bothered with it."

He then removed his earpiece and stormed off.

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