LONDON: Ukip’s new leader and former Army officer Henry Bolton has claimed in his first political statement that British people feel their culture is being “buried” by Islam and the “weight of numbers” of immigrants. He also defended talking about having “fought Islam” during his campaign for the leadership, insisting “I am proud of what I’ve done for my country”.
His victory over controversial anti-Islam candidate Anne Marie Waters averted a split in the party over her hardline views. Mr Bolton signalled following his win that he would seek to soften Ukip’s message on the religion by dropping the party’s “integration agenda”, which was almost entirely focused on Muslims, and saying he “abhors” the rhetoric “that says we are at war with Islam”.
But at the party’s conference in Torquay, he warned of British culture being “pushed aside” by Islam and immigration, although he dropped the party’s previous support of a cap on net migration.”There is concern amongst the population writ large that there is an undermining through general immigration and the weight of numbers that we have got, and Islam as well, that our culture is being buried by this, being sort of pushed aside,” he told reporters.
“That’s a concern that we need to recognise is out there, that’s a perception that’s out there and we need to address it. And there is also an element, a very small element that constitutes a security risk – we know what’s been going on in London, we know what’s been going on in the European Union and we know that a lot of that is linked to a perversion and a political abuse of the religion. So we do need to deal with that of course.”
Mr Bolton defended his statement during the leadership contest that “I have fought Islam, I have been blown off my feet by an Islamic suicide bomber, I have been on the sharp end of this”.
Mr Bolton said: “What I was referring to then was some of the operational work that I’ve done out of the ground which is a very different context to here. If you want to go out and spend 27 months in Helmand and if you want to go out and deal with things going on in the North Caucases, you will see what I’m talking about.
“That’s what I’ve done, I am proud of what I’ve done for my country and serving my country and I hope to continue doing so in this role. So I’m not taking that context and putting it into let’s take on any religion here.”
Mr Bolton also watered down Ukip’s past promises to cap immigration while calling for an Australian-style points-based immigration system.
In 2015 the party promised a temporary block on low-skilled and unskilled migration, and a limit of 50,000 high-skilled immigrants a year, while in 2017 the party committed to zero net migration.
Prime Minister Theresa May remains committed to a target of reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands”.
Mr Bolton said: “I’m not going to put a number on it. In different years there’s going to be different amounts. For me what is important is that we as a society and as a government and as an administration providing services to the citizens of this country, we must be able to manage the inflow of immigration without putting undue pressure on our policing, on our hospitals, on our schools, on our road network, on our housing, on our economy.”
His comments were highlighted by Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) which works with the Government to highlight anti-Islam “hatred”.