There were stormy scenes at UKIP’s manifesto launch today as party supporters booed journalists when their leader was asked if he was seeking to exploit the Manchester terror attack.
Paul Nuttall was forced to call for members to “be respectful” after shouts including “crawl back down your hole”, “Fake news”, “What a stupid question” and “Don’t you understand English?” were aimed at the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg.
The UKIP leader used his opening speech at the manifesto launch in Westminster to criticise Theresa May’s record as home secretary and Prime Minister.
Kuenssberg asked Nuttall if he was almost blaming the PM for the circumstances that led to the Manchester attack.
Shouts from party members followed before Nuttall replied: “No, I’m not accusing the Prime Minister.
“I’m saying that politicians in this country have been weak on this issue for many, many years. In terms of her record as home secretary I think it’s appalling.
“This is a home secretary who cut the numbers of police officers, cut the number of border guards, cut the number of prison officers. I’m sorry, it isn’t a good record at all.
“But as for blaming her personally for the attack – absolutely not, I’m not doing that. What I’m saying is the politicians in this country are too cowardly at the moment to actually face up to what the real Britain is.”
UKIP supporters earlier booed after broadcast journalists – including Channel 4’s Michael Crick – asked if Nuttall was “blatantly exploiting Manchester” for the general election.
Nuttall replied: “No Michael, it certainly wasn’t exploiting Manchester.
“What I wanted to do was to ensure that the democratic process continued because the one thing they hate most about us is our democracy. They want to see it destroyed.”
Nuttall said the “best way of telling them they won’t win” is by getting campaigning under way again following a pause.
He added: “I wasn’t trying to jump on the back of Manchester or anything like that. It was basically telling these people they will not beat us.”
On the media, UKIP’s manifesto pledged to phase out the BBC licence fee over three years to give the coporation “time to adopt a new funding model based on subscription and/or advertising”.
The party said it expected the broadcaster to “retain a core free-to-air offering on Freeview, maintain the World Service, and its local radio network”.
It also pledged grants “from a new public service broadcast fund, financed from within current government resources” that would be available “to any broadcaster for specific programmes or projects”.
Also on the media, UKIP said it would remove the “blanket ban on media reporting of placement and adoption proceedings” and allow journalists to report these cases “on the same basis as other family law proceedings”.
It also said it would look to “review” broadcast and editorial codes in seeking commitments to coverage that “will treat men and women with dignity and promote healthy body images”.
Picture: Reuters/Neil Hall