Meet the Israel-loving friendly face of Ukip

He wants to tackle Jew-hate, but can Peter Whittle convince London voters?


When Ukip's London mayoral candidate attended a Jewish hustings event, he did not expect a warm reception.

Peter Whittle, 55, thought negative perceptions of his right-wing party would stop him being listened to, as they have in the past.

Instead, Mr Whittle, who is also a London Assembly candidate, was applauded after he said that as a gay man, Israel was the only Middle East country he could comfortably visit.

Referring to the audience at the event earlier this month, he said: "I think my being gay surprised them, as we have a reputation for not being a 'gay-friendly' party, and yet here I am, the only gay candidate. I spoke about that in relation to Israel, which might have struck a chord."

Speaking in the Westminster office where he runs the New Culture Forum - a decade-old think-tank he founded which purports to challenge "cultural orthodoxies" - Mr Whittle said he hoped to visit Israel in the future.

He explained: "Before I was in Ukip, I was the strongest defender of Israel, which I see as being on the frontline.

"It seems to me to be a remarkable achievement of a country surrounded by inhospitable people or people who actively want to destroy it." He added that Tel Aviv, with its cycling routes, would make a "fantastic" sister-city for London.

Anti-Israel activists in the UK irritate Mr Whittle, who described the boycott movement as "appalling. I know who our friends are, and Israel is our friend."

Mr Whittle condemned anti-Israel forces at universities across the capital, criticising the election of National Union of Students president Malia Bouattia, who has previously made comments about "Zionist-led" media and the presence of large Jewish societies on campus.

"There is a growing extremism on campuses which is directed much more towards Jewish people," he said. "I would absolutely speak out against it."

Mr Whittle believes issues facing Londoners, from housing to public transport services and security concerns, can be battled by clamping down on immigration.

He said: "In London, we have a million people a decade arriving. It is unsustainable. You cannot talk about London's housing crisis, or its transport system, or its infrastructure, without talking about this.

"Security is also a concern. If you say anything calling the refugee crisis into question, you're immediately attacked as being bigoted or an Islamophobe.

"What we know, because people have said it themselves, is that Isis is using the migrant crisis to get people into Europe. With free movement to Britain, an attack in London is almost inevitable. We should do everything we can to minimise the risk.

"Anyone who claims to want to be Mayor has to take the safety of Londoners as the most important thing," Mr Whittle said, noting that he would bring more armed police into the city.

When it comes to fighting home-grown terror, Mr Whittle said he would call for the citizenship of British people who fight in Syria to be revoked. "I am amazed that people talk about how they should be allowed back in to Britain and we should then deal with the problem."

Mr Whittle, currently placed third in some polls behind Labour's Sadiq Khan and Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith, said the two favourites for City Hall were "pretty poor pickings".

But could London's Jewish community, with its history, plump for Mr Whittle and a party which is so widely seen as being anti-immigrant?

"When we talk about controlling migration, that is not an anti-immigrant stance," he claimed.

"It's a question of scale, if you have real pressures on housing, infrastructure and transport, then it is a form of denial not even to talk about the levels of migration.

He added: "I cannot imagine a better advertisement for people enriching a society that they come into, than the Jewish community in Britain. We are based, are we not, on Judeo-Christian culture?"

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