Suspended Wisbech UKIP councillor under fire for describing north African sister and German relatives in less than polite terms
PUBLISHED: 15:40 18 February 2014 | UPDATED: 15:40 18 February 2014
UKIP found itself at the centre of a growing political storm today after a Wisbech councillor – suspended from the party after being charged with benefit fraud- was accused of making racist remarks on a visit to a fire station.
The Huffington Post, a major American news and blog network, is reporting a telephone conversation with Councillor Peter Lagoda in which he defended calling his north African sister a “w*g”.
He is also reported as describing his relatives living in Germany as “Mongols” and said their children were growing up with “slanty eyes”.
Cllr Lagoda, who won Wisbech South last May with 774 votes, defeating sitting Tory councillor Simon King by 138 votes, told the Huffington Post his remarks were made in a “private conversation” with the fire fighters about his family.
Journalist Asa Bennett who interviewed Cllr Lagoda reports on the conversation in an on line blog today.
“Yes, my cousin married Mongols and now all their little children are ever so cute and they have slanty eyes,” Cllr Lagoda said in a telephone interview with HuffPost UK
Despite being forced by the local UKIP group to write a letter of apology to the firefighters after his visit last month, Lagoda insisted that the furore was ‘ridiculous, over-the-top’ and that the letter ‘shouldn’t have gone out’.
He said Cllr Lagoda had defended his remarks as the correct dictionary definitions and accused the firefighters of misunderstanding him.
Mr Bennett reports: “They’ve taken it the wrong way and my English must be far greater than theirs because I looked in the dictionary and a person from Mongolia is called a Mongol. It’s always the British that bastardise words.”
“The term ‘w*g’, described by most dictionaries as derogatory and offensive, usually refers to a dark-skinned or olive-skinned person from Africa and Asia, and is believed to be derived from the “golliwog” blackface minstrel doll.”
Councillor Martin Curtis, Tory leader of Cambridgeshire County Council told HuffPostUK: “Of course this sort of language from county councillors horrifies me, what concerns me even more is how it fits into an increasingly disturbing picture about how poorly Wisbech is represented.
“As far as the county council is concerned it is becoming clear that Wisbech is representational vacuum. The councillors are clearly more interested in causing controversy than they are in standing up and representing a very important market town.”
Tory Stephen Barclay, MP for North East Cambridgeshire, warned: “If racist language was used by a county councillor then it is deeply disturbing.”
A UKIP spokesman told HuffPost UK that the party takes the incident “very seriously indeed”.
But the spokesman added: “Councillor Lagoda was suspended from the party before this incident occurred. He is not an acting councillor for UKIP now and he was not an acting councillor for UKIP at the time of this incident.”
Cllr Lagoda’s remarks during his visit to the fire station in January alongside current UKIP councillor Paul Clapp caused one of the firefighters to lodge an official complaint about being left feeling “uncomfortable”.
“I...should have challenged that language but thought it may be a generation thing and hopefully he wouldn’t repeat this type of language and I did not want to get into any arguments,” the firefighter wrote.
Cllr Lagoda, a former Conservative councillor in Kings Lynn, told the firefighters during his visit that he would help fight cuts aimed at the local fire station and thanked them for attending in a guard of honour for his father, who was an ex-firefighter.
Labour MEP Richard Howitt criticised UKIP for not stripping Cllr Lagoda of the party whip and for letting him remain a member after his “very shocking” and “deeply offensive” remarks.
Mr Howitt said: “The national leadership of UKIP consistently try to distance themselves from what is the overt prejudice and racism that exists in their membership, but their failure to remove the whip from this particular councillor cries out loud about the true nature of the party.”