In 1999 David Renton, a history lecturer at Edge Hill college in Lancashire, asked his undergraduates to write an essay about the causes of the Holocaust.
Renton recalls how one of his students – a bright and outspoken man who, at 23, was older than others in the class, handed in an essay in which he suggested there was an argument to be made that Jewish people had brought it upon themselves.
According to Renton, to justify this argument, the student cited the notorious Holocaust denier David Irving. This was a time when Irving was regularly in the news as he prepared to embark upon the doomed libel action now being depicted in Denial, a film written by David Hare and starring Rachel Weisz.
“It was really quite extraordinary,” Renton says. “It seemed like the only reason he’d managed to shoehorn this reference to David Irving in was in order to put in something which was saying in effect that there had been lots of Jewish people in Germany, and somehow they’d brought the Holocaust on themselves.”
Renton believed the student was testing the acceptable limits of free speech. On the advice of colleagues, he had a long conversation with the student, explaining why it was really not appropriate to cite Irving. At this point, Renton says, the student said something that completely took him aback. He said that he was not responsible for the citations: his girlfriend had found them on the internet.
Over the years that followed, the student forged an interesting political career while also developing a relationship with the truth that might be described as somewhat troubled. But there has often been a useful girlfriend figure to hand, whenever he was ensnared in one falsehood or another.
On Thursday that relationship with the truth appeared to have caught up with Paul Nuttall – and left a question mark over the future of Ukip, the party he leads – after the voters of Stoke-on-Trent Central rejected his bid to become their member of parliament.
Labour’s Gareth Snell won 7,853 votes to Nuttall’s 5,233, as Ukip failed to capitalise on the area’s overwhelming support for Brexit.
After the count, Nuttall insisted that he and Ukip would bounce back. He pointed out that he had been party leader for just 12 weeks. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “We move on and our time will come.”
The party’s current electoral strategy is founded upon Nuttall’s belief that there is latent sympathy for Ukip’s politics within Old Labour’s traditional base.
But its bid for northern working class votes appears to have become wrapped around Nuttall’s persona. And that began to fall apart during the election campaign once the salt-of-the-earth working man began to resemble a Walter Mitty-type character.
First there had been the claim, repeated time and again on his website, that he had been a professional footballer at Tranmere Rovers. That was his press officer’s error, he said.
Then there was the false claim on his LinkedIn profile that he had a PhD. The page “wasn’t put up by us, and we don’t know where it’s come from,” he said. The page was subsequently edited to remove any reference to a PhD.
Then Nuttall claimed on his election nomination paper that he lived at a property in the constituency, only to later admit he had never set foot inside it. Ukip insists he did nothing wrong, but an allegation of election fraud is being investigated by Staffordshire police.
And then there were questions about Nuttall’s claim to have been present during the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death.
His former history lecturer David Renton, who is now a barrister, says most students in Nuttall’s class were football fans, and the subject of Hillsborough came up from time to time. Renton says “he certainly didn’t mention it once” in his presence.
Nuttall said he was angered by a Guardian report two weeks ago in which a number of people who had known him for decades questioned his claim to have been present at Hillsborough. He insists he was at the match that day.
Three days later he admitted that a claim – again on his personal website – that a number of “close personal friends” had died in the disaster was false. It was that press officer again, and Ukip said she had offered to resign.
By the time the Guardian had discovered Nuttall’s website had published incorrect claims that he served on the board of a charity, nobody was any longer surprised. He complained that he was the victim of a politically motivated campaign – the same response he gave when asked about Renton’s recollections.
As the election campaign drew to a close, users of social media began to enjoy themselves. On Twitter there were pictures of him strolling across Abbey Road with the Beatles, raising the flag at Iwo Jima, walking on the moon and joining Christ at the Last Supper.
Even the Daily Telegraph weighed in, with a columnist declaring: “Leave Paul Nuttall alone. This is no way to treat a man who fought for his country at Waterloo.”
In the middle of his election campaign, Nuttall took down his entire website. Anyone clicking on the site was greeted by a page that announced: “We are currently undergoing scheduled maintenance.”
Amid this chaos, Ukip’s most generous donor, Arron Banks, dropped a heavy hint that he was considering pouring his millions into a different political movement. The party, he declared ominously, was at a tipping point.
When the Stoke Sentinel newspaper reported the byelection result on its website on Friday, the first below-the-line comment was from a reader who seized upon Nuttall’s statement that “we’re not going anywhere”.
Perhaps, the reader suggested, this was the first time he had told the truth in the entire campaign.
Godfrey William BloomTD (born 22 November 1949) is a British politician who served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Yorkshire and the Humber from 2004 to 2014. He was elected for the UK Independence Party in the European elections of 2004 and 2009, representing UKIP until September 2013, when UKIP withdrew the party whip from him. He then sat as an Independent until the end of his term of office in May 2014. Bloom subsequently resigned his UKIP party membership on 13 October 2014.
During his tenure, he received attention for making remarks considered objectionable by his party leader, for his opinions concerning climate change and for making other controversial comments. On 20 September 2013, UKIP withdrew the party whip from Bloom after he struck journalist Michael Crick in the street with a conference brochure, threatened a second reporter, and at the party's conference jokingly referred to his female audience as sluts. Bloom resigned his party whip from UKIP on 24 September 2013 and thereafter sat as an Independent MEP until the end of his term in office on 2 July 2014.
He was removed as Honorary President of the Ludwig von Mises Centre in December 2017, the organisation citing Bloom's antisemitic posts on Twitter.
Bloom was born on 22 November 1949, the son of Alan Bloom and his wife, Phyllis. His father served as a fighter pilot during the Second World War. Bloom was educated at St Olave's Grammar School, the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst (two week course for TA) and the Royal College of Defence Studies. In 1986, he married Katryna (Katie) Skowronek, an equine physiotherapist.
Bloom worked as a financial economist. In 1996 he warned, in Money Marketing, that "split caps" were not the solid safe investment people thought, and later in the year explained in Financial Adviser the dangers of what was to become "precipice bonds". In 1996 he was part of Francis Maude's regulatory consultancy panel from which he later resigned. In his last position, he worked as the director of the investment company TBO in which he is a major shareholder.
Bloom was commissioned into the Royal Corps of Transport (Territorial Army) in 1977. In 1992 he was promoted to the rank of major and left the TA in 1996.
Bloom contested the Conservative-held seat of Haltemprice and Howden at the 1997 general election, coming fifth.
In 2004, Bloom's election to the Yorkshire and the Humber seat was UKIP's first seat in the region in the European elections. In 2009, he was re-elected. In the parliament Bloom was a member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality.
On 20 September 2013, during its party conference, UKIP withdrew the whip from Bloom. At a party conference meeting he had jokingly referred to his female audience as sluts. Subsequently, he got into a confrontation with journalist Michael Crick in the streets, hitting him over the head with the conference brochure, and allegedly threatened ITV reporter Paul Brand, by saying, "You treat me badly, you'll get a lot worse than that (Crick's slap) ... that is a threat to any journalist."
On 24 September 2013, he resigned his UKIP party whip, while retaining his party membership. His statement said: "I have felt for some time now that the 'New UKIP' is not really right for me any more". He also threatened Crick again, saying that he was thinking of taking up shooting and that "Michael Crick might be the first cartridge, if it isn't my own party chairman."
Bloom and Crick met again in May 2014. The two shook hands and had lunch together and Bloom thanked Crick, describing the incident as a "defining moment" that made him realise that he "wasn’t really suited to party politics".
In December 2013, as a result of his various controversies, Bloom was awarded the Plain English Campaign's Foot in Mouth Award. A spokesman said that Bloom was "an overwhelming choice" who "could easily have won this award on at least two other occasions... [he's] a wince-inducing gaffe machine and we could fill a page or two with his ill-advised quotes from 2013 alone".
Views and incidents
Banking and financial crisis
Bloom was ejected from the Mansion House in 2009 for heckling Lord Turner for giving staff bonuses after the massive regulatory failure of 2008/9. According to The Daily Telegraph he was the first man to be ejected since John Wilkes in the late-18th century. In a letter to UKIP, Turner wrote that "Mr Bloom will not be receiving any further invitations to Mansion House events nor will be welcome at the Brussels Annual reception [...] As to future Mansion House events we will be seeking a different MEP from UKIP as a potential guest." Bloom signed the petition in disgust at the knighthood for the failures of Hector Sants.
He is a member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Bloom was a co-author of Wolfson Prize Economics Submission with Professor Pat Barron and Professor Philipp Bagus. He warned that credit agencies would be "castrated" by too much regulation of the EU. Bloom claims that most MEPs have "little or no business experience" and do not understand the consequences of their actions.
A few weeks after being appointed to the European Parliament's Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality on 20 July 2004, Bloom told an interviewer that, "no self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age." Around the same time, he said that "I just don't think [women] clean behind the fridge enough" and that "I am here to represent Yorkshire women who always have dinner on the table when you get home." Bloom told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that his comments were "said for fun" to illustrate a more serious point, that equal-rights legislation was, he claimed, putting women out of work.
Bloom confessed that he had visited brothels in Hong Kong. He claimed he never consummated the visits, and also claimed "terrified young women beaten into prostitution often from Eastern Europe [...] is only a very small aspect of the flesh trade", and concluded that "in short, most girls do it because they want to."
After inviting students from the University of Cambridge Women's Rugby Club to Brussels in 2004, he was accused of sexual assault, making "sexist and misogynistic remarks" and using offensive language during a dinner party. One student handed a formal letter of protest to the President of the European Parliament, heavily criticising Bloom's behaviour. Bloom, who sponsored the club with £3,000 a year, admitted making misogynist comments, but denied sexual harassment.
In a piece for politics.co.uk in August 2013, Bloom attempted to set the record straight about his earlier comments on gender equality. He argued against quotas for women in boardrooms, claimed that feminism was a "passing fashion" created by "shrill, bored, middle-class women of a certain physical genre" and that any men who supported feminism were "the slightly effete politically correct chaps who get sand kicked in their face on the beach." He said that women were better at "[finding] the mustard in the pantry" than driving a car.
Bloom rejects anthropogenic global warming. He said in 2009: "As far as I am concerned man-made global warming is nothing more than a hypothesis that hasn't got any basis in fact. Every day more scientists are modifying their initial views".
Rainbow Warrior bombing
At the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Bloom was filmed in front of the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior II, saying, "Here we have one of the most truly fascist boats since 1945, well done the French for sinking one of these things." He was referring to the 1985 bombing of the ship's predecessor by French government agents, in which Dutch photographer Fernando Pereira was killed. After criticism, the video was removed from Bloom's YouTube channel and he said he had forgotten about the death.
In December 2008, Bloom was carried out by an intern after making a speech in the European Parliament while drunk, the second occasion on which he was accused of being drunk in the chamber. During the speech, Bloom said that the MEPs from Poland, the Czech Republic and Latvia don't understand economic relations. In February 2012, Bloom interrupted a debate with the question whether the Cambridge University Women's Rugby team should wear their logo on the front or back of their shirts. Later he admitted consuming alcohol and "very heavy" prescription painkillers after breaking his collarbone in a riding accident.
On 24 November 2010, Bloom was ejected from the European Parliament after directing a Nazi slogan at German MEP Martin Schulz who was speaking in a debate on the economic crisis in Ireland. Bloom interrupted Schulz and shouted "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer" at him. He then proceeded to call the latter "an undemocratic fascist", a remark for which he was removed from the chamber. Labour MEP group leader Glenis Willmott described his behavior as "an insult to all those who have fought against fascism" whilst Liberal Democrat group leader Fiona Hall described him as a "national embarrassment".
At the height of the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal, Bloom complained about the lack of manners of the political class. On his website, he pointed out that, unlike many others, he would not employ family members in his parliamentary staff. Bloom later conceded that three members of his staff were also employed part-time at TBO, the company in which he is a major shareholder, and one of these is his wife's niece. Bloom failed to declare his interest in TBO to European Parliament officials and in 2008 Bloom's company TBO was fined £28,000 by the Financial Services Authority for 'posing an "unacceptable risk" to customers'. In August 2014, TBO were fined and ordered to pay more than £2 million in damages to a retired couple, having ignored their request for cautious financial planning and "gambled" almost all their clients' money on high risk investments with an almost complete loss.
In July 2013, Bloom made a speech about Britain's foreign aid in which he referred to countries as "Bongo Bongo Land". A video was passed to The Guardian newspaper. A spokesman for UKIP was reported as saying that Bloom's remarks were being "discussed right at the very highest level of the party". After refusing to apologise, he later said he regretted the comments but clarified it by saying that whilst he intended it to be derogatory, he regretted that it had caused offence and he didn't mean it to be racist. Party leader Nigel Farage later asked him not to use the phrase again.
In an interview in August 2013, Bloom described Prime Minister David Cameron as "pigeon-chested; the sort of chap I used to beat up."
During a LBC Radio interview in November 2013, he called for the unemployed and public sector workers to lose the right to vote.
In January 2014, broadcaster Michael Crick stated that while supporting the motion "Post-war Britain has seen too much immigration" in a debate at the Oxford Union, Bloom asked a disabled student who was speaking against the motion if he was Richard III. According to Crick, Bloom told him that the student had taken his remark "in good spirit" with both sharing drinks during an after-debate reception, suggesting Crick confirm this with the student. Crick followed up the suggestion whereby the student accepted Bloom's version of events, stating that, although the comment was not "very nice," he and Bloom got on well, and that Bloom was "a very interesting man to talk to." Fellow supporter of the motion, journalist and author Douglas Murray, described Bloom's comment as "gruesome" and "the cruellest thing."
In December 2017, Bloom wrote a tweet identifying Goldman Sachs as an "international Jewish bank" (in response to a tweet about Brexit by the bank's CEO Lloyd Blankfein). The tweet was described as anti-Semitic by a number of observers.
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- ^Booth, Jenny (20 July 2004). "UKIP man champions a woman's right to clean fridges". London: TimesOnline.
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- ^"Harrassment [sic] case MEP brings debate to Bowtell"(PDF). Varsity (Cambridge University student newspaper). 22 October 2004. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
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- ^Climate change: man-made or myth? Len Tingle, BBC News, 1 October 2009.
- ^"Rainbow Warrior bombing praised". The New Zealand Herald. 8 February 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
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- ^"Former Ukip bad boy Godfrey Bloom 'horrified' as his firm is fined for gambling couple's £2m - New Articles - The Independent". Independent.co.uk. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
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- ^Peter Dominiczak "Godfrey Bloom says he’s promised Nigel Farage not to say ‘bongo bongo land’", telegraph.co.uk, 7 August 2013
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- ^""International Jewish bank recommends second vote & we should vote Remain."". Twitter. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
- ^Daniel Sugarman, "Former UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom makes "Jewish bank" comment, The Jewish Chronicle, 18 December 2017