Wednesday, September 8

UKIP... backing Britain?

On 24 August, UKIP took the extraordinary decision to back the Paris bid for the 2012 Olympic Games - despite London's candidature.

The party's two London assembly members unfurled a pro-Paris banner at City Hall, headquarters of Ken Livingstone, London's mayor.

Damian Hockney, UKIP London assembly member, said London bid organisers were "suffering from delusion on an Olympian scale" by claiming the cost of being host city would be £3bn. Athens' games had gone over budget, the Olympics were playing to empty seats, and tourism in Greece had dropped, he added.

Mr Hockney denied he was unpatriotic, saying an Olympics-free London would save the country from billions of pounds of debt. As for Paris, "the French will make it work and make a thumping great profit out of it".

True to form, UKIP also demanded a referendum on the issue, with a switch in its support to London conditional on the approval of Londoners.

Ken Livingstone, a vocal supporter of London's bid, dismissed UKIP's protest as a stunt. "Some people will obviously say and do anything to get two minutes on the television," Livingstone said in a statement.

"Polls show 70 percent of Londoners are right behind our Olympic bid and the new investment, transport, jobs and housing it will bring to London,"he said.

UKIP's support for Paris was swiftly brushed off by senior executives of the French bid, who made an official complaint about UKIP's unauthorised use of the Paris logo and the Olympic rings.

Sources: Financial Times, 24 August 2004; The Evening Standard, 25 August 2004; Reuters News, 24 August 2004.

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