ACCUSATIONS of homophobia and racism against a UK Independence Party (UKIP) electoral candidates are part of an alleged smear campaign, a senior party figure has claimed.
UKIP Oxfordshire chairman Dr Lee Upcraft says his party has now asked police to investigate the images released by pressure group Hope Not Hate, as it is believed they have been faked.
One of the posts, allegedly made by UKIP Oxford West and Abingdon candidate Alan Harris on Facebook, is dated October 2011 and said: “Why cant [sic] I say in my own bloody country black is still a colour and gay [sic] are still queers.”
The following day, similar claims were made against Banbury candidate Dickie Bird, who had said he did not believe the accusations against Harris were likely.
But despite the accusations made against them, neither has responded to repeated requests for comment.
Instead they have referred to a UKIP national party statement that said it believed screengrabs of the posts “may not stand up to scrutiny”.
Yesterday Dr Upcraft, a prospective parliamentary candidate for Wantage, stated his conviction the pictures of the messages allegedly posted by Mr Harris were fake.
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He said data from the images showed they were created last month and he believed if the posts were real they would have been picked up when Mr Harris was vetted by party officials last year.
He added: “You have got to question who will benefit from killing the UKIP vote in Abingdon right at the start of the election campaign.
“Nigel Farage said this would be one of the dirtiest election campaigns in history and I think we are seeing evidence of that.
“I can’t pre-empt the formal investigation, but some of the evidence is questionable.
“We maintain that these images are faked to smear Alan Harris.”
Dr Upcraft said his party had reported the claims to the police.
But a spokesman for Hope Not Hate yesterday insisted the pictures were genuine.
Spokesman Simon Cressy said he had found the alleged posts after befriending the candidates on Facebook in the past 18 months.
He said: “The grabs are 100 per cent genuine. As the comments made on Facebook are in text form, we have to use software to save the [picture] for future use.
“The same software saves the grab as an image and adds the date and time at the time it was taken, not when the comment was originally made.
“Any attempt by UKIP at linking Hope Not Hate to illegal activity will be passed onto our legal team for review.
“In addition to claims about Mr Harris made on Wednesday, on Thursday Hope Not Hate alleged the party’s Banbury candidate, Dickie Bird, had also written homophobic posts on the social network.”
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