A UKIP Euro MP says he will stick to “professional language in future” after joking that if jihadist terrorists came to Chester he would ask them to “get” the controversial new NHS supercentre being built in the city centre.
Steven Woolfe, who was elected in May, made the jokey aside about ISIS, who are massacring people in both Syria and Iraq, during an exclusive interview with The Chronicle because he is upset the “monolithic monstrosity” has blocked the view from his home.
Speaking in The Chester Grosvenor, he said: “If you had UKIP policy on planning it would never have got through I can tell you. My view of the lovely cathedral, one of the most beautiful buildings in England, is now blocked. As a joke, if ISIS came in I would be saying that's the first building you can get, please. Just move it so I can have my vision back.”
Mr Woolfe later clarified: “The devastating and worrying violence in the mid East is something I am well aware of and which I have commented on many occasions. The issues and death are no laughing matter. The joke was to identify an ugly building in Chester which has altered the beautiful historical views and surrounding architectural context. I simply used hyperbole of which is a common method in northern comedy. I didn't think for a moment this would be regarded as something I actually wished for or advocated.”
Mr Woolfe added: “In future I shall be more circumspect and just stick to professional language.”
Bob Thompson, the Lib Dem’s parliamentary candidate in Chester and a Hoole ward councillor, hit out: “At a time of serious terrorist activity in various parts of the world and the devastating consequences of terrorism we here in the UK have witnessed and feel clearly, UKIP inviting a terrorist organisation like ISIS to destroy a building in our city is crass; ignorant and insensitive.
“If this is a joke it is in very poor taste and speaks volumes for the character of the MEP and UKIP.
However, agreeing with him about the building, Mr Thompson said it was a “poor design which does no favours for our city”, adding: “The super surgery will close doctors surgeries in Hoole – taking services out of the community and putting poorly people to the inconvenience of having to make their way to an inconvenient site outside the city. A poor do indeed.”
Mr Woolfe made his comments in the context of talking about how builders “like the guy that built that big thing in the centre of Chester” were not prepared to finance apprenticeship schemes because of cheap foreign labour,
Mark Watkin Jones, managing director of Watkin Jones, who are constructing the property, was unaware of any foreign labour on site and said his company offers many apprenticeships each year. There were currently 20 undergraduates in the business who had been awarded scholarships to help them through their courses. He did not wish to respond to Mr Woolfe’s other comments.
However, during a separate interview concerning progress on the building he said it had some “quirky features”, adding: “I think it looks very good and hopefully when it’s finished so will everybody else.”