January has been 30 days of chaos for Labour, according to Grant Shapps — but what about the Tories’ bad headlines? In a press conference this morning, Shapps outlined all of the negative press Labour has received in 2015 so far (pdf of the document here). But he ended up having to defend his party over the defection of Ukip MEP Amjad Bashir.
‘I welcome anybody, regardless of where they’ve been in the past —with the exception of extreme parties,’ Shapps said in response to a question about Bashir’s alleged membership of the Respect party. He contended that he’s more concerned about people’s ‘ideas’ and ‘how they see this country developing’ instead of their past lives.
Given the negative headlines relating to Bashir, I asked Shapps whether he still considered his defection a success for the party. ‘Yes’ was his response, before attacking the media for believing these ‘desperate’ accusations:
‘Look I can’t believe that cynical hacks are believing this stuff to be honest. What happened is to be clear: they were perfectly content with him, they had him in the diary for last weekend for a Ukip rally. They had him in the diary for this weekend as I mentioned for another Ukip rally. They know about all this stuff forever. Farage has been out and defended him on really their key accusation — and then they get wind of this defection and suddenly they rush out of the door all of the stuff that’s already been there for years. It’s pretty desperate stuff to be perfectly honest.’
While Ukip have indeed been pushing anti-Bashir stories, this weekend’s papers will undoubtedly be sniffing around to see if there’s any evidence to back up the accusations. Shapps denied that Bashir has been kept away from the British media, pointing out he’s been in Europe and giving broadcast interviews. Although he may claim the defection was a success, it’s certainly not as clean as the party would have hoped for.
UPDATE: A Ukip source has been in touch about Shapps’ remarks:
‘I know it’s Sajid Javid that’s the Star Wars fan in Tory circles but the farce is clearly strong in Grant Shapps too. As everyone now realises, Amjad Bashir knew he was under investigation, knew he was probably not going to bat this one off, and decided to jump to the Tory Party. Yes, on Amjad Bashir’s word, Ukip previously defended him. But as the evidence that is now out there stacked up as well as his seriously concerning political affiliations and views, the decision was taken to suspend him. More fool the Tories that they’ve welcomed him, although curious that they stuck a press officer in his house and won’t let Bashir speak to the media. It’s quite a world away from the defections of Mr Carswell and Mr Reckless, isn’t it?’