Nigel Farage's pledge that he was proud Ukip politicians could "say what they like" lasted all of around 30 minutes at the party's spring conference, with panicked organisers apparently attempting to remove six journalists from a party debate on Sharia law.
Journalists from the Financial Times, Bloomberg and the Telegraph were among those told they could not stay in the half-full conference room in Torquay for the party debate on the use of Islamic law in Britain.
Jim Pickard, the Financial Times' political correspondent, said he and his fellow journalists had refused to leave when asked to by party staff.
We have refused to leave the room. @jonhew Waiting for security goons to find a press officer/official to ask us to leave.
— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) February 28, 2014
Bloomberg's Robert Hutton, who had recently been asked to leave Beijing for stories that provoked the Chinese government, took a picture of the Telegraph's Christopher Hope standing up to the Ukip security guards who had asked the journalists to leave.
— Robert Hutton (@RobDotHutton) February 28, 2014
Banning journalists from fringe meetings shows @ukip still has somewhere to go before it can grow up into fully fledged democratic party
— Christopher Hope (@christopherhope) February 28, 2014
But the drama was short-lived. Ukip press officer Annabelle Fuller informed journalists they were now allowed to stay in the room.
Pickard said he was told they needed to "behave" if they were to be allowed to stay.
Either don't hold a Sharia Law fringe or do & face the consequences. Banning hacks & threatening @christopherhope makes it a whole new thing
— Dylan Sharpe (@dylsharpe) February 28, 2014
Earlier, Farage had insisted that candidates were now of a "quality and calibre" the party could be proud of.
He said: "Despite repeated attempts to ridicule us, our people come from the real world, they've got real-life experiences, unlike the political classes. And they're people who have already had jobs - how about that."
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