UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge 'regrets' Hitler comments

A West Midlands UKIP MEP today refused to stand down after sparking a storm over claims he urged young party candidates to 'copy Hitler' but said he regretted his comments.

UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge 'regrets' Hitler comments

But Bill Etheridge, who is also a Dudley councillor, claimed his speech was taken 'out of context' and denounced the row as 'political opportunism'.

Today the 44-year-old who was elected to Dudley Council and the European Parliament in May, said he wouldn't resign after the controversy ignited in the national news.

But he says he'regrets' mentioning the vilified Nazi Party leader in the speech where he claimed Hitler was a 'forceful public speaker'.

During his talk, which he said was around the topic of how to deliver great public speeches, he mentioned political leaders and activists including Adolf Hitler.

In the video Mr Etheridge said: "Look back to the most magnetic and forceful public speaker possibly in history.

"When Hitler gave speeches, and many of the famous ones were at rallies, at the start he walks, back and forth, looked at people – there was a silence, he waited minutes just looking out at people, fixing them with his gaze.

"They were looking back and he would do it for a while. And then they were so desperate for him to start, when he started speaking they were hanging on his every word."

He added: "I'm not saying direct copy – pick up little moments."

Mr Etheridge, who previously courted controversy after being photographed with 'golliwog' dolls featured on the cover of a book on political correctness, today said it was not his intention to cause offence.

He said: "Hitler was evil and nothing positive came from him. He used his talent for public speaking to achieve truly evil things.

"There is nothing admirable about him."

Mr Etheridge added: "I do regret my comments in the context of what has happened since the speech.

"It is just political opportunism to play politics over this.

"I will not stand down. I have the full backing of the party."

He also added he would not seek to 'glorify' Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, adding: "Why would I. It is well known my wife is disabled and what the Nazis did to disabled people was truly abominable."

He said: "I speak about a range of historical figures in my seminar on public speaking including Martin Luther King, President Reagan, Hitler and Tony Blair.

"At no point do I endorse their policies or beliefs I simply point out their specific styles of public speaking. In the case of Hitler I always refer to him as an evil monster.

"This is an outrageous smear on me. I will not let it rest and am determined to fight back.

"I'm a Black Country lad and we don't stand for bullying . They have picked on the wrong person and I am determined to stand tall and continue to represent my area with pride and honesty."

A Ukip spokesman said: "Bill Etheridge gave a seminar on public speaking and highlighted great speakers of the past, like Churchill, Blair, Martin Luther King and Hitler as people whose style, not content could be studied."

It branded some of the coverage of the speech as an 'attack on the party' and said the group was 'disappointed' and 'unsurprised'.

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