Nigel Farage withdraws 'violent means' claim against Hope Not Hate

Former Ukip leader retracts assertion made about anti-extremist group last December after crowdfunded libel action

Nigel Farage has formally withdrawn his claim that Hope Not Hate pursues “violent and undemocratic means” after it launched a crowdfunded libel case against the former Ukip leader.

The anti-extremism pressure group said on Tuesday that Farage had filed a statement with the high court in London saying he was “happy to acknowledge that Hope Not Hate does not tolerate or pursue violent or undemocratic behaviour” and that he would not repeat the claim.

In a statement, Farage said he was “perfectly happy to accept that the organisation doesn’t pursue violent or undemocratic means”, but said the case had been “a complete waste of their donors’ money”.Farage made the accusation against Hope Not Hate, which mainly campaigns against far-right and populist groups and had previously targeted Ukip for scrutiny and criticism, in December 2016.

He sent a tweet blaming the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, for a lorry attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. “Terrible news from Berlin but no surprise,” he wrote. “Events like these will be the Merkel legacy.”

Brendan Cox, the widower of Jo Cox, the MP murdered by a far-right extremist, replied on Twitter, accusing Farage of “blaming politicians for the actions of extremists”.

The spat then moved to LBC radio, where Farage, who has previously accused Hope Not Hate of disrupting his public events, said: “Yes, well of course he would know more about extremists than me, Mr Cox. He backs organisations like Hope Not Hate, who masquerade as being lovely and peaceful, but actually pursue violent and undemocratic means.”

That prompted Hope Not Hate to warn Farage he faced legal action unless he retracted the “political smear”.

The group crowdfunded a libel action and said it received donations from more than 16,000 people.

The case had been due to be heard later this week, but after a meeting on Friday between lawyers from the two sides, Farage agreed to back down over the claim.

Hope Not Hate said Farage had promised not to repeat the claim or let anyone else do so on his behalf.

According to the group, the statement read: “Having now considered the position further, I am happy to acknowledge that Hope Not Hate does not tolerate or pursue violent or undemocratic behaviour.”

Hope not Hate’s chief executive, Nick Lowles, said: “I am delighted with this victory and that we’ve held Nigel Farage to account.

“The case was about the truth and about Hope Not Hate saying no to Nigel Farage’s attempts to smear us. For too long, rightwing politicians have got away with smearing and abusing their opponents. We drew a line in the sand and no more.

“We are an avowedly peaceful organisation and Farage’s false claims were deeply damaging to the vital work we do bringing communities together across cultural and religious divides.”

In his statement, Farage said Hope not Hate’s response had been “thoroughly disingenuous”.

He said: “It is the case that we’ve now resolved our dispute and I am perfectly happy to accept that the organisation doesn’t pursue violent or undemocratic means.

“But the fact is that a number of individuals claiming to support them have in the past behaved violently and sought to intimidate and disrupt lawful political meetings. This is a case Hope not Hate should never have brought and which has been a complete waste of their donors’ money.

“Despite them demanding up to £100,000 in damages, I have not paid them a penny; they demanded an apology that I have not given; and they demanded an undertaking to the court which they did not get.

“In addition, they have been forced to pay me thousands in costs, on top of the tens of thousands they will have had to pay for their own legal fees.”

A spokesman for Farage declined to say what undertaking had been sought which he did not give.

Hope not Hate said Farage had fully covered his own legal costs, apart from a half-day administrative hearing where the two parties split the costs between them. The group said Farage was left with costs of around £100,000.

Lowles said of Farage’s statement: “He’s picking at straws and trying to find any crumb of comfort; this is not a victory for him, it’s a humiliation.”


Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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