A SEDGLEY councillor and MEP has hit back after being accused of completing a hat-trick of political own goals.
UKIP’s Bill Etheridge says is determined to fight smear tactics following allegations in the national press he coached young people to “speak like Hitler”.
The allegations were made by the Mail on Sunday which said Mr Etheridge told an audience at the Young Independence conference in Birmingham that the World War II Nazi leader was a magnetic and forceful public speaker who achieved a great deal.
Cllr Etheridge said: “I am angry, frustrated and very upset, I spoke about Blair, Reagan, Martin Luther King and Gandhi. I spoke about Hitler as well - for two minutes out of 20, I said at the start he was a monster.
“It is an attack by the Mail Group to satisfy their political masters in the Tory party. I would ask their editor in a very serious way to consider the effect they have on people by pursuing their own political agenda and smearing peoples’ names in this way.”
Cllr Etheridge, who won both his seats in the 2014 May elections and is UKIP’s candidate for the Dudley North constituency in next year’s general election, admits he is on a steep learning curve but does not intend to resign and says he has the full support of his party.
He said: “If you want a slick professional politician I am not your man, I have never pretended to be. I am a straight talking ordinary bloke.”
The UKIP man’s judgement has been called into question by Dudley’s Conservative leader, Cllr Patrick Harley, who said: “He has a history of gaffes; this is the third time he has got into trouble. It is up the powers-that-be at UKIP to deal with this, it is naivety in the extreme.”
Cllr Etheridge left the Conservative party after being pictured with a gollywog toy in 2011 and found himself at the centre of a second controversy a year later when he was heavily criticised for a remark on Facebook relating to pervert DJ Jimmy Savile.
The Savile story broke in 2012 when Cllr Etheridge was standing for election as West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner and resulted in Cllr Harley calling him a buffoon and suggesting he should “forget about standing for public office”.
Dudley Labour politicians have also been queuing up to take a swipe at Cllr Etheridge. Cllr Dave Branwood, Dudley cabinet member for adult and community services, said: “There are no words. No, that’s not exactly true. There is one word..why?”.
His cabinet colleague, Cllr Kurshid Ahmed, thinks the police should take a look at the remarks to see if they are likely to cause racial tensions.
Cllr Ahmed said: “A person who is a councillor and MEP, and prospective MP, should practice public responsibility and accountability and be careful not to enflame issues.”
Keith Rowe, UKIP’s candidate for West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner slammed the suggestion of a police investigation.
Mr Rowe said: "No reading of the law would justify wasting police time and resources on a matter like this. It is appalling that they think it is OK to attempt to trigger a baseless and ludicrous police investigation in order to score political points and get media coverage.”
Cllr Etheridge said: “I regret I used Hitler as an example, it has allowed people to accuse me of awful things.
“I would ask my constituents to have faith in me fighting for the things they care about and ask them to look at me in that regard and make their judgement – not be fooled by this horrible smear.”