Farage for­mally drops vi­o­lence claims against Hope Not Hate

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Peter Walker Po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent

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 yes­ter­day 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 added that 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. It had tar­geted Ukip for scru­tiny and crit­i­cism in De­cem­ber 2016.

He sent a tweet blam­ing An­gela Merkel, the Ger­man chan­cel­lor, 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 Labour MP mur­dered by a far-right ex­trem­ist, replied on Twit­ter, ac­cus­ing Farage of “blam­ing politi­cians for the ac­tions of ex­trem­ists”.

The spat 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 had 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’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Nick Lowles, said: “I am de­lighted with this vic­tory and that we’ve held Nigel Farage to ac­count. 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.”

Nigel Farage backed down just be­fore a crowd-funded li­bel hear­ing. Hope Not Hate said it was de­lighted at hold­ing him to ac­count

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