A UKIP MEP apologised last night for retweeting a link to a virulently anti-Semitic blog after her party had initially mounted an extraordinary defence of the politician.

Jane Collins, who was elected this year to represent Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, posted a link to a page of an extremist blog attacking Labour’s deputy leader Harriett Harman over allegations an organisation she once worked for had links to paedophile rights campaigners. The opening sentence referred to the politician as a “Jewess” – which she is not.

UKIP's Jane Collins

UKIP’s Jane Collins

Featured elsewhere on the blog are vehrmently anti-Semitic posts including one entitled ‘Book review: Jewish supremicism by Dr David Duke’. Another post called ‘Holocaust or Holohoax? 21 amazing facts’ is featured in a list of the site’s most popular posts. Although the UKIP MEP did not retweet any of theses pages, the list is clearly visible alongside every post on the website.

After Jewish News repeatedly pressed the party – which is expected to secure its first seat in the House of Commons in tomorrow’s Clacton by-election – Collins deleted the Tweet and subsequently apologised. “I have deleted my retweet after seeing how vile the cigpapers blog it linked to is. Sorry to have caused offence to the Jewish community,” she wrote on the microgging site. The retweet had remained on her account for three days and for around 24 hours after this paper brought it to the attention of the party.

The about-turn came less than 24 hours after UKIP defended the MEP. After this newspaper’s first call to the party, a UKIP spokesman told the Jewish News “wholeheartedly opposes anti-Semitism” and added: “She is in no way endorsing the blog, or its previous content, which I am sure she has never read or would never read. That somebody is described as a Jewess, whether accurately or not should be of no more consequence, nor should it be any more insulting than saying that Mrs Collins is a Yorkshire-woman, it is merely descriptive not pejorative. Unless of course the Jewish News is suggesting otherwise. If so then an apology would be appropriate.”

And in an extraordinary remark, the party goes on to refer to a listing for a comedy event featured on the Jewish News’ website earlier this year in which the antiquated term is used. It highlights a “5 starred collection of stories-in-song; charting feuding tailors, a Jewess who joins a 1950s Christian cult, a cocaine-addicted rabbi and many more”.

“That the story has been highlighted by a collection of hard left anti-UKIP bloggers and online warriors says more about them than any falsely perceived anti-Semitism.”

It was only after a second call to the party that a UKIP spokesman described the blog as “vile”, though he continued to insist that the term ‘jewess’ was usually “as unloaded a term as Yorkshireman”. He acknowledged this was not the case with this blog.

Screenshot of the tweet in question

Screenshot of the tweet in question

The Community Security Trust earlier urged UKIP to look closely at the link and apologise. A spokesman said: “It is clear that Jane Collins has made a serious error of judgement. The article’s opening words are ‘Jewess Harriet Ruth Harman’. Above all this, the website itself has two sections, ‘home’ and ‘Join the British Truth Movement – Stop White Genocide’. Another plainly visible link on the site is ‘Holocaust or Holohoax? 21 Amazing Facts’.

“So it is ridiculous for UKIP to claim that this website’s word ‘Jewess’ is merely descriptive; and it is a gross insult to use the Jewish News website as a point of comparison. I hope Ukip will do the responsible thing and issue a sincere apology.”

Board of Deputies Vice President Jonathan Arkush said: “We are amazed by the UKIP spokesperson’s response. Not only have they failed to acknowledge the irresponsibility of an elected politician retweeting an article posted on a white supremacist and racist website , but they totally missed the point that reference to Harriet Harman’s supposed faith was wrong, irrelevant, deeply offensive to Jews and could encourage anti-Semitism.”

The retweet was first highlighted by former JLC chief executive Jeremy Newmark. The specific page posted by Collins to allegations highlighting by the Daily Mail earlier this year that the National Council for Civil Liberties, where she worked as a legal officer, had granted “affiliate” status to a paedophile rights group. The
long-time politician denied claims she had been an “apologist for paedophilia” and, while expressing “regret” at the links which were established before she began working for NCCL in 1978, insisted she had nothing to apologise for.

The UKIP spokesman said: “Let this be a lesson to UKIPers and politicians of all parties, it is deeply unwise to just send a retweet without first checking where it came from. This blog is vile is and it’s beholden to people on people to check their sources.”