Ukip councillor defends ‘offensive’ jokes on Facebook

Patrick Bergin
Patrick Bergin

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A UKIP councillor has come under fire for posting jokes on Facebook which have been called ‘offensive’.

Councillor Patrick Bergin, who represents the Rowner and Holbrook wards of Gosport, shared the jokes on his personal Facebook page, which can be viewed by the public.

The set of jokes include subjects such as homosexuality, internet grooming and the ethnic mix in Bradford.

One post reads: ‘Got a new Jack Russell pup today. He’s mainly black and brown with a small white area. So I’ve called him Bradford.’

The jokes were put up by Cllr Bergin in January, but have been brought to light by campaign group Hope Not Hate.

The row comes just days after Ukip’s Tom Davies, Fareham and Gosport membership secretary, was criticised for saying the Tories may have picked Suella Fernandes as the Fareham MP candidate ‘down to gender and ethnicity rather than her actual abilities’.

Leading political figures in Gosport have called Cllr Bergin naive for putting up such posts.

Leader of Gosport Borough Council, Councillor Mark Hook said: ‘There’s no place in politics for those sorts of jokes or comments.

‘Cllr Bergin should seriously consider his position as it’s naive to think posting these jokes will help.

‘What one person might perceive as a joke can be very insulting to someone else, and you have to be very careful on that.

‘He should be taking advice from his party on what sort of things are appropriate and not.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage said posting such topics on a personal site is not a defendable reason.

She said: ‘When you are in a job where you are effectively a public servant, you have to be very careful about what you say.

‘Yes, everyone is entitled to a private life, but you have to think that as an elected member of the council, you might be upsetting people in your ward, or elsewhere in Gosport.

‘I can take a joke as much as the next person, but as an elected member I have to be careful about what I say.

‘I read the jokes and was actually quite upset with the Bradford joke – I’m not sure what it achieved.’

Cllr Bergin was elected in May last year, beating Cllr Hook’s daughter Natasha by just three votes.

Cllr Bergin said: ‘In so far as I can tell, the jokes were part of a page I cut and pasted from email.

‘I think it would be impossible to tell about 99 per cent of jokes without risking offence to some person or group.’

Cllr Bergin says he stands by the jokes as they were published on his personal rather than political account.

He added: ‘When this matter was first brought to my attention, I was shocked to say the least.

‘My first action was to check my political page, but I have nothing on there.

‘So I checked my personal page, and I have posted quite literally hundreds of jokes.

‘There can be no doubt that many that I put up might be deemed offensive in one way or another. Strangely though, I have never been admonished by anyone from the LGBT pages, never have I been attacked by any Muslim or Jewish people that are friends on my page.

‘I would say this to Hope not Hate. Nothing I say on my personal page is anything other than my opinion.

‘Jokes that I put up are ones that I find funny.

‘Here is the key, it is my personal page.

‘If you do not like what I do, then do not look.

‘You have that right, too.’