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A now ‘independent’ city councillor who mocked the deaths of seventy-one immigrants is helping the fight for UKIP in the upcoming Stoke by-election. The subjects of his joke died in August 2015 inside a refrigerated lorry before being found on a roadside in Austria. Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans were among the dead. They were fifty-nine men, eight women and four children, including a baby girl. Many immigrants that had fled ISIS and the conflict in Syria may well have tried to avoid crossing the Mediterranean due to the associated mortality rate, numbering over 3,500 people in 2015 alone.

At the time of his tweet about a month after the tragic event, Richard Broughan was a UKIP councillor in Stoke. He asked “#IsItOk to ask migrants to ‘chill out’ following the Austrian refrigerated lorry incident?” We at EvolvePolitics assumed he was being rhetorical rather than asking a genuine question.

Mr. Broughan has since claimed to Huffington Post UK that his statement was “blown out of all proportion and only came to the media’s attention several months after it was made.” To answer a question with another question, what was the sense of proportion was he referring to?

He resigned from UKIP shortly after his tweet, saying “I think that a lot of my criticism I have had has been biased because I was a UKIP councillor. So I decided to leave the party to stop that.” UKIP officials say this followed earlier incidents of behaviour that was unacceptable within the local party branch.

More recently (yesterday), he has been seen walking into UKIP’s Stoke Central by-election HQ wearing a party rosette. When asked about his intentions to stand as a candidate following the resignation of Labour’s Tristram Hunt, he stated that initially he was optimistic but after finding out that Paul Nuttall was running for UKIP he thought that it would be “ridiculous to split the vote”.

UKIP are contending with Labour in a by-election that is fast becoming a defining battle for the hearts and minds across the Midlands and North of England. EU membership and immigration are seen as key issues, inextricably linked to a decline in prosperity for people living in small and often entirely deindustrialised towns.

The by-election is due to take place on the 23rd February, along with another crucial on for Labour in Copeland on the same day. Many see UKIP as potentially eating into the traditional voting base of Labour, citing immigrants (albeit ones from the EU) as the real cause of Britain’s woes.

However, now that Brexit is a reality, shouldn’t those who so flippantly condemn the suffering of others be the last people to dictate the terms of leaving the EU? When so much is at stake, now, more than ever, is the time to stand up to all the injustices in the country, many of which the rich and powerful would happily never bring up in public discourse. The same could, more than likely, be said for UKIP.

The tweet for Mr. Broughan was, in his own words, “a learning curve”. The future of the UK on the other hand, isn’t.

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