UKIP Oxford Chair steps down

The chair of UKIP’s Oxfordshire branch has resigned from her post in order to end press attention directed at her.

In May 2012, Cherwell reported the controversy over allegedly homophobic comments made by Gasper. She is also reported to have linked the Qu’ran to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Dr Julia Gasper, who has a DPhil from Somerville College, said that she resigned as the Oxford branch Chair in order to end the “press vendetta” against her.

She also stated, “I have not been chucked out of UKIP; I have offered to step down as chairman of the local branch in the belief that this is best for the party.”

The controversy arose because of a post on her blog which has since been deleted. In May 2012, Cherwell reported that she wrote, “We ought to reflect that there is a strong connection between male homosexuality and paedophilia. Why hush it up?”

Cherwell reported that Gasper continued to allege that homosexuals, “rather than claiming equality, are in many respects now claiming privilege and special treatment,” and that Gasper has called for homosexuals to express “gratitude”, as they are “completely dependent on heterosexuals to create them.”

Last year Cherwell also reported that Colin Cortbus, a former UKIP activist, forwarded an exchange of emails between himself and Gasper in which Gasper’s beliefs are restated. Within the emails she claimed, “Although gay men are only about 3 per cent of the population, they are about 50 per cent of the paedophiles.”

Her comments in the emails also concerned the nature of the Qur’an. The emails forwarded by Cortbus reported her saying, “Why is it any more wrong to assert that the Qur’an is a fascist book than to assert that Mein Kampf is a fascist book? The Qur’an is a lot more explicit in advocating hate and murder than Mein Kampf is.”

When Cherwell previously asked Gasper to comment on the allegations against her, Gasper denied that her behaviour had been homophobic, claiming, “This is a malicious witch hunt; people enjoy stirring this up. I have always been tolerant, but I have been demonised by malicious people.”

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She continued, “The fact is that I have not made any public statement at any time about the Qur’an nor have I ever attacked Muslims. I have many Muslim friends and work with them on a daily basis. I am entitled to my private opinions about any book.”

Gasper also argued that, “Anyone who wants to find out the truth about UKIP needs to go and look at our own websites. The ignorance and naïveté of modern students about political matters is absolutely shocking.”

When approached, the UKIP Press Office was reluctant to comment, but eventually stated, “She’s gone, she’s resigned, she is no longer the Chairman. She offered her resignation. We accepted it.” They added that they did not know when a new Chairman would be appointed.

Regarding her resignation, Gasper denied any claims that she was forced out, saying, “The point of it is not to punish me, but simply to put an end to the press vendetta against me.” The UKIP Press Office added, “We are not prescriptive of our members except when in positions of responsibility.”

Some students disagreed with Gasper’s resignation. Ben Rosenbaum, a second-year PPEist at St Anne’s, said, “I think it’s a massive shame that Julia Gasper has resigned – her near farcical levels of bigotry and ignorance have kept UKIP far, far away from Oxford City Council seats over the past few years. If only she’d been a tiny bit more conceited, she might have stayed on and ruined UKIP’s electoral chances in Oxford forever.”

Tom Oakley, a student at Hertford College, commented, “In an era of spin it’s quite refreshing to see a wannabe politician unafraid to ‘tell it like it is’ – or at least her version of events. I believe in freedom of speech and she’s entitled to hold her ridiculous views.”

Others applauded the resignation. Andrew Hall, St Anne’s LGBTQ JCR Rep, claimed, “Rhetoric such as that of Julia Gasper is irresponsible and unfounded. Her treatment of homosexuality and paedophilia highlights her ignorance and I’m sure I’m not the only one glad to hear of her resignation.”

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One St Anne’s student opined, “Quite clearly Dr Gasper’s views don’t belong in the 19th century let alone the 21st. How someone as ignorant and detached from reality as this ever achieved a PhD here is beyond me.”