Versa | Senior UKIP official brands students “the great unwashed”

Tom Bursnall, a UKIP councillor in Windsor and member of the party’s National Executive Committee, has slammed student activists – and UKIP’s press office supported the comments with disdain for any offence caused.

After the proposal of a motion to no platform UKIP on campus at Essex’s Student Union, Bursnall described the students as “the great unwashed” and the “loony left“. Not labels a man who was selling his house for £1.795 million should be throwing around lightly.

Mr. Bursnall defended his statement to VERSA – reiterating his description of the the student activists, but claiming that these remarks were not in fact offensive to working-class people. He stated his intention was simply to convey that the students needed a “jolly good wash”, and he was just using a “pejorative term”.

However, when asked for comment, Unite activist and Young Labour NEC member Max Shanly stated that he considered ‘the great unwashed’ a severely offensive term for the working-class.

Nigel P. Farage, of Question Time fame

Mr Bursnall did not appear to understand how offence could have been caused, as his intended meaning was not the same as that given by dictionaries. He explained he had had left-wing friends in his own time at university, and similar comments to those peers had not caused them to “cry into their couscous”.

UKIP’s North West Press Officer confirmed our mistake: Mr Bursnall had indeed been operating under a different definition of ‘the great unwashed’ to that commonly accepted. In addition, he claimed, if VERSA were to call Mr Bursnall’s comments demeaning to the working-class, we would be committing defamation of character. We welcome any efforts to uphold this claim in a court of law.

According to a follow-up email from Gawain Towler, UKIP’s Head of Press, VERSA’s reporter is someone who – unlike Mr Bursnall’s university friends – does cry into their couscous (or, as seen below, perhaps quinoa – an upgrade?); as an individual they are someone who “invents outrage”.

Mr. Towler also informed our reporter that he shames his college, St John’s, on the grounds that he “works [himself] into a faux froth” over nothing. He further suggested that the student is, in fact, more suited to martyrdom like John’s alumni William Laud and Edmund Campion, rather than following the footsteps of literary luminaries Robert Graves and Philip Larkin.

Somehow, I think we may have touched a nerve…

Correction – VERSA spoke to two Press Officers from UKIP not one; we have amended the attribution of comments to reflect this.

Further correction – An earlier version of this article stated that Tom Bursnall’s house was being sold for £1.8m. The house, which belonged previously to Max Mosley, was in fact on the market for only £1.795m. We apologise for the gross inflation of this figure and have amended the text as requested.