11:56, November 14 315 0 theguardian.com

2017-11-14 11:56:03
Nigel Farage withdraws 'violent means' claim against Hope not Hate

Nigel Farage has formally withdrawn his claim that Hope not Hate pursues “violent and undemocratic means” after it launched a crowdfunded libel case against the former Ukip leader.

In a statement filed with the high court in London, Farage said he was “happy to acknowledge that Hope not Hate does not tolerate or pursue violent or undemocratic behaviour” and would not repeat the claim, the anti-extremism pressure group said on Tuesday.

There was no immediate response from a spokesman for Farage.

The case dates back to December 2016, when Farage made the accusation against Hope not Hate, which mainly campaigns against far right and populist groups, and had previously targeted Ukip for scrutiny and criticism.

It began when Farage sent a tweet blaming the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, for a lorry attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. “Terrible news from Berlin but no surprise,” he wrote. “Events like these will be the Merkel legacy.”

Brendan Cox, the widower of Jo Cox, the MP murdered by a far-right extremist, replied on Twitter, accusing Farage of “blaming politicians for the actions of extremists”.

The spat then moved to LBC Radio, where Farage, who has previously accused Hope not Hate of disrupting his public events, said: “Yes, well of course he would know more about extremists than me, Mr Cox. He backs organisations like Hope not Hate, who masquerade as being lovely and peaceful, but actually pursue violent and undemocratic means.”

That prompted Hope not Hate to warn Farage he faced legal action unless he rescinded the “political smear”.

The group crowdfunded a libel action and said it received donations from more than 16,000 people.

The case had been due to be heard later this week, but after a meeting on Friday between lawyers from the two sides, Farage backed down.

Hope not Hate said Farage had promised to not repeat the claim or let anyone else do so on his behalf.

According to the group, the statement read: “Having now considered the position further, I am happy to acknowledge that Hope not Hate does not tolerate or pursue violent or undemocratic behaviour.”

Hope not Hate’s chief executive, Nick Lowles, said: “I am delighted with this victory and that we’ve held Nigel Farage to account.

“The case was about the truth and about Hope not Hate saying no to Nigel Farage’s attempts to smear us. For too long, rightwing politicians have got away with smearing and abusing their opponents. We drew a line in the sand and no more.

“We are an avowedly peaceful organisation and Farage’s false claims were deeply damaging to the vital work we do bringing communities together across cultural and religious divides.”

Lowles said he hoped the case would “send a wider signal to rightwing politicians that smearing people will no longer be accepted”.