Is Ukip a party of bigots? Let's look at the evidence

Their manifesto might just look like a list of things that annoy people, but party members hold some views that should concern us, says Alex Andreou.

The danger with extremism is that, when filtered through eyes and minds of reasonable people, it appears ridiculous. The reasonable assumption is that others will view it through the same filter and find it equally ridiculous. But, while The Reasonable laugh, support for extremist views creeps up. Because what The Reasonable failed to notice is that fear and insecurity have a way of robbing others of reason.

Ukip’s manifesto is a collection of promises selected, seemingly, on the basis of “twenty things that really annoy people”, with no inkling of implementation method or any costings; a wish list for The Annoyed.

Scared of immigrants? Vote Ukip.

Insecure about the financial crisis? Vote Ukip.

Hate the smoking ban, HS2, Brussels, travellers, burqas, regulation, tax, Boris, debt, wind farms, quangos, foreign aid, crime, Abu Qatada, tuition fees, lazy people, Muslims, foreigners, the hunting ban? Vote Ukip.

The real danger of Ukip becoming a serious contender for coalition partnership in 2015 is gleefully ignored by the centre-left (because, after all, they are damaging the Tories) and dealt with by the centre-right by shifting closer to their extremes; by copying their policies and rhetoric. Everything from the EU referendum and citizenship tests (pdf) to Theresa May’s – and I’m not making this up – imbecilic tales of cat loving, illegal immigrants.

In other words, not only is nobody challenging their vitriol, but they are being allowed to set the political agenda.

Meanwhile their oleaginous leader, whom the British media have taken to calling “charismatic”, is invited to appear on every news programme. This is, apparently, in order to provide balance on European matters – which is like inviting a creationist to give their view every time a story breaks about dinosaur fossils.

This man, who claims he stands alone in wanting to fight for Britain’s interests in the Evil EU, and who bemoans the amount of taxpayers' money going to the aforementioned Evil EU, boasts about having claimed up to £2m in expenses out of said taxpayers' money and presides over a party three of whose representatives have the worst attendance record of any British MEPs (who together already have the lowest attendance record of any national delegation). Presumably they are all fighting for Britain’s interests remotely from a BBC studio, somewhere.

Most important of all, we are asked to believe – and this is essential in making Ukip palatable to The Annoyed – that Ukip is not a party of bigots. That, it may walk like a duck and quack like a duck and be affiliated to other ducks all over Europe, but it is, in fact, a platypus. “I'd rather have a party of eccentrics than bland, ghastly people”, says Nigel Farage. Let us examine those eccentrics.

Links with European far-right parties

Ukip is part of the group Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD). The group includes representatives of the Danish People’s Party, the True Finns Party, the Dutch SGP and the infamous Italian Lega Nord – all of them far-right. Nigel Farage is co-President of the group along with Lega Nord’s Francesco Speroni, who described multiple murderer Anders Breivik as someone whose “ideas are in defence of western civilisation."

Mario Borghezio, another member of the group, declared in a radio interview that Breivik had some "excellent" ideas. Farage’s reaction was to write a strongly-worded letter to Borghezio, asking him to withdraw his comments or Ukip would pull out of the EFD. Borghezio not only did not apologise, but responded with an extraordinary speech in which he raged: "Long live the Whites of Europe, long live our identity, our ethnicity, our race… our blue sky, like the eyes of our women. Blue, in a people who want to stay white."

Nigel Farage did not withdraw from the EFD. He continues to co-preside over it, along with the leader of the Lega Nord. MEP Nikki Sinclaire, however, was expelled from Ukip for refusing to take part in the EFD because of their “extreme views”.

Links with domestic far-right parties

“Ukip has no links to the BNP,” explained Farage in 2007. The first line of any description of Ukip calls it “a libertarian, non-racist party”. What party, other than one skating close to the lines of taste and decency, needs to describe itself as “non-racist”? Farage boasted on The Andrew Marr Show (20 January 2013) that “Ukip is the only UK party to explicitly ban BNP members from joining”. What party, other than a party whose policies are attractive to such organisations, would need to do that?

Christopher Monckton, their Scotland Leader and Head of Policy Unit invited the now-defunct British Freedom Party – an amalgamation of mostly breakaway BNP members led by a former Ukip candidate until January 2013 – to join Ukip: “I would very much like them to come back and join us and we stand together.” Ukip’s excuse for this lapse? Monckton had been away on a tour of the US and was not up to speed with current policy. More recently, however, Farage refused to vote to oppose moves for the European Union to fund the BNP.

The founder of the party, Alan Sked, says it has become "extraordinarily right-wing" and is now devoted to "creating a fuss, via Islam and immigrants”.

Xenophobia

“Our traditional values have been undermined. Children are taught to be ashamed of our past. Multiculturalism has split our society. Political correctness is stifling free speech”, states the Ukip manifesto. Their “Pocket Guide to Immigration” promises to “end support for multiculturalism and promote one, common British culture”. After attracting some negative publicity, it has disappeared from here, but an archived version can be seen here (pdf).

One of their prospective MP candidates recently wrote: "A removal of multi-culturalism and assimilation of these people needs to be done to save them from the abyss of exclusion and welfare. Above all, one should not shy away of contemplating forced repatriation, or threatening it to further assimilation, as a result of their lack of economic contribution to the UK." In fact their position on “forced repatriation” and “assimilation” is indistinguishable from the BNP’s. Except, perhaps, that Ukip’s 2005 manifesto advocates that all incoming immigrants should be “subject to health checks” for “communicable diseases”.

More recently, during BBC’s Question Time, Farage caused upset with some gross generalisations he made about Bulgarian people. He sent his trusted lieutenant and deputy chairman of the party Paul Nuttall to Bulgaria to defuse the situation. Nuttall explained that he had nothing to apologise for, since he never bashed Bulgarians, but was just noting facts. He stressed that “Brits fear all immigrants, regardless of where they would come from.”

Islamophobia

“On the question of Islamification,” said Farage during a well-received speech, “we have to do a bit more to teach our children of the values of our Judeo-Christian society.” He proceeded to note that at least 20 police forces are turning a blind eye to the operation of Sharia Law and expressed admiration for countries which say: “You’re welcome to come here and to have your children here… but if you’re coming here to take us over, you’re not welcome.”

A recent manifesto commitment to "tackle extremist Islam by banning the burqa or veiled niqab in public buildings and certain private buildings" was further explained by Farage: "I can't go into a bank with a motorcycle helmet on. I can't wear a balaclava going round the District and Circle line.”

Finally, Ukip peer Lord Pearson put it unequivocally. "The Muslims are breeding ten times faster than us," he said. "I don't know at what point they reach such a number we are no longer able to resist the rest of their demands."

Misogyny

Ukip’s only female MEP (after the expulsion of Nikki Sinclaire) Marta Andreasen, recently threatened to leave the party, labelling Farage as an “anti-women Stalinist dictator” whose view is that “women should be in the kitchen or in the bedroom”.

This came as no surprise. His grasp of sexual politics has always been tenuous at best. As he explained in a Telegraph interview: “Lap dancing? Don’t have the time these days, but I used to go to them. Like it or not, they are a fact of life. You are talking about normal behaviour there. Everyone does it.” Then, asked about extra-marital affairs, he conceded: “Well, we’re all human. There is a big difference between that sort of thing and being really bad.”

When Godfrey Bloom MEP, infamous for making a speech in the European Parliament – one of his better ones – while heavily intoxicated, said that “no employer with a brain in the right place would employ a young, single, free woman”, Farage’s reaction was “Dear old Godders! Godfrey's comment [as above] has been proved so right.”

Views on the less able

In 2007, Jack Biggs alleged that he had been banned from running as a candidate because of his disability and presented significant evidence in support. Later, high-ranking member Alexandra Swann sided with a Ukip councillor who said it was dangerous to allow those who do not work to vote. Political Scrapbook reported her as saying that “allowing people to vote on how other people’s money is spent — if they don’t contribute — is dangerous”. This, presumably, would include those unable to contribute because of disability.

Finally, the apotheosis (and demise of Godwin’s law, forever hence) came when a UKIP candidate aired his repugnant views about compulsory abortion of all disabled babies.

Homophobia

Ousted MEP Nikki Sinclaire, who came out as a lesbian, won a sexual discrimination case against UKIP after refusing to sit with its homophobic allies in the European parliament. 

On a private members’ forum, senior UKIP member and former parliamentary candidate Dr Julia Gasper claimed some homosexuals prefer sex with animals. The Mirror reported her as saying: “As for the links between homosexuality and paedophilia, there is so much evidence that even a full-length book could hardly do justice to the ­subject.” (Ironically, UKIP General Secretary Jonathan Arnott had banned a discussion on the site on gay issues, because he feared that someone “is going to screenshoot comments and send them to a newspaper”.) She was sacked.

More recently a UKIP Croydon North candidate tweeted: "A caring loving home is a heterosexual or single family. I don't believe (a gay couple) is healthy for a child." He did so, after retweeting an article written by a National Front supporter who claimed there was "no such thing as homophobia". He was sacked.

However, Olly Neville, the former UKIP Youth Chairman, was also sacked for supporting same-sex marriage. Sack them all, as long as we don’t have to talk about it, seems to be the policy.

***

These are the facts and they speak for themselves. This is a barrel in which you would be lucky to find one good apple, misplaced among the rotten ones. Like former UKIP activist Kim Gandy, who worked in care, but joked on Facebook that elderly people should be euthanised when they become a burden (she told the NS the comments were written after a bad day, and have been taken out of context), or Maggie Chapman, who cracks jokes about Muslims having sex with camels and “paki” families going home and spreads Christmas cheer with her “eggnog for nig-nogs”. Farage can distance himself from all of them; sack all of them; disinherit all of them. The inescapable truth is that it is his policies which attract them and will keep doing so; they remain his “eccentrics”.

Paul Nuttall once wrote: “We in Ukip know: if you champion British interest and culture then you are labelled a nationalist with all the connotations that goes [sic] with it.” I would remind Nuttall of the distinction drawn by Charles De Gaulle: “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” I look at the policies, the rhetoric and the candidates, and I see nothing about love of one’s own people. I see only hate for others.

Instead, if you find yourself nodding in agreement with a couple of items on Ukip’s long list of empty promises, remember all the other things you will also be signing up for. They represent a particularly insidious brand of extremist; Bigotry Light, if you will – all the hatred of normal bigotry, but none of the calories.

And rejoin The Reasonable, so we may continue to be the majority and laugh at things. Like this election leaflet.

Editor's note: this article originally stated that Maggie Chapman worked in care and had made comments about euthanasia. This was misattributed, and has been corrected.

 

Nigel Farage. Photograph: Getty Images

Greek-born, Alex Andreou has a background in law and economics. He runs the Sturdy Beggars Theatre Company and blogs here You can find him on twitter @sturdyalex

Getty
Show Hide image

Is TTIP a threat or an opportunity?

TTIP offers potentially huge opportunities to both Europe and the US - we should keep an open mind on what the final agreement will mean.

Barack Obama made it abundantly clear during his visit to the UK that if Britain left the European Union then it would be quite some time before we would be able to negotiate a trade deal with the United States. All the more reason to examine carefully what the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will mean for the UK. For Labour this is especially important because a number of trade unionists and Party members have expressed concerns about what TTIP could mean.

The economic worth of such a partnership between the European Union and the US has been questioned and it has been frequently stated that TTIP could give multinational companies unprecedented influence and undermine the British NHS.

With regard to the economic benefits of TTIP there are few that would argue that there are no economic gains to be achieved through the partnership. The question is to what extent economic growth will be stimulated. On the positive side the European Commission has argued that an agreement could bring economic gains of between €68 billion to €119 billion per year to the EU (0.3% to 0.5% of GDP) and €50 billion to €95 billion (0.2% to 0.4% of GDP) to the US. For Britain, this means that an agreement could add up to £10 billion annually to the UK economy.

On the negative side, a study commissioned by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left Group in the European Parliament has maintained that TTIP would bring only “limited economic gains”. These gains have to be weighed, it was argued, against the “downside risks”. Those risks have been identified as coming from the alignment of standards in areas such as consumer safety, environmental protection and public health.

These are important concerns and they should not be quickly dismissed. They are made all the more important because the existence of already low tariffs between the EU and the US make the negotiations to reduce non-tariff barriers to trade all the more significant.

There are a number of areas of concern. These include food standards and the regulation of GM crops and the worry that the EU’s focus on applying the environmental precautionary principle might be weakened. The European Commission, which has a responsibility for negotiating TTIP on behalf of the EU, is however acutely aware of these concerns and is mindful of its legal responsibility to uphold, and not to in any way weaken, the agreed legal standards to which the EU adheres. A concern has been expressed that irrespective of what European law may say, TTIP could undermine those standards. This I find difficult to accept because the ‘rule of law’ is absolutely central to the negotiations and the adoption of the final agreement.

But the EU is mindful of this concern and has brought forward measures which have sought to address these fears. The latest proposals from the Commission clearly set out that it is the right of individual governments to take measures to achieve public policy objectives on the level that they deem appropriate. As the Commission’s proposal states, the Agreement shall not affect the right of the parties to regulate within their own territories in order to achieve policy objectives including “the protection of public health, safety, environmental or public morals, social or consumer protection or promotion and protection of cultural diversity”.

Of course, this is not to suggest that there should not be vigilance, but equally I believe it would be wrong to assume the theoretical problems would inevitably become reality.

The main area of concern which has been expressed in Britain about TTIP relates to the NHS and the role of the private sector. Under the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions investors would be able to bring proceedings against a foreign government that is party to the treaty. This would be done in tribunals outside the domestic legal system. If a Government is found to be in breach of its treaty obligations the investor who has been harmed could receive monetary compensation or other forms of redress.

The concern is that the ISDS arrangements will undermine the ability of democratically elected governments to act on behalf of their citizens. Some have maintained that measures to open up the NHS to competition could be made irreversible if US companies had to be compensated when there is a change of policy from a future Labour Government.

In response to these concerns the European Commission has proposed an Investor Court System. This would be based on judgements being made by publicly appointed and experienced judges and that cases would only be brought forward if they were precisely defined. Specifically, it is proposed that cases would be limited to targeted discrimination on the basis of gender, race or religion, or nationality, expropriation without compensation or the denial of justice.

Why, you might ask, is there a need at all for a trans-national Investor Court System? The reason in part lies in the parlous state of the judicial systems in some of the relatively recent EU accession countries in Eastern Europe. To be frank, it is sadly the case that there are significant shortcomings in the judiciary of some countries and the rule of law is, in these cases, more apparent than real. It is therefore not unreasonable for investors to have an international framework and structure which will give them confidence to invest. It should also be noted that there is nothing proposed in TTIP which contradicts anything which is already in UK law.

We need to remember too that this is not only about US investment in Europe, it is also about European investment in the US. No US-wide law prohibits discrimination against foreign investors, and international law, such as free trade and investment agreements like TTIP, cannot be invoked in US courts. The Investor Court System would therefore benefit European companies, especially Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. 

It is of course impossible to come to a definitive conclusion about these provisions because the negotiations are ongoing. But it would surely be unwise to assume that the final agreement would inevitably be problematic.

This is especially true regarding the NHS. Last year Unite the Union commissioned Michael Bowsher QC to provide an opinion. His opinion was that “TTIP does pose a threat to a future government wishing to take back control of health services”. The opinion does not express a view on whether TTIP will “force” the privatisation of the health service (as some have claimed) and Bowsher admits that much of the debate is “conducted at a rather speculative level” and he has been unable to produce any tangible evidence to support his contention about future problems. On the other hand, it is the case that there is nothing in the proposed agreement which would alter existing arrangements for compensation. There are of course many legal opinions which underpin the view that existing legal arrangements would continue. While I accept that it is theoretically possible for the Bowsher scenario to occur, it is nevertheless extremely improbable. That is not to say that there ought not to be watertight safeguards in the agreement, but let us not elevate the extremely improbable to the highly likely.

A frequently heard criticism of TTIP is that the negotiations between the US and the EU are being conducted in ‘secret’.  Greenpeace, for example, has strongly sought to make this a central part of their campaign.  Although the Commission publishes EU position papers and negotiating proposals soon after they are tabled, it is impossible to see how complex negotiations of this kind can be practically conducted in public.  However, I believe that the draft agreement should be made public well before the final decisions are taken.

Once the negotiations have been concluded, the draft agreement will be presented to the European Council and the European Parliament, both of which have to agree the text. The European Council is, of course, made up of representatives of the governments of the EU and the European Parliament is democratically elected. Both Houses of the British Parliament will also debate the draft and there will need to be parliamentary approval of the agreement.

Transparency and democratic scrutiny are two things which there cannot be too much of. But, in practical terms, it is difficult to see how there could be more of either without making it nigh on impossible to secure such a complex agreement. Unite, of which I am a member, and others are quite right to express their concerns about TTIP, but let’s not exaggerate the potential difficulties and let’s not assume that the worst case scenario will always come about. TTIP offers potentially huge opportunities to both Europe and the US, and we should therefore at least keep an open mind on what the final agreement will mean.

Wayne David is the Labour MP for Caerphilly and is Shadow Minister for Political Reform and Justice. He is a former Shadow Europe Minister and was a junior minister in the last Labour government.