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

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We're racing towards another private debt crisis - so why did no one see it coming?

The Office for Budget Responsibility failed to foresee the rise in household debt. 

This is a call for a public inquiry on the current situation regarding private debt.

For almost a decade now, since 2007, we have been living a lie. And that lie is preparing to wreak havoc on our economy. If we do not create some kind of impartial forum to discuss what is actually happening, the results might well prove disastrous. 

The lie I am referring to is the idea that the financial crisis of 2008, and subsequent “Great Recession,” were caused by profligate government spending and subsequent public debt. The exact opposite is in fact the case. The crash happened because of dangerously high levels of private debt (a mortgage crisis specifically). And - this is the part we are not supposed to talk about—there is an inverse relation between public and private debt levels.

If the public sector reduces its debt, overall private sector debt goes up. That's what happened in the years leading up to 2008. Now austerity is making it happening again. And if we don't do something about it, the results will, inevitably, be another catastrophe.

The winners and losers of debt

These graphs show the relationship between public and private debt. They are both forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, produced in 2015 and 2017. 

This is what the OBR was projecting what would happen around now back in 2015:

This year the OBR completely changed its forecast. This is how it now projects things are likely to turn out:

First, notice how both diagrams are symmetrical. What happens on top (that part of the economy that is in surplus) precisely mirrors what happens in the bottom (that part of the economy that is in deficit). This is called an “accounting identity.”

As in any ledger sheet, credits and debits have to match. The easiest way to understand this is to imagine there are just two actors, government, and the private sector. If the government borrows £100, and spends it, then the government has a debt of £100. But by spending, it has injected £100 more pounds into the private economy. In other words, -£100 for the government, +£100 for everyone else in the diagram. 

Similarly, if the government taxes someone for £100 , then the government is £100 richer but there’s £100 subtracted from the private economy (+£100 for government, -£100 for everybody else on the diagram).

So what implications does this kind of bookkeeping have for the overall economy? It means that if the government goes into surplus, then everyone else has to go into debt.

We tend to think of money as if it is a bunch of poker chips already lying around, but that’s not how it really works. Money has to be created. And money is created when banks make loans. Either the government borrows money and injects it into the economy, or private citizens borrow money from banks. Those banks don’t take the money from people’s savings or anywhere else, they just make it up. Anyone can write an IOU. But only banks are allowed to issue IOUs that the government will accept in payment for taxes. (In other words, there actually is a magic money tree. But only banks are allowed to use it.)

There are other factors. The UK has a huge trade deficit (blue), and that means the government (yellow) also has to run a deficit (print money, or more accurately, get banks to do it) to inject into the economy to pay for all those Chinese trainers, American iPads, and German cars. The total amount of money can also fluctuate. But the real point here is, the less the government is in debt, the more everyone else must be. Austerity measures will necessarily lead to rising levels of private debt. And this is exactly what has happened.

Now, if this seems to have very little to do with the way politicians talk about such matters, there's a simple reason: most politicians don’t actually know any of this. A recent survey showed 90 per cent of MPs don't even understand where money comes from (they think it's issued by the Royal Mint). In reality, debt is money. If no one owed anyone anything at all there would be no money and the economy would grind to a halt.

But of course debt has to be owed to someone. These charts show who owes what to whom.

The crisis in private debt

Bearing all this in mind, let's look at those diagrams again - keeping our eye particularly on the dark blue that represents household debt. In the first, 2015 version, the OBR duly noted that there was a substantial build-up of household debt in the years leading up to the crash of 2008. This is significant because it was the first time in British history that total household debts were higher than total household savings, and therefore the household sector itself was in deficit territory. (Corporations, at the same time, were raking in enormous profits.) But it also predicted this wouldn't happen again.

True, the OBR observed, austerity and the reduction of government deficits meant private debt levels would have to go up. However, the OBR economists insisted this wouldn't be a problem because the burden would fall not on households but on corporations. Business-friendly Tory policies would, they insisted, inspire a boom in corporate expansion, which would mean frenzied corporate borrowing (that huge red bulge below the line in the first diagram, which was supposed to eventually replace government deficits entirely). Ordinary households would have little or nothing to worry about.

This was total fantasy. No such frenzied boom took place.

In the second diagram, two years later, the OBR is forced to acknowledge this. Corporations are just raking in the profits and sitting on them. The household sector, on the other hand, is a rolling catastrophe. Austerity has meant falling wages, less government spending on social services (or anything else), and higher de facto taxes. This puts the squeeze on household budgets and people are forced to borrow. As a result, not only are households in overall deficit for the second time in British history, the situation is actually worse than it was in the years leading up to 2008.

And remember: it was a mortgage crisis that set off the 2008 crash, which almost destroyed the world economy and plunged millions into penury. Not a crisis in public debt. A crisis in private debt.

An inquiry

In 2015, around the time the original OBR predictions came out, I wrote an essay in the Guardian predicting that austerity and budget-balancing would create a disastrous crisis in private debt. Now it's so clearly, unmistakably, happening that even the OBR cannot deny it.

I believe the time has come for there be a public investigation - a formal public inquiry, in fact - into how this could be allowed to happen. After the 2008 crash, at least the economists in Treasury and the Bank of England could plausibly claim they hadn't completely understood the relation between private debt and financial instability. Now they simply have no excuse.

What on earth is an institution called the “Office for Budget Responsibility” credulously imagining corporate borrowing binges in order to suggest the government will balance the budget to no ill effects? How responsible is that? Even the second chart is extremely odd. Up to 2017, the top and bottom of the diagram are exact mirrors of one another, as they ought to be. However, in the projected future after 2017, the section below the line is much smaller than the section above, apparently seriously understating the amount both of future government, and future private, debt. In other words, the numbers don't add up.

The OBR told the New Statesman ​that it was not aware of any errors in its 2015 forecast for corporate sector net lending, and that the forecast was based on the available data. It said the forecast for business investment has been revised down because of the uncertainty created by Brexit. 

Still, if the “Office of Budget Responsibility” was true to its name, it should be sounding off the alarm bells right about now. So far all we've got is one mention of private debt and a mild warning about the rise of personal debt from the Bank of England, which did not however connect the problem to austerity, and one fairly strong statement from a maverick columnist in the Daily Mail. Otherwise, silence. 

The only plausible explanation is that institutions like the Treasury, OBR, and to a degree as well the Bank of England can't, by definition, warn against the dangers of austerity, however alarming the situation, because they have been set up the way they have in order to justify austerity. It's important to emphasise that most professional economists have never supported Conservative policies in this regard. The policy was adopted because it was convenient to politicians; institutions were set up in order to support it; economists were hired in order to come up with arguments for austerity, rather than to judge whether it would be a good idea. At present, this situation has led us to the brink of disaster.

The last time there was a financial crash, the Queen famously asked: why was no one able to foresee this? We now have the tools. Perhaps the most important task for a public inquiry will be to finally ask: what is the real purpose of the institutions that are supposed to foresee such matters, to what degree have they been politicised, and what would it take to turn them back into institutions that can at least inform us if we're staring into the lights of an oncoming train?