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

Photo: Getty
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The UK press’s timid reaction to Brexit is in marked contrast to the satire unleashed on Trump

For the BBC, it seems, to question leaving the EU is to be unpatriotic.

Faced with arguably their biggest political-cum-constitutional ­crisis in half a century, the press on either side of the pond has reacted very differently. Confronting a president who, unlike many predecessors, does not merely covertly dislike the press but rages against its supposed mendacity as a purveyor of “fake news”, the fourth estate in the US has had a pretty successful first 150-odd days of the Trump era. The Washington Post has recovered its Watergate mojo – the bloodhound tenacity that brought down Richard Nixon. The Post’s investigations into links between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s associates and appointees have yielded the scalp of the former security adviser Michael Flynn and led to Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from all inquiries into Trump-Russia contacts. Few imagine the story will end there.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has cast off its image as “the grey lady” and come out in sharper colours. Commenting on the James Comey memo in an editorial, the Times raised the possibility that Trump was trying to “obstruct justice”, and called on Washington lawmakers to “uphold the constitution”. Trump’s denunciations of the Times as “failing” have acted as commercial “rocket fuel” for the paper, according to its CEO, Mark Thompson: it gained an “astonishing” 308,000 net digital news subscriptions in the first quarter of 2017.

US-based broadcast organisations such as CNN and ABC, once considered slick or bland, have reacted to Trump’s bullying in forthright style. Political satire is thriving, led by Saturday Night Live, with its devastating impersonations of the president by Alec Baldwin and of his press secretary Sean Spicer by the brilliant Melissa McCarthy.

British press reaction to Brexit – an epic constitutional, political and economic mess-up that probably includes a mind-bogglingly destructive self-ejection from a single market and customs union that took decades to construct, a move pushed through by a far-right faction of the Tory party – has been much more muted. The situation is complicated by the cheerleading for Brexit by most of the British tabloids and the Daily Telegraph. There are stirrings of resistance, but even after an election in which Theresa May spectacularly failed to secure a mandate for her hard Brexit, there is a sense, though the criticism of her has been intense, of the media pussy-footing around a government in disarray – not properly interrogating those who still seem to promise that, in relation to Europe, we can have our cake and eat it.

This is especially the case with the BBC, a state broadcaster that proudly proclaims its independence from the government of the day, protected by the famous “arm’s-length” principle. In the case of Brexit, the BBC invoked its concept of “balance” to give equal airtime and weight to Leavers and Remainers. Fair enough, you might say, but according to the economist Simon Wren-Lewis, it ignored a “near-unanimous view among economists that Brexit would hurt the UK economy in the longer term”.

A similar view of “balance” in the past led the BBC to equate views of ­non-scientific climate contrarians, often linked to the fossil-fuel lobby, with those of leading climate scientists. Many BBC Remainer insiders still feel incensed by what they regard as BBC betrayal over Brexit. Although the referendum of 23 June 2016 said nothing about leaving the single market or the customs union, the Today presenter Justin Webb, in a recent interview with Stuart Rose, put it like this: “Staying in the single market, staying in the customs union – [Leave voters would say] you might as well not be leaving. That fundamental position is a matter of democracy.” For the BBC, it seems, to question Brexit is somehow to be unpatriotic.

You might think that an independent, pro-democratic press would question the attempted use of the arcane and archaic “royal prerogative” to enable the ­bypassing of parliament when it came to triggering Article 50, signalling the UK’s departure from the EU. But when the campaigner Gina Miller’s challenge to the government was upheld by the high court, the three ruling judges were attacked on the front page of the Daily Mail as “enemies of the people”. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he would rather have “newspapers without a government” than “a government without newspapers”. It’s a fair guess he wasn’t thinking of newspapers that would brand the judiciary as “enemies of the people”.

It does seem significant that the United States has a written constitution, encapsulating the separation and balance of powers, and explicitly designed by the Founding Fathers to protect the young republic against tyranny. When James Madison drafted the First Amendment he was clear that freedom of the press should be guaranteed to a much higher degree in the republic than it had been in the colonising power, where for centuries, after all, British monarchs and prime ministers have had no qualms about censoring an unruly media.

By contrast, the United Kingdom remains a hybrid of monarchy and democracy, with no explicit protection of press freedom other than the one provided by the common law. The national impulse to bend the knee before the sovereign, to obey and not question authority, remains strangely powerful in Britain, the land of Henry VIII as well as of George Orwell. That the United Kingdom has slipped 11 places in the World Press Freedom Index in the past four years, down to 40th, has rightly occasioned outrage. Yet, even more awkwardly, the United States is three places lower still, at 43rd. Freedom of the press may not be doing quite as well as we imagine in either country.

Harry Eyres is the author of Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (2013)

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder