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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Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan are both slippery self-mythologisers – so why do we rate one more than the other?

Their obsessions with their childhoods have both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

Andy Burnham is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s widely seen as an unprincipled flip-flopper.

Sadiq Khan is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s the hugely popular mayor of London, the voice of those who’d be proud to think of themselves as the metropolitan liberal elite, and is even talked of as a possible future leader of the Labour party.

Oh, and also they were both born in 1970. So that’s a thing they have in common, too.

Why it is this approach to politics should have worked so much better for the mayor of London than the would-be mayor of Manchester is something I’ve been trying to work out for a while. There are definite parallels between Burnham’s attempts to present himself as a normal northern bloke who likes normal things like football, and Sadiq’s endless reminders that he’s a sarf London geezer whose dad drove a bus. They’ve both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

And yes, Burnham apparent tendency to switch sides, on everything from NHS privatisation to the 2015 welfare vote to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, has given him a reputation for slipperiness. But Sadiq’s core campaign pledge was to freeze London transport fares; everyone said it was nonsense, and true to form it was, and you’d be hard pressed to find an observer who thought this an atypical lapse on the mayor’s part. (Khan, too, has switched sides on the matter of Jeremy Corbyn.)

 And yet, he seems to get away with this, in a way that Burnham doesn’t. His low-level duplicity is factored in, and it’s hard to judge him for it because, well, it’s just what he’s like, isn’t it? For a long time, the Tory leadership’s line on London’s last mayor was “Boris is Boris”, meaning, look, we don’t trust him either, but what you gonna do? Well: Sadiq is Sadiq.

Even the names we refer to them by suggest that one of these two guys is viewed very differently from the other. I’ve instinctively slipped into referring to the mayor of London by his first name: he’s always Sadiq, not Khan, just as his predecessors were Boris and Ken. But, despite Eoin Clarke’s brief attempt to promote his 2015 leadership campaign with a twitter feed called “Labour Andy”, Burnham is still Burnham: formal, not familiar. 

I’ve a few theories to explain all this, though I’ve no idea which is correct. For a while I’ve assumed it’s about sincerity. When Sadiq Khan mentions his dad’s bus for the 257th time in a day, he does it with a wink to the audience, making a crack about the fact he won’t stop going on about it. That way, the message gets through to the punters at home who are only half listening, but the bored lobby hacks who’ve heard this routine two dozen times before feel they’re in the joke.

Burnham, it seems to me, lacks this lightness of touch: when he won’t stop banging on about the fact he grew up in the north, it feels uncomfortably like he means it. And to take yourself seriously in politics is sometimes to invite others to make jokes at your expense.

Then again, perhaps the problem is that Burnham isn’t quite sincere enough. Sadiq Khan genuinely is the son of a bus-driving immigrant: he may keep going on about it, but it is at least true. Burnham’s “just a northern lad” narrative is true, too, but excludes some crucial facts: that he went to Cambridge, and was working in Parliament aged 24. Perhaps that shouldn’t change how we interpret his story; but I fear, nonetheless, it does.

Maybe that’s not it, though: maybe I’m just another London media snob. Because Burnham did grow up at the disadvantaged end of the country, a region where, for too many people, chasing opportunities means leaving. The idea London is a city where the son of a bus driver can become mayor flatters our metropolitan self-image; the idea that a northerner who wants to build a career in politics has to head south at the earliest opportunity does the opposite. 

So if we roll our eyes when Burnham talks about the north, perhaps that reflects badly on us, not him: the opposite of northern chippiness is southern snobbery.

There’s one last possibility for why we may rate Sadiq Khan more highly than Andy Burnham: Sadiq Khan won. We can titter a little at the jokes and the fibs but he is, nonetheless, mayor of London. Andy Burnham is just the bloke who lost two Labour leadership campaigns.

At least – for now. In six weeks time, he’s highly likely to the first mayor of Greater Manchester. Slipperiness is not the worst quality in a mayor; and so much of the job will be about banging the drum for the city, and the region, that Burnham’s tendency to wear his northernness on his sleeve will be a positive boon.

Sadiq Khan’s stature has grown because the fact he became London’s mayor seems to say something, about the kind of city London is and the kind we want it to be. Perhaps, after May, Andy Burnham can do the same for the north – and the north can do the same for Andy Burnham.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.