Ukip will be toasting these
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Why Labour’s anti-immigration mugs are a boon to Ukip

Not everyone is unhappy about Labour's anti-immigration mugs. Ukip are very, very happy.

Ed Miliband describes himself as a different sort of politician. This guy is different: he under-promises and over-delivers.

But evidently not when it comes to immigration. “Controls on immigration,” reads that mug. “I’m voting Labour.” There is plenty to object to about the mug, as Stephen has brilliantly explained. And there is another dimension too: it is a Ukip dream - “comedy gold,” as a senior Ukip source puts it.

The reason is simple. Any discussion of immigration helps Ukip, by raising the salience of the issue in voters’ minds – “it is our key breakout issue,” the Ukip figure says.

Talking about immigration legitimises Ukip. If even the political class accepts that immigration is such a problem, voters might think, Ukip really do have a point. If you are right to worry about immigration and feel let down by the last Labour government not imposing transition controls on Eastern Europe in 2004, and equally angry about the Conservative Party’s spectacular failure to make good on David Cameron’s promise to reduce immigration to “tens of thousands” then voting for Ukip seems completely rational. As Ed Miliband is opposed to a referendum on the current terms of Britain’s membership of the European Union, Labour’s stance is even more muddled. A vote for Labour is now a vote to address the ‘problem’ of immigration – except it’s one that, because the party does not want out of the EU, it is admitting that it cannot address. It’s the sort of slapdash policy that the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, preventing opposition parties from being caught cold about the date of an election, should have consigned to history.

As I have argued before, the way to tackle Ukip lies in compelling policies to address education, housing and jobs: convince the electorate that you can tackle these problems, and clamping down on immigration seems altogether less pressing. Belatedly the message has got to the Conservative Party. When David Cameron outlined his six priorities in January immigration was conspicuous by its absence. Ukip have not nosedived since (the reasons for their success go much deeper than immigration) but the party’s support has ticked down as it has received less publicity. It is a lesson that whoever produced Labour’s anti-immigration mugs has not learned.

But the real boon to Ukip might not be in five weeks but in five years. Ukip will not win many seats this May, but the party could come second in up to 100 constituencies, giving it a base from which to launch a further electoral assault at the next election – the “2020 strategy”.

Most of Ukip’s second placed finishes will be in seats that Labour wins, especially in the north. Five years of a Miliband government – ideally, for Ukip purposes, propped up by the SNP – could create a perfect storm for Ukip. If the economy struggles, it will invite more Labour voters to defect.

Obviously Labour will hope that this scenario does not materialise. Yet a thriving economy will – perversely - leave Labour open to fresh attack from Ukip. If the economy ticks up, it is certain that, just as has happened in the last two years, immigration will rise with it; a rising number of immigrants are both a cause and effect of economic growth.

So if Labour can go into the next election able to prove that the apocalyptic fears of the economy under Ed Miliband did not materialise, they will still have stoked up trouble for themselves. Miliband’s Labour will join the burgeoning list of UK political parties to over-promise and under-deliver on immigration. Ukip, we can be sure, will not be shy to remind voters – and Labour will have further cause to regret failing to challenge the rightward shift on immigration this Parliament. Those mugs could cost Labour this May and far beyond.

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.

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Meet Anne Marie Waters - the Ukip politician too extreme for Nigel Farage

In January 2016, Waters launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). 

There are few people in British political life who can be attacked from the left by Nigel Farage. Yet that is where Anne Marie Waters has found herself. And by the end of September she could well be the new leader of Ukip, a party almost synonymous with its beer-swilling, chain-smoking former leader.

Waters’s political journey is a curious one. She started out on the political left, but like Oswald Mosley before her, has since veered dramatically to the right. That, however, is where the similarities end. Waters is Irish, agnostic, a lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist.

But it is her politics – rather than who she is – that have caused a stir among Ukip’s old guard. Former leader Paul Nuttall has said that her views make him “uncomfortable” while Farage has claimed Ukip is “finished” if, under her leadership, it becomes an anti-Islam party.

In her rhetoric, Waters echoes groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. She has called Islam “evil” and her leadership manifesto claims that the religion has turned Britain into a “fearful and censorious society”. Waters wants the banning of the burqa, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration.

She started life in Dublin before moving to Germany in her teens to work as an au pair. Waters also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Britain to study journalism at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2003. She subsequently gained a second degree in law. It was then, she says, that she first learnt about Islam, which she claims treats women “like absolute dirt”. Now 39, Waters is a full-time campaigner who lives in Essex with her two dogs and her partner who is an accountant.

Waters’s first spell of serious activism was with the campaign group One Law for All, a secularist organisation fronted by the Iranian feminist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie. Waters resigned in November 2013 after four years with the organisation. According to Namazie, Waters left due to political disagreements over whether the group should collaborate with members of far-right groups.

In April 2014, Waters founded Sharia Watch UK and, in January 2016, she launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). The group was established as a British chapter of the German-based organisation and was set up to counter what it called the “Islamisation of our countries”. By the summer of 2016, it had petered out.

Waters twice stood unsuccessfully to become a Labour parliamentary candidate. Today, she says she could not back Labour due to its “betrayal of women” and “betrayal of the country” over Islam. After joining Ukip in 2014, she first ran for political office in the Lambeth council election, where she finished in ninth place. At the 2015 general election, Waters stood as the party’s candidate in Lewisham East, finishing third with 9.1 per cent of the vote. She was chosen to stand again in the 2016 London Assembly elections but was deselected after her role in Pegida UK became public. Waters was also prevented from standing in Lewisham East at the 2017 general election after Ukip’s then-leader Nuttall publicly intervened.

The current favourite of the 11 candidates standing to succeed Nuttall is deputy leader Peter Whittle, with Waters in second. Some had hoped the party’s top brass would ban her from standing but last week its national executive approved her campaign.

Due to an expected low turnout, the leadership contest is unpredictable. Last November, Nuttall was elected with just 9,622 votes. More than 1,000 new members reportedly joined Ukip in a two-week period earlier this year, prompting fears of far-right entryism.

Mike Hookem MEP has resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip over Waters’ candidacy, saying he would not “turn a blind eye” to extremism. By contrast, chief whip, MEP Stuart Agnew, is a supporter and has likened her to Joan of Arc. Waters is also working closely on her campaign with Jack Buckby, a former BNP activist and one of the few candidates to run against Labour in the by-election for Jo Cox’s former seat of Batley and Spen. Robinson is another backer.

Peculiarly for someone running to be the leader of a party, Waters does not appear to relish public attention. “I’m not a limelight person,” she recently told the Times. “I don’t like being phoned all the time.”

The journalist Jamie Bartlett, who was invited to the initial launch of Pegida UK in Luton in 2015, said of Waters: “She failed to remember the date of the demo. Her head lolled, her words were slurred, and she appeared to almost fall asleep while Tommy [Robinson] was speaking. After 10 minutes it all ground to an uneasy halt.”

In an age when authenticity is everything, it would be a mistake to underestimate yet another unconventional politician. But perhaps British Muslims shouldn’t panic about Anne Marie Waters just yet.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear