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22 October 2014updated 22 Jul 2021 4:33am

How the Ukip calypso drowns out more sinister stories

"Oh, look! Ukip's doing something funny again!" stories only really work to overshadow the party's actual failings.

By Anoosh Chakelian

Ukip has been in the headlines for two stories this week. The first is for its partnership with a Polish MEP from a Holocaust-denying party to save its bloc in the European Parliament from collapsing. The second is a poorly-written, casually racist calypso championing Nigel Farage as the next PM. The song has been withdrawn by the man who wrote it, a Ukip-backing Radio 1 DJ, Mike Read, who apologised earlier today.

A comment on the relation between these two stories from ConservativeHome‘s Mark Wallace caught my eye:

One tweeter’s reply pointed out that the former story works in the party’s favour, because it can spin it into a “political correctness gone mad” situation:

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Indeed, as reported by the Mail‘s John Stevens, a party spokesperson commented: “It’s a pity those so concerned with political correctness have trodden all over this.”

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It is the perpetual pitfall of reporting on Ukip’s actions. “Oh, look! Ukip’s doing something funny again!” is a story that is written again and again as the party and its members, or supporters, do or say something silly. But criticising the party for its gaffes will most likely elicit a “PC Brigade” accusation. Fun, colourful pieces work to overshadow any news that reveals the party’s dubious politics – as the unapologetic alliance with a far-right MEP suggests – or lack of policy focus.

What the leader of the Green party, Natalie Bennett – who receives significantly less attention than Farage – said in a recent interview with the Independent highlights this problem:

When I wake up and hear Mr Farage on the Today show yet again, I get angry and, at times, I’ve considered getting on air and saying something monumentally stupid in the hope of getting some coverage. I have seriously considered that, because Farage and Ukip get so much attention for saying really stupid, racist, way-out-there things.

The saying “no publicity is bad publicity” isn’t true. But if dismissing an offensive novelty jingle as a bit of fun is all it takes for Ukip to get away with doing a deal with a party whose leader claims Adolf Hitler was “probably not aware that Jews were being exterminated”, then we’re probably giving it the wrong publicity.