So how is the new Brexit Party, championed by Nigel Farage, looking five days in?
Not great. Its leader, former Ukip candidate Catherine Blaiklock, has had Islamophobic, racist and classist remarks dredged up by BuzzFeed and from other online pieces.
“If these people [Muslims] really dislike it so much in the West, why do they chose [sic] to live here?” she wrote in a piece on her website last year, railing against the time a woman wearing a burqa delivered her Thai food takeaway in Detroit.
“I cannot talk or have a normal human interaction with anyone in a Burka,” she wrote in the same piece. “They might as well be in the next room or in a tent… With someone in a Burka, I can communicate less with them than I can with my cat.”
In other pieces, Blaiklock has also accused Muslim men of “impregnating white British girls to create Muslim babies”, claimed it’s “pretty well-known” that Muslims in the west think “Someday this will all be ours”, suggested pub closures in East Anglia are linked to the construction of more mosques, condemned “demented older black men” in Boston, and described her daughter as having “‘Mongoloid’ eyes”.
You can read her responses to many of these comments in BuzzFeed’s report. She seems to stand by them.
One of her solutions to the NHS crisis is for hospital patients to purchase their own sheets, food and drugs, as happens “if you go into hospital in Nepal”.
“Obviously such a scheme is ‘unthinkable’ here, but why?” she asks in her column on the Conservative Woman website, spotted by openDemocracy editor Caroline Molloy.
In another Conservative Woman piece, she offered some answers to Britain’s hunger and food bank crisis: cheap potatoes from a “farm shop near me” (28p per kg, for anyone shopping around).
“The Irish, prior to the potato famine, survived on potatoes,” she reasoned. “The Sherpas in the Himalayas still live on a diet of practically nothing but boiled potatoes with a bit of salt and chili on the side.”
She accused food banks of “creating a dependent, obese population”, having seen some stock “cans of sweet custard and packets of PopTarts”, and a picture of one with a “big box of Toffee Crisp at the front”.
“They [food bank users] cannot even be bothered to buy and cook some potatoes or an egg for their hungry children,” she wrote.
When Farage announced this new party, which is registered with the Electoral Commission, in the Telegraph, he revealed it “was founded with my full support” and offered to represent it in the European Parliament:
“I have made it clear many times that I will not stand by and do nothing if the referendum result is betrayed, so should this election need to be contested, I will stand as a candidate for the Brexit Party and I will give it my all.”
The Spectator warned: “Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party spells trouble for the Tories”.
Farage also crowed that, unlike Ukip, the Brexit Party leader would not be hidebound by its ruling body or dissenting factions. Instead, its leader would appoint the party’s board him/herself, and “the party will ultimately succeed and fail on the judgement and personality of that leader”.
Five days later, this boast sounds more like a warning.
According to Politico, Farage “already seems to be distancing himself from the party”, and he has emphasised from the start that it was “Catherine’s idea entirely”.
But he can’t get out of this one. Like Farage, the former Great Yarmouth parliamentary candidate and economics spokesperson Blaiklock left Ukip last year over its new leadership.
Farage quit when Gerard Batten, the Ukip leader who calls Islam a “death cult”, Muhammad a “paedophile”, and has marched alongside the far-right thugs of the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, appointed Tommy Robinson as an adviser last November. He accused Batten of “dragging us in a shameful direction”, blowing “a hole” in his “non-racist, non-sectarian party”.
After Blaiklock left and sounded Farage out on her idea for a Brexit Party, she received his support and he gave her a lot of positive press. Apparently a new vehicle for fighting an election was more important to Farage than caring enough about Islamophobia to do a basic Google search.
These latest revelations about Ukip 2.0 are yet another example of why it’s disingenuous for Farage and his kind to pretend they’re merely benign Brexit purists. Ukip has always been about far more than that.
In his years as Ukip leader, Farage said he felt “awkward” on a train not hearing “English being audibly spoken in the carriage”, warned us we should feel “concerned” if Romanians move next door, blamed traffic on the M4 on “open-door immigration”, defended the use of the word “chinky” for a person of Chinese origin (“if you and your mates were going out for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?”), and described parts of Britain as “like a foreign land”.
During the EU referendum campaign, he unveiled a Nazi-propaganda style poster screaming “BREAKING POINT”, depicting a queue of Syrian refugees fleeing war. His general political aim has been for hard borders and bringing down immigration numbers. By instilling fear and loathing against migrants, he played a significant part not only in the Brexit result, but also making this a mainstream political goal.
Since his triumph in the Brexit result, and his departure (just about) from the Ukip leadership, he’s vigorously supported Hungary’s hard-right anti-asylum leader Viktor Orbán, addressed rallies of the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in Germany, endorsed National Front party leader Marine Le Pen for French president, and has a very public friendship with Steve Bannon, the former Donald Trump strategist and alt-right media platform Breitbart News co-founder, who once said you should wear the label “racist” as “a medal”. He’s also been chummy with the US president himself.
This is why the Brexit Party is to be feared: not as an electoral force, but as another lightning rod for organised far-right hate.