Another week, another UKIP racism scandal. The latest round of, at best politically incorrect, at worst downright racist, comments included those of UKIP candidate William Henwood who made the comment that if Lenny Henry wanted to see black people on TV he should go and live in a “black country”. Nigel Farage was quick to reiterate his previous line that UKIP was not a racist party and accused his opponents of ‘mudslinging’. Henwood has now resigned from the party after it was, according to a UKIP spokesman, “mutually agreed to be the best course of action”. This comes after the party had already suspended two members who had links to the BNP and the English Defence League. Of course Nigel Farage will deny that his party is full to the brim with fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists but as Hugo Rifkind put it quite aptly in his Spectator blog, “if UKIP isn’t racist, then how come so many racists seem to like them?”
Former Labour Immigration minister Barbara Roche said that “Every day another example of UKIP racism is exposed, and every day Nigel Farage attempts to dismiss it with the same lazy ‘few rotten apples’ argument. It won’t wash.” Roche is leading a cross party campaign against UKIP which has branded the party philosophy as Eurosceptic Racism, or the more catchy “Euracism”. This comes after an Open Europe think tank study found that over 30% of the vote in the upcoming European elections could go to Eurosceptic parties across the continent.
The question has to be asked whether this kind of anti-Euracism campaign is going to be effective though. Indeed, branding all UKIP supporters as racist, 15% of the electorate according to the latest YouGov poll (1st May), is not likely to win support for the mainstream parties. In fact it might well push an already disillusioned and alienated white working class further onto the fringes of mainstream political thought. Former Home office secretary Jacqui Smith in recalling Gordon Brown’s ‘Bigotgate’ scandal in 2010, argued that we might be wary of throwing the word racist around. She said that there are lots of “voters who feel all the frustrations and insecurities expressed by the UKIP poster campaign? Telling them they are wrong – and worse, closet racists – is unlikely to win their support”.
So perhaps the best course of action would be to refrain from what Farage calls ‘mudslinging’, except in such extreme cases as Henwood’s ‘black country’ remarks, and as John Harris wrote in the guardian on Tuesday focus on “the party being ridiculous rather than racist”.
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
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