Gales View - 25th February 2015
In a recent article, which I correctly anticipated would be taken out of context and unsubtly edited by political opponents, I said:
“Let me be crystal clear: I do not wish to be re-elected with the support of anyone who espouses the views expressed in the minutes following the murder of those working for Charlie Hebdo and of the police in Paris by the current leader of UKIP”.
In the light of recent revelations it seems appropriate for me to not only indicate that I stand by but to reiterate that observation. I shall not welcome the backing of those who choose to associate themselves with the “fifth column” remarks to which I referred or with the crass observations of Cllr. Ms Rozanne Duncan or the kind of comments that have emanated from Mrs. Janice Atkinson MEP, Mr. Godfrey Bloom and others.
Populists tend to say whatever they think will please the audience of the moment and very possibly, at the moment of uttering comment actually believe what they are saying. (I recall Mr. Blair, who was certainly adept at “playing the room”, telling the House of Commons that the “Foxhunting Bill was killed off by the House of Lords” when in fact that measure had never even reached the Upper House!)
The danger with this kind of rhetoric, though, is that those on the receiving end believe that they are hearing what they want to hear and it ought to surprise nobody that some disgruntled or failed Conservatives and some members of the Labour Party also should have gravitated towards what they perceive to be an organisation reflecting their highly polarised views.
It ought to be of real concern that former supporters of the British National Party now feel comfortable backing UKIP while others who were once supporters of the Referendum Party now find themselves morphed into “ukippers” and occupying a political bed with some whose opinions they clearly do not share. It was not a Tory or a Labour politician but one of UKIP`s own spokesmen who said that his party appeals to bigots.
Mr. Farage has condemned Ms. Duncan`s utterances and expelled her from his party: whether his consternation is down to concern about the attitude that she expressed to the BBC, or whether he is more concerned about limiting the damage to his party`s image , others will have to judge. What I do know, from canvassing in South Thanet in support of the Conservative Craig McKinlay, is that I have been joined by Tories who, having flirted with UKIP, have listened to the backchat inside that tent, have not liked what they have heard and have returned determined to exorcise that brand of nationalism from our political system.
The electorate may have become disillusion by what is dubbed by the media “an out-of-touch Westminster class” (although how anyone who holds regular constituency advice “surgeries and is turning around some 300 communications a day as I do could not know how people feel is beyond me) but I detect no appetite for a lurch to the hard right. Very many people hold to the view that I have expressed and campaigned upon myself since Jack Straw opened the doors in 1997; Britain needs, and must have, fair and firm controls over immigration and asylum claims and benefits and the chance to have our say on the related issue of our membership of the European Union. What people will not, I believe, vote for is, as I also said in January, “the dog-whistle responses of reactionary populism that are seeking to drag us down a path that has hideous similarities with the Europe of the late 1930s”. I hope that those gathering in Margate`s Winter Gardens this weekend will consider that and their own consciences while asking themselves the question “is this really the `people`s army` that I want to be a part of?”