UK

What Does Ukip Actually Have To Do To Be Called Racist?

05/19/2014 04:05 pm 16:05:42 | Updated 19 May 2014

"It bothers me a lot that you're associating with black people."

Those are the now infamous words uttered by US basketball team owner Donald Stirling in a video sting barracking his girlfriend for taking pictures with NBA legend Magic Johnson (who just happens to be black).

While the story has not made the same rolling national news in the UK as across the pond, there's a similar question plaguing the country's newspaper editors and political advisors as yet another day brings another Ukip racism row - is it possible to use 'a racial slur' but not be a racist?

ukip posters

A woman holds a anti-Ukip poster at the start of a public meeting during which UKIP leader Nigel Farage delivered a speech

All three major party leaders believe Nigel Farage's comment on LBC, that he would be worried if a group of Romanians moved in next door, sailed close to the wind.

David Cameron has come the closest, saying the party was full of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists", a phrase he has since hinted he regrets.

"He [Cameron] was speaking in general terms, not about an individual," John Lehal, the managing director of political communications agency Insight Public Affairs.

"Farage is feared, and only the brave would challenge him. We rarely see direct accusations of racism being levelled at Ukip by fellow politicians."

"They want to get Ukip voters to come back to them and that means being cautious about how they label Ukip," Professor Aeron Davis, an expert in political PR, told HuffPost UK. "Gordon Brown made this mistake in 2010 when dismissing a Labour voter's views on the door-step.

"So, the main party politicians are trying to find a way of saying 'we hear you on immigration, you have valid views, but you are not racist. It's a difficult tightrope to keep on."

The exception has been Tottenham MP David Lammy, who called Farage racist on Monday's Daily Politics. "What Nigel Farage said over the weekend was racist. So I'm clear, he's a racist."

sterling stiviano

Caught on tape: LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling and former girlfriend V. Stiviano

Political communications expert Paul Blanchard, of Right Angles, said he thought it was "a PR disaster for a politician to call another party racist, even if there was a shocking interview or hidden camera footage".

"If I was advising a politician client on this matter I'd say that they should keep their own personal opinions to themselves," he said. "Calling another party or individual a racist could start a chain of events over which you'll have no control at all. If they start slinging accusations around they might find that there is a greater incentive for others to dig up dirt on them too.

"Farage is feared, and only the brave would challenge him. We rarely see direct accusations of racism being levelled at Ukip by fellow politicians."

"After all by saying they're racist, any other party is tarring a good proportion of their own former voters as racist."

But, Blanchard said, some politicians were choosing their words more carefully than others. "Calling something 'a racial slur' is a softer, more sweeping generalisation which probably adds up to the same thing," he said. "If I was accused of a racial slur I'd be livid and to me it would feel exactly the same as if they'd come up to me and said I was a racist."

Ukip defines itself as "non-racist" in its official description on its website. For all Ukip's protestations that all the other major parties suffer from embarrassing local candidates, which is true, it is the only party to have to make that much clear on its own website.

ukip posters

Nigel Farage poses for a photograph as he unveils a new UKIP campaign poster

Yet a recent poll revealed more than half its supporters believe immigrants, and their children born in Britain, should be "encouraged to leave the country".

And members of the eurosceptic party seem to have been doing their darnedest to prove the party slogan otherwise. There is Enfield candidate William Henwood who said Lenny Henry should ‘emigrate to a black country’. There is Andre Lampitt, star of Ukip's election broadcast who said Ed Miliband was Polish. Brent's Heino Vockrodt wrote in a private email that Muslims have "a totalitarian ideology" and are forcing out locals.

It is not just the grassroots where such views are being unearthed. MEP Gerard Batten, the party's immigration spokesman, believes British Muslims should sign a special code of conduct. Marine Le Pen, leader of the French Front National, was startled when Farage rejected a partnership with her party - whose founder has convictions for hate speech. She had thought their world views were closely aligned.

"There are idiots in every political party. There are thieves, crooks and racists in every party," Blanchard added.

"But will the mud stick with the general population? In my view no, not at the moment. The general public want to give the establishment a kicking and in this case there is absolutely nothing the parties can do about it.

"The gaffes themselves at the moment are not of great interest to the vast majority of normal voters - most people aren't on Twitter and very many, possibly most, people are more right wing even than Ukip."

Lehal believes that although this election cycle is unlikely to see more politicians come out to openly accuse the party of racism, the media's descriptions could become more overt. "The Sun had a very critical editorial headlined 'Racism and Ukip ' on Nigel Farage’s comments on Romanians, and that’s despite the fact that Rupert Murdoch would be happy to see Britain out of the EU.

"Although The Sun too stopped short of directly levelling an accusation of racism at Farage, I feel the greater platform and visibility for Ukip will mean we continue to see greater scrutiny of his words and actions."

  • Watch The Most Difficult Interview Nigel Farage Has Had All Year
  • Who Thinks Nigel Farage Is Racist?

    YES

    DR ALAN SKED

    None have harsher words for the Ukip leader than the party's founder, Dr Alan Sked, who called him a "dim, racist alcoholic" and alleged he used the n-word to describe potential voters. Farage strongly denied he ever used the slur.

    The London School of Economics professor also repeated a claim he made in 2004 that Mr Farage had once said: ‘We will never win the n****r vote.’

    Sked resigned the leadership shortly after the 1997 general election, citing the growing influence of radical, far-right opinion in the party's ranks. "UKIP is even less liberal than the British National Party," Sked has said. "Certainly, there is a symbiosis between elements of the parties."

    DAVID LAMMY

    The Labour MP said on Monday he was "clear" that Farage was a racist.

    The Tottenham MP, whose parents moved to Britain from Guyana before he was born, continued: "I am from a background where my parents arrived here as immigrants.

    "I remember a context in which some people said, 'you don't want these people living next door to you', that was racist."

    DAN HODGES

    The Telegraph's columnist has said that at first he dismissed allegations that Ukip was racist, but said he was convinced otherwise by reports from the party's spring conference. "And it’s clear I was wrong. Ukip is now a racist and extremist party," he wrote.

    "Its slogan “Love Britain, Vote Ukip” was not appropriated from the BNP by accident. Nigel Farage’s ludicrous tale [that he got on a train where no English was being spoken] was deployed for a purpose."

    BARBARA ROCHE

    The former Labour immigration minister Barbara Roche, said the party "needs to be exposed for what it is, a racist campaign.

    "The party is practising what is in effect a form of 'Euracism'. They are deploying the same language and tactics used by openly racist parties like the BNP, but instead of targeting migrants from Africa and Asia they are targeting migrants from within the EU."

    NO

    DAVID CAMERON

    Ukip is "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly", the Prime Minister, then opposition leader, told LBC Radio. It prompted outraged demands for an apology from Farage.

    This week, Cameron refused to say he believed the party to be racist. "I think he has said in recent days some really pretty unpleasant things and he has even himself had to admit he got it wrong.

    "I will leave others to judge but what I have heard from some of the candidates, some of the donors to the party is a succession of pretty appalling things.

    ED MILIBAND

    The Labour leader refused to call Farage racist, telling Radio 4 "I think, though, our politics is sort of disagreeable enough without political leaders saying about other political leaders 'they are a racist'.

    "I think it was deeply offensive, I think it was wrong what he said," he continued.

    "I don't know Nigel Farage very well, I think he made one remark which was completely wrong, completely out of order, and was a slur."

    NICK CLEGG

    The Deputy PM skirted around the issue on Sunday, when asked if Farage was "indulging in racist language" with his Romanian comments.

    Clegg told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: "I think the mask is starting to slip and I think what's being revealed that sort of behind the beer-swilling bonhomie is a rather nasty view of the world.

    "I think anyone who singles out one community, one nationality, and says 'I don't want to live next door to them', I really think that's the politics of division and I think it really should have no place in modern Britain."

    JACQUI SMITH

    The former Home Secretary said she was opposed to branding Ukip racist, and that Labour needed to heed the lessons from Gordon Brown's incident with Gillian Duffy.

    "Did we not learn from 'bigotgate' in 2010 that there are many potential and actual Labour 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".

    Silly Ukip Flyers

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