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Thanet Needs an Inclusive, Big Tent Approach - Not the 'Us and Them' Politics of the Hard Right

25/04/2015 09:41 BST | Updated 24/06/2015 10:59 BST

This week I was joined in South Thanet, the seat where I'm standing for Labour against Nigel Farage, by documentary maker and actor Ross Kemp. Ross's self-assured brand of masculinity was the ideal tonic to the sly chauvinism of Ukip, and he was an unqualified hit with the people we spoke to. Next week he'll be writing to people in Thanet, urging them to support us on 7 May.

We took Ross to two very different parts of the constituency: a church cum community centre in Newington, which is one of the most deprived parts of Ramsgate, followed by Broadstairs' burgeoning high street. The former is an area that has been decimated by Tory cuts; the latter is a part of a new and fragile boutique economy, which would struggle to withstand the stigma a Farage win would bring to the area. They demonstrate the varying needs of a seat which requires unity above all else - and, as a result of Farage's attentions, is getting the exact opposite.

Ross's visit came at the end of a week when Farage-sympathiser and academic Matthew Goodwin lead a Ukip attack on Labour for supposedly tacking to the unelectable left in Thanet - by inviting Diane Abbott and Owen Jones to visit.

Having had New Labour grandee Margaret Hodge and ex-Lib Dem businessman Lord Oakeshott - hardly a man of Maoist inclinations - come to support me here during the same week, I was not especially worried about this. But it does show quite how endemically tribal the Ukip mindset is. I don't agree with Owen Jones on every point and neither do I agree with Lord Oakshott on every point, but for me that's not a problem - I prefer to focus on the things I have in common with people. For Ukip, though, division is everything.

This is reflected in their approach to the election. From the start Farage has eschewed hustings and public debates, opting instead for large ticketed "meetings" where he can preach to the converted and the semi-converted. (It is this, by the way, that explains the high contact rates by Farage in this week's Ukip-commissioned Survation poll; they have used these rallies to groom the Ukip vote, not even giving the time of day to the rest).

As I travelled with Ross Kemp yesterday from the church in Newington to the pop-up Dickensian charm of Broadstairs, we reflected on this. You can really feel, at the moment, the potential that the constituency has to become deeply divided with the wrong person representing it. It's a very real concern.

Right now British politics as a whole, and places like Thanet in particular, needs an inclusive, big tent approach - not the us-and-them politics of the hard right.