White, middle-class liberals are the “least open minded” of all voters, according to Ukip’s London mayoral candidate Peter Whittle.
In an exclusive interview with the HuffPost UK, Mr Whittle claimed while he was getting “great interest” from ethnic minority audiences during his campaign, the middle-class liberals “hate you on a point of principle”.
Mr Whittle also attacked the long-standing support for multiculturalism by “elites”, which he believes has fostered an acceptance of a lack of integration by different groups in the capital.
The former journalist, who now runs the New Culture Forum think-tank, argued housing is the biggest issue facing London, and attacked mayoral frontrunners Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith for only focusing on the supply side of the crisis and not talking about the increase in demand caused by migration.
Reflecting on reaching out to non-white voters in both the Mayoral campaign and last year’s General Election, Mr Whittle told the HuffPost UK: “When you are talking about a Black church or City Sikhs for example – much more open minded.
“People that are the least open minded is an audience of white, middle-class liberals. They hate you on a point of principle because the whole point is generally how they see world is bound up with how they see themselves.
“So that’s the big difference. I have found total open-mindedness. I remember doing one [event] which was at a church in Greenwich in the General Election- total open-mindedness.
“Once they heard what I was saying, there was great interest afterwards.”
From left: Sadiq Khan (Labour), Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dem), Peter Whittle (Ukip), Sian Berry (Green), Zac Goldsmith (Conservative)
Mr Whittle, who lives in Woolwich, South-East London, was selected to be Ukip’s mayoral candidate last September – ahead of the perceived favourite Suzanne Evans.
Since then, the race to succeed Boris Johnson in City Hall has been dominated by Labour’s Sadiq Khan and Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith.
Mr Whittle believes the two are both misunderstanding how to solve what he sees as the biggest problem facing the capital – housing.
He said: “Zac and Sadiq are saying sort of the same thing: ‘I’m going to build 50,000 houses, I’m going to build 60,000 houses or whatever’ and are talking about infrastructure and all the rest of it.
“But I am the only person, and our candidates [for the Greater London Authority], who are talking about the supply side of things and that is London’s just unprecedentedly increasing population.”
Mr Whittle added: “London has always had immigration but what has happened over the past 15 years is unprecedented so we are adding a million every decade.”
While conceding the London Mayor “does not have power over immigration”, Mr Whittle believes whoever wins the race should act “as a galvanizer of opinion”.
He said: “You have discussions over housing which amount to phantom discussions, the chief driver of the housing crisis in London is of course uncontrolled migration.
“Nobody is against migration - I’m not, I don’t know anybody who is against migration but it has to be controlled, it has to be sensible but that’s not what we’ve been having in London over the past 15 years.”
The Ukip candidate, who is also the party’s culture spokesman, believes housing priority should be given to Londoners - but in a city which has such a fluid population, how do you define “Londoner”?
“What we define as a Londoner, going back into our General Election manifesto, is a period of five years of living, depending on what part of housing you’re talking about, either in London or in a particular borough.
“When it comes for example to GLA land that might be built on, five years in that borough or a neighbouring borough, I think that’s very reasonable.
“I think in London to an extent there’s always going to be a very transitory element but you have got to give some stability to people and I think that seems to be a very fair amount really.
“I think people who have been in London for five years should have priority.”
Donald Trump was mocked for his comments about London
Mr Whittle dismissed Donald Trump’s comments that parts of London are “so radicalised that police are afraid for their own lives” – labeling the American presidential hopeful as a “buffoon”.
But he does believe a lack of integration between different groups needs to be tackled.
Mr Whittle said: “What we have got in London is not no-go areas, but what we have got is - we tend to think that we don’t have this but the rest of the country has - we have a growing feeling of division simply because, I would say, you want people to integrate, I want people to integrate, but at the level of migration coming into London the need to integrate sort of diminishes – there’s less incentive to integrate.
“It’s not been helped over the years by the kinds of elites who run London, or indeed the country, in a sense saying there’s no need.
“That’s what multiculturalism is in one way, there’s no need for you to integrate, there’s no need to, for example learn a language or all the rest of it.
“I think that’s now being seen pretty much across the board as being a mistake. I certainly think so.
“We are a multi-ethnic city, a multi-ethnic country but we should be united by common bonds of one law, British values and a common language which I think is very important and I think London is a very good example of that where language is a glue that keeps a place together so you have to encourage and incentivize people to learn it.”
Peter Whittle With Ukip Leader Nigel Farage
In the London Mayor election in 2012, Ukip came sixth, with party candidate Lawrence Webb only finishing ahead of the BNP.
Since then the party has won the 2014 European Elections and came third in the popular vote of last year’s General Election.
However, it has not experience the same surge of support in the capital as it has elsewhere.
While the race to City Hall is top of Mr Whittle’s priorities, an EU referendum which could be scheduled for less than two months after the vote may divert the attention of other Ukip figures.
Mr Whittle is not worried and said: “When we do hustings together and interviews we will be asked a hell of a lot about the EU. I think it helps us, no question it helps us.”
As for the role Ukip leader Nigel Farage will play in the Mayoral campaign, Mr Whittle believes the controversial politician can help win him support.
He said: “Yes without question. I wouldn’t be getting him along to public meetings if he weren’t [an asset].
“I think Nigel continues to be one of the most courageous voices in British politics, if not the most courageous actually.
“I want him to be leader as long as he wants to be leader.”
The London Mayor election will be held on May 5.