Proposals to be made at the Ukip party conference and pushed by the current leader, Gerard Batten MEP, show a party in terminal political freefall. Yet this terminal freefall from political relevance to political irrelevance has meant that to get some footing, Batten has made the fatal miscalculation that there is a significant chunk of the population who fear Muslims and who want to see ‘Muslim specific’ laws. In the dying embers of Ukip as a party, the smokescreen around him has blinded Batten into a delusion of grandeur that there is a vote base large enough to buy into this fear. He is wrong and the proposals to be discussed at the Ukip conference show how far from reality this group is.
Now, to any reasonable and decent person in the UK, Batten’s calculation is political suicide and poison. But for Batten, he probably believes that Ukip’s survival is linked to pandering to individuals and groups who have no problem in tearing up the very values of our country based on fairness and justice and who relish bringing in discriminatory laws based on religion. Now, where else in the twentieth century were such laws implemented which targeted a faith group and which, ultimately, led to the mass genocide of Jews?
Whilst I am clear that Ukip’s banal proposals are nothing more than a clarion call to those who may hold bigoted views against Muslims, they will not lead to any form of genocide in our country. Yet, such calls seek to undermine the very history and values of our country and a history which saw our young men and women die for fundamental freedoms when threatened by the Nazis whose policies were based on marginalising Jews and ensuring that there was one rule for them and another for ‘Aryan Germans’.
So, what is Batten proposing? He wants ‘Muslim-only prisons’, a repeal of equality laws and the abolition of the category of hate crime. On the latter point, people like Batten have more than likely, never suffer hatred, intolerance and prejudice because of a part of their identity. As a white male, over the age of 50 and with nothing like the economic and social barriers that a black male or Muslim female have to go through, Batten uses his privilege to attempt to deny the experiences and feelings of people who have been beaten up or spat at, just because they are Jewish, black, Muslim, gay or disabled. It is as though Ukip have now finally planted their flag into a camp which says, if you are anyone who looks racially different to Batten or who is a Muslim or from the LGBTQ community, then you are not welcome within the Party, since your experiences will be discounted.
All of this coming from a man who called Islam ‘a death cult’ and who has attended and spoken at far right anti-Muslim rallies. In fact, just a few days ago, Nigel Farage criticised Batten for endorsing an anti-Muslim rally held by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance. Love him or loathe him, Farage was canny enough to keep bigots, extremists and racists at bay and I believe, genuinely saw such people as a threat to the future of Ukip. Yet, to Batten, it is precisely this group that he sees as the electoral prize which Ukip should position towards. I mean, how low can a political party go?
For years, I was always measured in how I described Ukip when people said they were a ‘racist party’. My hesitance was because Farage was a bulwark against the worst elements in his party and he could see political suicide staring the Party in the face if it postured towards bigots and far right extremists. Today however, I can firmly say that with the latest proposals and Batten’s penchant for turning up at far-right rallies, that Ukip are now a far-right party.
Fiyaz Mughal OBE is the Founder and Director of Faith Matters and the Founder of Tell MAMA