The Blog

An Open Letter About 'That' Anti-Ukip Note

You see, controlling immigration isn't about race, or hatred, or prejudice. It's about doing the right thing - not just for our country, but for other countries as well. So you need not feel shame or indignation when you walk past a UKIP office.

To the person who posted this note on the window of the UKIP office in Bromley:

I'd like to start by saying 'thank you'. That might seem strange given that your note attacks UKIP, but you may be aware that recently in different parts of the country we've had offices attacked by criminals. We've seen intimidation, violence and threats of violence against us. And of course, only recently, our Party Leader Nigel Farage MEP was enjoying lunch with his 10-year-old and 15-year-old daughters when he was accosted by a group of 'activists' who so terrified his children by their antics that they ran away and had to be returned home by police. The behaviour of those thugs (and I'm sorry but I can't think of a better word to describe them) was so bad that their hired coach driver refused to transport them back.

So, thank you for displaying your message and making your political point in a reasonable and dignified way. That's what genuine political debate and the freedom to protest is all about, and you have taught your teenage son a powerful lesson: your message has been circulated widely online and had a greater impact than those who don't respect that we live in a democratic country.

I hope that I can respond to you in a similar fashion. You speak of fear, hatred and prejudice. Yet UKIP is the only party, and I mean the only party, that has a genuinely fair, ethical and colour-blind policy on immigration. If that surprises you, think of this: UKIP believes in controlled immigration into the UK. We wouldn't discriminate between someone from Poland and someone from Pakistan: we would very simply treat everyone equally. In the 1980s and 1990s we had average net migration in the order of 30,000 per year. Today, that figure has increased ten-fold to 300,000 per year. It is reasonable, I think, for a party to say that the scale of this increase is unsustainable.

You also must consider the effect that emigration has upon those countries who lose people that their economies can ill-afford to lose. In my constituency, I might give the example of a very hard-working local taxi driver. He is a qualified teacher in Romania, yet now regularly works 70 or 80 hours a week in the UK, at or around minimum wage. He earns money that he could never have dreamed of in Romania, yet here he does a job which does not require a degree. We currently have a massive oversupply of unskilled and semi-skilled labour in the UK. There are fewer such jobs today: our factories are now managed by complex computer systems requiring degree-educated workers to operate them, and even our supermarkets are turning to automated checkouts. Yet the open door from Europe means that anyone can come in to the UK.

So Romania is deprived of a teacher, someone desperately needed to help to develop that country's economy. Meanwhile, because he is prepared to work for minimum wage this has the effect of driving down the wages of those already in the UK, and he takes a job which someone currently unemployed could have learned to do. Whilst he might personally be richer, both the UK and Romania are poorer because of it.

But what if someone is moving to the UK from a country where they have an oversupply of skills yet we are deficient in that area? In that case, the migration would benefit both countries: their unemployment would be lower, and it would help to develop British business. That would be an obvious example of the kind of immigration which is beneficial to the UK. Now, in the long-term we might ask the question whether our own skill shortages reflect a deficiency in our education system.

And when Syria started being torn apart by unrest and violence leading to civil war, who was it who led the way in demanding that the British government should do our bit and take our fair share of refugees? Why it was none other than UKIP Leader Nigel Farage! At the time, Anna Musgrave of the Refugee Council said "We really hope that David Cameron listens to these people, listens to the likes of Nigel Farage, and acts upon it".

You see, controlling immigration isn't about race, or hatred, or prejudice. It's about doing the right thing - not just for our country, but for other countries as well. So you need not feel shame or indignation when you walk past a UKIP office.

As for your allegation that we're 'racist', former members of the BNP, English Defence League, National Front and similar organisations are banned for life from joining UKIP. We don't want racists in our midst, thank you very much. And whilst it's true that some of our members have said bad things, we do not accept it and we're the Party that takes swift disciplinary action against them. The media have certainly 'cherry-picked' though: when a UKIP candidate says bad things it's headline news - whereas when it's an establishment Party candidate it rarely goes beyond the local newspapers.

Do we have people who don't always articulate our message correctly, in the considered and caring manner that it should be? Yes, we do. It's something which I personally fight against whenever I see it in UKIP. But if we can explain what we stand for, and why, there is a reason why UKIP's top policies are already so incredibly popular according to opinion polls. If UKIP can be that Party, the Party of reasoned and principled opposition to problems in our society (the fact that we tax the minimum wage, that many pensioners in fuel poverty have to choose between heating and eating in winter, our problems with social mobility and so many, many more), then the question is not whether we win but when.

You finish your note by saying that love, compassion and tolerance will defeat UKIP. We must not allow that to be the case. Love, compassion and tolerance must drive UKIP.