The rise of the UK Independence Party (Ukip) in Britain has undoubtedly been an extraordinary one over the last 10 years. As far back as 2004, they won a total of 12 seats in the European Parliament. Today, their influence is spilling over into British politics. Just last year they came second in the Eastleigh by-election, finishing above the Conservatives.
As well as being the new dark horse in British politics, Ukip have become well-known for their radically right-wing politics, unmistakeably expressing racist, sexist, homophobic views - you name it, they've said it. For many they have become a force to be defeated and left to the history books.
And I don't disagree. Godfrey Bloom's claim, for instance, that we should not be sending aid to "bongo bongo land" was outrageously racist. More recently, news emerged of Ukip councillor David Silvester who, in January of this year, blamed heavy floods on the government's decision to legalise gay marriage. Such outbursts by members of a political party that is fast-rising in the polls is both dangerous and unwarranted.
We all know this, right? Ukip just don't fit into such a progressive society as ours, correct? That's where you'd be wrong. Ukip are not so much a true enemy of British liberal society as a necessary, illusory enemy. They are part and parcel of British society, and at the same time distract us from the wider problems of this society; aforementioned problems such as racism, sexism or homophobia that go beyond the remit of political parties such as Ukip.
The gay marriage debate is a perfect example of this - the keyword here being 'debate'. The very fact that gay marriage had to be debated in the first place is suggestive of a certain mindset in this country. Although the likes of David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg may have expressed their support for gay marriage, society's 'Freudian slip', so to speak, came from Conservative backbenchers and the Anglican Church who expressed strong opposition. Such elements of British society are no better than Silvester claiming that the eventual legalisation of gay marriage caused floods in Britain, and show how little progress we have made as a society. To be gay in Britain today means to be treated as a second-class citizen. It means that a basic human right as marriage must be challenged and debated.
Let's also consider how racism is more widespread than some may want to believe. Bloom's "bongo bongo land" comment was unacceptable, and Bloom was criticised for saying such a thing. But in the process of collectively expressing disgust at particularly backward views, we absolve ourselves of any responsibility for racism that is foundational and widespread.
A topic here that is unavoidable is the Metropolitan Police. The stats tell the story: in 2013, the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people.
Or, to look at a particular case, consider the death of Mark Duggan. Whatever views you may have on this subject, the fact is that Duggan did not have a gun in his hand at the time in which he was shot dead by the police. Keeping this in mind, compare this with the case of Raoul Moat, a white man who went on a shooting spree in Northumbria, with one of his victims being a police officer whom he shot in the face. Not only this, but police officers refused to shoot 'Britain's most wanted man' in a six-hour standoff. Draw whatever conclusions you may, but these are raw facts.
So, next time Ukip come out with absurd, bigoted claims, think about how you react to this. Yes, they deserve criticism, and these kinds of views must be opposed. But think about how these views are not exclusive to a bunch of right-wing politicians. They are real, widespread problems which are having real and dangerous effects.