Nigel Farage has come under quite a lot of fire over the last couple of days following comments made during an LBC interview with James O’Brien. Admittedly, not the same sort of storm which Gordon Brown faced after the Gillian Duffy incident or Andrew Mitchell during the “plebgate” scandal, but hey, they only insulted (allegedly, in Mitchell’s case) a member of the public and some police officers. Farage grossly insulted a whole nation and, but he likes cigars and pints, so let’s let him off lightly, eh?
His main comments involved stating how uncomfortable he’d be if a group of Romanians moved in next door due to their criminality, then, when asked what would be the difference between that and a group of Germans moving in, answering,
“You know what the difference is. ”
In order to address the relatively muted criticism which followed (next to no coverage by mainstream TV news) he has written this explanation of his comments. So, that’s OK, then. All explained. Nothing any right minded individual would disagree with.
Well, maybe not. Let’s take a look at what he says.
“UKIP will never allow the false accusation of racism levelled by a politically correct elite to prevent the raising of issues that are of concern to the great majority of the British public.”
A politically correct elite, Nigel? Really? I have two questions:
Firstly, what, exactly, is wrong with political correctness? What is wrong with wanting all people to be treated on their individual merits, rather than their race, colour, nationality, gender, sexuality or religion? Why do you object to that so much? Is it, just possibly, because prejudice against certain groups forms the basis of so much of your populist rhetoric? Is it because preying on fear and prejudice is how you intend on winning votes? Looks that way to me.
Secondly: Why “elite “? Exactly what is elite about hundreds and thousands of ordinary people taking to social media and radio phone-ins to call a racist spade a racist spade? I am a coach in an office processing pension transfers and I earn less than £25k. I have no degree, no party political affiliation and virtually no influence. I take my views on you from what you say and do. What, I ask you, is elite about me, or the many like me, Nigel?
As for the great majority of people in the UK being concerned by immigration, I’ll give him that one. However, why are people concerned? How many people are genuinely, directly affected and how many are worried simply by scare stories they hear? I can’t find research to answer that, so I’ll leave it as rhetorical.
“The unfortunate reality is that we are in political union with a post-Communist country that has become highly susceptible to organised crime.”
We are also in political union with post fascist countries which have been susceptible to organised crime, but I don’t hear the same concerns about Italians or Spaniards (thankfully).
“Where there are differential crime rates between nationalities, it is perfectly legitimate to point this out and to discuss it in the public sphere and I shall continue to do so.”
No, there are different crime rates between different countries. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that, rather than come to the UK to commit crime, many Romanians may be coming here to make a new start in a country with a much lower crime rate. If so, it seems fair to help them.
“Police figures are quite clear that there is a high level of criminality within the Romanian community in Britain. This is not to say for a moment that all or even most Romanian people living in the UK are criminals.”
Ah, so most of them aren’t criminals, then! What’s the concern, then? Surely, if they, on balance, are unlikely to be criminals, then there’s no problem with them?
“But it is to say that any normal and fair-minded person would have a perfect right to be concerned if a group of Romanian people suddenly moved in next door. So far as I can see most of those media commentators objecting to this statement are people living in million pound houses for whom the prospect of such a turn of events is not a real one.”
The normal and fair-minded person argument?! Really?! So I assume that, by disagreeing strongly with Farage, I am not normal or fair minded? This is a pathetic, but well used line. It is immediately dismissive of opponents by questioning both sanity and motive. It is disingenuous and, may I say, something which the “political classes and media elite” which Farage claims to oppose have used for years.
And “suddenly”? Why use that word? Is is because, if something happens suddenly then it is unexpected? A shock? Probably unwanted? If they just” move in”, it doesn’t sound as sinister, does it?
And again, why look at the richer people who criticise UKIP? Because it’s easier to generalise, after all, it’s what UKIP do with everyone else. Plenty of normal, every day people react in the same way to UKIP’s rhetoric. But, hey, we’re all abnormal and wrong-thinking.
“Of course, if we were able to operate a proper work permit scheme for Romanian nationals, with suitable checks, as recommended by UKIP, then nobody would need to be concerned if a group of Romanian nationals moved in next door to them. “
So, you want to discriminate against particular nationalities? Germans, French, Italian, Dutch etc. are all fine, but we need to vet Romanians first because, well, you know the difference…
And maybe, just maybe, people wouldn’t worry about Romanians moving next door if they were discussed as the human beings they are, rather than some sort of underclass.
“High levels of crime associated with Romanian nationals in Britain, corroborated by police sources and statistics, have been a major talking point in the British media for several years.”
Hold on! I thought there was a media campaign against UKIP? But they’ve been talking about this for years? Sounds like there are plenty in the media (many of whom “are people living in million pound houses for whom the prospect of such a turn of events is not a real one.”) who are willing to agree with you and spout the same sort of fear inducing claptrap (oh look, it’s the Sun, Mail and Express!)
There is nothing wrong with discussing immigration levels. There is nothing wrong with addressing genuine concerns about crime levels. There is, however, something wrong with deliberately demonising groups of people based on nationality because some of them are criminals. Tarring everyone in an ethnic grouping with the same brush and deciding they are to be feared and treated differently is very wrong. It’s not political discourse, it’s hatred.
James O’Brien’s first question in the interview was to ask Nigel Farage why he thought people accused UKIP of being racist. Farage evaded the question over and over, finally deciding to pretend not to understand what racist meant. He wouldn’t answer it, so let me.
It’s because UKIP are racist.
They are the only party to have a rule barring ex BNP and NF members joining because they are the only party who needs one. Their policies and rhetoric attract that kind of mind.
There are plenty of parties out there who represent an alternative to the main three parties. Please don’t use your vote on one who want you to fear and hate your fellow man.
Update: The interview is, finally, getting some coverage by the BBC. Still not a Duffy moment, but getting there.