Wednesday, 22 October 2014

UKIP's Septimana Horribilis - Apocalypso Now

I was going to blog this week about UKIP as a cult, but then I kind of got pre-empted by a somewhat excellent article in the Torygraph (I know – hold your nose – make sure you kill all the cookies – but it’s worth it).

I might come back to that theme at a later date. 

No, this is Nigel’s Septimana horribilis, as UKIP crashed from one disaster to the next.

It started when veteran DJ Mike Read released the UKIP Calypso. I won’t link that here for two reasons – one, because it was awful; second, as Read asked after just one day that the track be withdrawn. Apart from lauding UKIP policies in a series of terrible rhymes, it was derogatory to immigrants and asylum seekers, and delivered in a faux Jamaican accent.

UKIP loved it, Farage defended it, saying that it should be promoted to get to number 1 in the charts. Twenty pence out of every 79p would go straight into UKIP’s coffers. People started buying it. One on twitter said that it should be the new national anthem… he was joking, right?

The reaction was immediate. It was accused of being offensive and racist, the accent being the equivalent of black face. What was once perhaps acceptable, as in the minstrel shows of old, Jim Davidson’s Chalky White character and seventies sitcom Love thy Neighbour are now cringeworthy cultural relics, rightly consigned to the history of race relations in this country. What this calypso was, at face value, was a stumbling zombie of that culture – made all the more remarkable given the anti-migrant lyrics.

A campaign began to promote Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, as Read had famously banned it from his show, UKIP’s reputation for homophobia, and Farage’s recent outspoken bigotry against HIV positive people and AIDS sufferers.  

A petition was started to remove Read from his position at the BBC.

So the following day Read asked for the track to be withdrawn, apologising for any offence. UKIP issued a statement saying that the concocted offence over the track had cost the Red Cross to lose their share of the profits… but they said almost immediately that they had never been approached and would be unable to accept the donation in any event as the song was overtly political and:

…the Red Cross has a proud history of helping refugees and asylum seekers who are negatively referred to in the lyrics.

A stinging rebuke from a universally recognised and respected organisation, committed to neutrality, human rights and humanitarian action. And what looks like a hurried attempt at justification through a charity donation that never existed.

Almost simultaneously, stories started to come out about a deal that Farage had brokered to save UKIP’s Eurosceptic grouping in the EU. Deals with an extreme right-wing Polish party. This was denied as rumour and falsehood. UKIP’s spokesman Winston McKenzie, on Newsnight to defend the Calypso (why did they send a black spokesman…?) -  and doing so in perhaps the most bizarre and uncontrolled media appearance ever by the representative of a political party – when challenged, denied it and called it another ‘smear’.

Well, in fact, it was true. Farage welcomed Polish MEP for the Polish Congress of the New Right (KNP), Robert Iwaszkiewicz into the EDP.

The KNP is known for extreme views – a party so extreme that Marine Le Pen would have nothing to do with them. Their leader Janusz Korwin-Mikke was expelled from the parliament for using the n-word on the floor of the chamber. He is a holocaust denier, praises Hitler’s economic policies and is a misogynist to boot, believing that ‘women are too stupid to vote’. Other Polish parties and members of the Polish community in the UK expressed dismay – the party is infamous for its use of terms such as ‘communist jews’ in its campaign literature. Iwaszkiewicz has been quoted himself making ‘jokes’ about brutalising his children and domestic violence. 

This was immediately condemned from all sides, notably the Boardof Deputies of British Jews.

Even the Murdoch press was unrestrained in its criticism of UKIP.

Farage defended him. Then the following day - said he’d never met him. 

Paul Nuttall, the deputy leader called it ‘realpolitik’ when challenged on the fact that UKIP denies membership to BNP members, yet the KNP were far worse. 

Other apologists said that UKIP wasn’t supporting the whole party, it was just one MEP, and not all their policies – which falls down immediately as no defence.

  • Iwaszkiewicz is not an independent – he is a member of the KNP and represents them and their values.

  •  In admitting him to their group, UKIP secured their funding and resource – but also secured them for the KNP.

  •  He isn’t just a member – he was made Vice-Chairman – a position offered to the defector Iveta Grigule, who stated today:

"If I could be blackmailed with positions in the Parliament, then I would have taken Nigel Farage’s offer to become our groups Vice-Chairman, as he offered me his seat"

And, of this position:
"Then I would have been able to attend Presidential conferences, to sit at the same table as Schulz, Weber and other leading politicians of the European Parliament. I would have had a prestigious status..."

So far from it being a deal of convenience, UKIP has enabled a far-right holocaust-denying party to get to the top table, greatly increasing their presence and influence.

Given the views of the KPD, surely the suitability of any presence by UKIP at upcoming Remembrance Day events must be called into question.

And then to top the week so far, an IPSOS Mori poll revealed that support for the EU in the UK is the highest it’s been since 1991, with 56% saying that they would vote to stay in the EU – only 36% saying they would vote to leave.

 So it would appear that UKIP in fact are still a minority party, lost the argument before it has even begun. But we have learned more about UKIP this week. They still have no idea when it comes to running a political campaign, managing publicity or keeping their senior members in check. They are completely unprincipled when it comes to securing funding from whatever source.

Both the calypso and the alliance with the KNP show the mask has slipped, say some. But their performance so far this week has been so shambolic as to reveal more incompetence than malice. 

But has any of this shaken the party faithful, whom as I write this are leaving all kinds of vile abuse on the twitter account of the British Red Cross?

23/10/14 - Update

I posted the blog and went to bed, posting the Calypso graphic above on Twitter. Overnight it went nuts and this morning I was trending in the UK and then London. It's now been retweeted over 1,100 times with an estimated reach of over a hundred times that number.

Things came to a head when, after spotting abuse directed at The British Red Cross by senior UKIP members, I retweeted it saying that with their disrespect of this institution UKIP should not be invited to remembrance day events - resulting in this tweet from their Deputy Leader:

The Calypso tweet got more retweets and favourites than the tweet that UKIP tries to get me arrested for - and it's still running. UKIP just doesn't know when to stop digging.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

UKIP - time to Stand Up

Next weekend, UKIP will hold its party conference in Doncaster. Preparations are being made all over the country for people to attend – but most of these people aren’t UKIP party members. Like me, they’ll be going to join a protest, to let the party members know that they are not in the majority and will not go unopposed. One of the intentions will be to expose UKIP for what they are, perhaps strangely, to help publicise UKIP policies.  
We won’t be going to catch a glimpse of Farage, the everyman celebrity politician – what we really want to see is the new manifesto he promised.

Back in May this year, UKIP had the police come to my house in what can only be seen as an attempt to intimidate me into silence on social media. My sin in their eyes was not an ad hominem against their glorious leader nor any of the faithful. All I did was add links to a poster outlining UKIP policies that someone else had made. The links were all official UKIP websites, so that people could fact-check it for themselves. I even highlighted those policy claims that could not be substantiated.

Why would a political party want to hide its policies? Amongst the sources linked were the website of their then Small Business Tsar and now MEP Amjad Bashir; that of their publicity officer and now failed PCC candidate Keith Rowe, as well as the main UKIP website. The week following the tweet going viral Mr. Bashir changed his webpage, and Mr. Rowe’s pages were archived. The policies these men were campaigning on were simply removed from sight. 

In the aftermath I found that people simply didn't believe that these were real UKIP policies. I ended up linking the new shiny campaign manifestos to many UKIP supporters who had no idea what they were actually signing up to. On more than one occasion I was accused of writing the manifestos myself!

The single issue however that ran the campaign and still remains is immigration. Since UKIP has been exploiting this fear to great effect, we have coincidentally seen the rise of new extreme right-wing and racist organisations. Accusations of racism have been made against the rank and file of UKIP for some time, but over the past few months an MEP described the wife of a party worker as ‘a ting-tong from somewhere’, and other senior members of the party have (perhaps innocently) retweeted and favourited tweeted materials from extremist groups in the UK and USA. 

In response, local groups of people all over the country have been organising to Stand Up to UKIP. Partly funded by trade union donations, the movement is gaining strength and has organised the demonstration at the UKIP conference. 

I attended a local meeting last week to offer my support and get more information. As the venue was full people literally had to Stand Up at the back. One of the speakers mentioned my case and so I identified myself and said my piece. It was a good-spirited gathering of all ages and professions. 

One of the main ideas was to publicise actual UKIP policies as much as possible. This would seem odd for any political organisation to do in opposition to a political party. But, particularly the disaffected or protest Labour voters Farage is so keen to attract would be horrified if they knew that they were voting for a party much more extreme in every respect than the Tories they have loathed for generations.

As I left the meeting and walked into the street, I received two threats of violence on Twitter, within seconds of each other, from people claiming to be UKIP supporters. I banned and reported the users of course (though pointless - one was a brand-new account). 

It seems that some people still don’t want our help in spreading UKIP’s message.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Criticising UKIP is 'siding with the Taliban?

What would you call something that attacks people based on culture and tradition, their lifestyle, portraying them with over-emphasised facial features? Would that be racist? Or ‘humour’?

UKIP deputy leader Suzanne Evans would go with the latter definition. Last week she retweeted a spoof screenshot of a ‘Taliban dating site’. It shows a distorted picture of a big-nosed bearded man in the top left, has options to choose women, camels or goats, and shows pictures of women wearing the burkha, who live in caves or tents. 

This has nothing to do with the beliefs or practices of the Taliban and everything to do with racist stereotypes relating to Arabs.

Moreover it was retweeted from an account that contains some of the most extreme racist and offensive content imaginable, including a photoshopped picture of what is claimed to be a young naked ‘Christian woman’ having her throat cut by a gang of ‘islamist’ men, with the caption ‘Ah, the religion of peace’. Other tweets follow the ‘white genocide’ and ‘anti-racist is a code word for anti-white’ themes common to white supremacist sites in the US, adopted here in the UK by elements of the EDL and race-hate groups.

Another element of this ‘humour’ is that one of the women in the picture is described as being a ‘French Journalist’. This may be a reference to Belgian Joanie de Rijke, was captured and raped by the Taliban in 2008, later vilified by right-wing parties in the Netherlands and elsewhere for her attitude to her captors after she was ransomed and released. It may also reference British Journalist Yvonne Ridley who converted to Islam after her release. 

Bearing this in mind, why is the deputy leader of UKIP still defending her tweet, and going beyond that to claim that people criticising the post are ‘siding with the Taliban’, or that she was doing this off the back of writing a UKIP pamphlet where she wanted to emphasise the rights of women?

She claims in her article (published on the extreme right-wing site Breitbart) that terms like ‘racist’ and ‘offence’ are too often bandied about in some kind of ‘leftist witch-hunt’ which prevents people from speaking out about issues if they are ‘the wrong colour’. Is this the same sentiment supported by the originator of her tweet, that ‘anti-racist is a code word for anti-white’?

As a politician with a senior post in a party, she should be aware that she will be (rightly) under public scrutiny. Yes, we would not expect someone in her position to be tweeting this kind of thing – whether the picture is inherently racist or not - or to be referencing rape and kidnap as ‘humour’. 

For Ms. Evans information, unlike Presidents Bush, I do not and never have supported the Taliban.