‘We’re not career politicians, just people asking to be elected and paid as MEPs.’
The ethos of York’s UKIP public meeting was not going to be pleasant – and that was made clear from the start. When UKIP came to Clifton earlier this year, I and some colleagues attended a consultation meeting. It was here we were told by Judith Morris that York was soon to be filled with asylum seekers – from the “countries where they are tearing each other apart”. Naturally, I reacted. My family and friends had a history of being asylum seekers from Uganda in 1972, and when I asked whether they meant people like my father (then 14) they decided I was being aggressive and disruptive. I was asked to leave.
Intimidation and sexism: tactics of oppression
So it was no surprise to walk into the meeting automatically cornered and told in an intimidating manner that if I was going to behave in a ‘demure’ manner, I was welcome. Playing the nice card was my intention for the night, so I agreed. Yes, Judith Morris asked me to be demure. My friend, whose attire might have more closely aligned her with skinheads than lefty troublemakers like myself, asked for a glass of water. Judith Morris challenged her as well, accusing her of wanting to cause trouble merely because she was my friend. I had no idea that a glass of water was akin to criticising UKIP for its racism. You learn new things every day.
After this I was hounded by the stewards and Amjad Bashir, who asked where I was from. I mentioned the truth – that I was a global citizen. They asked for details, and wanting to see how far this could go, I mentioned I was born in London but I’d grown up around the world. This was still not enough. I was asked where I lived now, and what my occupation was. Could I be a dreaded journalist as I had a notebook?! These questions, I was told, were appropriate as a I ‘have a reputation’. I’m still not sure what kind of reputation I have, perhaps this blog post will mean I’ll be enlightened.
UKIP and the EU
The subject of the debate was the UKIP’s involvement in the EU. I am no fan of the EU – it remains undemocratic, solely interested in profit (especially of big industry), and largely a body of bureaucracy than effective peace-making. That said, it has also provided a platform for sensible policy-making on social issues like temporary workers, human rights and corporate accountability.
However, I knew these were not going to be the issues that UKIP was going to raise. You would have thought after the failed arrival of those millions of Bulgarians and Romanians they had predicted to have swamp Britain, they would have been humbled. Yet, the meeting was filled with anecdotes like:
- Jane Collins’ Slovac-Roma communities plagued with hepatitis B gaining access “better” health care treatment than ‘indigenous’ Sheffield children because their children are given Hep B vaccinations.
- The (imaginary) menial worker from Bucharest moving to the UK so that he can gain child benefits to send home.
- Mike Hookem‘s mighty fears of a European army taking place of the British Army (because everyone wants to attack this tiny island).
- Amjad Bashir’s repeated statement that every other immigrant movement (like his) was necessary, but this one is a threat – because of space and the economy.
Amjad Bashir repeated the story he told UKIP members at a conference earlier, reinforcing how his father should have been born British and part of the (oppressive) Raj. His tale seemed to sweep over any racism he experienced as a child, as though somehow everything but whitewashing a child could remove any of his/her cultural identity. It was as if he were repeating UKIP’s belief in anti-immigration as a way of pretending that he were not used a token person of colour for the party to defy calls of racism.
Finally the evening ended with a rather loud and raucous opinions of UKIP’s Roger Helmer MEP. His views presented nothing new – a few statistics based on now redundant Realpolitik values. He also emphasised that immigration was a working class issue, while stating that it would only result in longer queues at the Labour Exchange. I’ll not comment on how out of date he may seem for anyone who actually is working class and looking for work today.
After-thoughts and Desserts
The skill of UKIP lies in how much they actually manage to convince themselves that they are in the right. It is about protecting not themselves, but their belief of their own superiority; this can come from their race/nationality, their overly simplistic economic understanding, their fear of attack, but mostly from their arrogance.
I do not make such a claim light-heartedly. My experience of intimidation, the ways they presented them as truthful in comparison to the other parties, and their nationalism reflected people more scared than those with a positive plan. The use of their own experiences to state their views as fact – such as Judith Morris’ position as a small-business owner used as evidence that she knew exactly what the EU was doing to small businesses – was a call for attention and validation.
UKIP’s intimidation tactics are clear signs of what kind of politicians they are going to be. This experience has only confirmed by fears – if we want to create a better society where people are seen as equal, it is going to have to be through community organising and positive messaging. UKIP’s tactics of fear are destructive, and we have a long and tough journey ahead of us if we ever want to win.