Belfast Telegraph

Ukip: For some reason the party that's against meddling foreigners is attracting racists

By Mark Steel

Ukip must be at the point now where it could raise funds by turning the lovable quotes from its supporters into a diary, with a different one at the top of each page to brighten up your day.

For April 3, there's probably a councillor saying: "Spaniards are only 3% human and 97% seaweed. It isn't racist to say this, as they would prefer to live between rocks on the beach rather than be forced into houses, which upsets them as they miss the crabs."

Then November 9 could feature an election candidate saying: "Maps in schools shouldn't include Africa, as its shape frightens children." Maybe December 2 could start with a financial backer insisting that climate change is caused by breastfeeding. And Christmas Day can be a spokesman saying: "Bangladesh should be annexed to Kent. Then the Bangladeshis should all be forced to move, as Kent simply can't take in that many Bangladeshis."

At the bottom, they could have the excuses, such as: "The councillor bitterly regrets any offence caused by the film of him blacking up and pretending to boil a vicar in a pot at a Let's Fight Ebola charity event." And: "Our MEP's comment that 'Bulgarians have glands that sweat sulphuric acid and that's why every single one without exception stinks like a polecat and that's a scientific fact' was taken entirely out of context. Furthermore, he was undergoing a reaction from eating an unripe banana that made some of his words come out racist."

You have to feel for Nigel Farage, because all he set out to do was construct a party around the idea that Britain could only be great again if it won back its independence from meddling foreigners, in particular stopping 'floods' of immigrants who destroy everything - and for some reason this party seems to attract a few racists.

Recently, Ukip has added a new fun element, which is to announce a policy and then declare this obviously isn't the policy. To start with, its deputy leader issued a statement favouring privatisation in the NHS, but then the party claimed it was a smear and that Ukip had never supported this idea at all.

Then Ukip issued a document insisting it would bring immigration down to 50,000 a year, but this week Nigel was adamant he couldn't give that figure, with an explanation along the lines of: "No, no, no, when we said that figure we were simply stating a number that could be taken as a total number of all the numbers in Australia, which has a sensible, but fair number of numbers."

Part of the problem may be that many people tempted to vote for Ukip are anti-immigration without being racist. But the more you pursue the idea of blaming immigration for the country's problems, the harder it is to avoid a racist conclusion. Because Ukip logic depends on accepting "they" are lazier than "us", more likely to claim benefits and commit crime and catch fire and summon the devil.

And they don't integrate like the British, who move to Spain and within hours are indistinguishable from the locals, singing folk songs about carrying buckets of squid.

Then you have to distinguish between good immigrants and bad immigrants. So there are few complaints about the 300,000 French living in London.

People who say they object to immigration often don't mean it as much as they think they do. They'll moan that immigrants are coming over here robbing us, then it turns out half their mates are immigrants and they're an immigrant.

Then they say: "Oh yeah, coming from Trinidad does make me an immigrant, I hadn't thought of it like that."

So Ukip's dilemma is that moaning about immigrants is popular, but declaring certain types are unpleasant types who are inferior to us, isn't popular. So it wins support for a vague sentiment, but as soon as it tries to explain it, it gets in a marvellous tangle.

That leaves Nigel on the radio every morning saying: "Look, we apologise for this candidate in Weymouth, who had a difficult moment, and under pressure said Romanian Gypsies make more mess than anyone else, but let's not be distracted by minutiae like that and get on to what really matters, which is our policies that I rewrote 20 minutes ago."

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