9 May 2013 — New Left Project
When the racism and bigotry fuelling the EDL-backed UK Independence Party were finally revealed to public view, the results were never going to be pretty. So it proved last week, as the threat to the Tories prompted a huge dirt-digging operation, exposing a party bringing far-right extremism into the mainstream. As leading researchers have previously pointed out, UKIP supporters are ‘more likely’ to hold strongly racist views. Its programme has ‘considerable policy overlaps with the extreme right’, and much of its base ‘closely resemble[s] that of the BNP’: ‘both parties are pitching a far-right formula and rallying a radical right base’. Alan Sked, who founded UKIP in 1993, has stated publicly that the party ‘are racist and have been infected by the far right’, and that its leader Nigel Farage told him ‘we will never win the nigger vote. The nig-nogs will never vote for us.’ EDL leader Tommy Robinson has endorsed UKIP for ‘saying exactly what we say, just in a different way’.
In the May 2013 local elections, UKIP fielded candidates who had joined the BNP and spoken at far-right meetings; ‘liked’ racist Facebook pages, including the EDL; congratulated Russia for banning gay pride marches; advocated chemically castrating parents of multiple children on benefits and murdering paedophiles; and recommended wearing a face mask to protect oneself from Bulgarian and Romanian-transmitted disease. Anna-Marie Crampton called the Second World War and Holocaust ‘Zionist’-orchestrated conspiracies. UKIP’s Hillingdon chair joined ‘friends’ on an EDL protest, organised events with an EDL splinter group, and posed with EDL leaders and BNP members. A councillor speaks of a ‘Muslim breeding programme’ and wryly advocates letting far-right thugs murder Islamist protesters. A UKIP election agent derided ‘pakis’. A campaigner joked about flattening Mosques, killing ‘pakis’ and Muslims, and posted pictures of the Obamas as apes. A former councillor claims ‘the Jewish race is endemically racist’, refers to the ‘problem’ of Mosques ‘popping up everywhere’, and attacks the ‘homosexual slant … on sex lessons for 7 year olds’. 2010 election candidate Paul Wiffen wrote about ‘Romanian gypsies who beat their wives and children into begging and stealing money they can gamble with, Muslim nutters who want to kill us and put us under medieval Sharia law’ and ‘Africans who sold their Afro-Caribbean brothers into … slavery’.
Other disturbing facts have resurfaced. Farage’s 2005 election manager used to be a National Front organiser. The former chair of UKIP in Oxford called Islam ‘fascist’, gay rights a ‘lunatics’ charter’, and wrote that some homosexuals prefer sex with animals, while
A Sheffield candidate was sacked after claiming Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik was right about Islam, Marxism and ‘Political Correctness’. In the European Parliament, UKIP has collaborated with the French National Front. Former party leader Lord Pearson, who invited Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders to speak in the House of Lords while the EDL rallied in support outside, warned of Muslims ‘breeding ten times faster than us’; a general election candidate called Islam ‘morally flawed and degenerate’.
The party’s response has frequently been dire. Farage credited Wood’s explanation that he was ‘imitating a pot plant’, adding ‘Is it racist? No. It’s only racist if you consider it being racist.’ Crampton was only guilty of ‘really hard-core anti-Zionism’. According to a party spokesman, ‘many of [our members] are young and have made the odd excessive comment on new media’ – though one has to wonder what definition of ‘excessive’ comfortably encompasses Mein Kampf. UKIP’s Deputy Leader did his best to defend its candidates, noting that ‘Not all of them have got Neo-fascist pasts or sympathies’. You don’t have to be a Nazi to work here, but…
The rot does not stop with UKIP, however, a party to which more than one Tory councillor a weekdefected this year, following three Tory Lords and an MEP. As Daniel Trilling observes, ‘the boundary between fascists and the hard right is often porous’, and Progressive blog Political Scrapbook, which keeps a close eye on the borderlands between hard and extreme right, has exposed a vast array of similar dirt on the Conservatives.
Boris Johnson has labelled Islam ‘the most viciously sectarian of all religions’, claiming it teaches ‘disgusting arrogance and condescension’. Perhaps he was projecting, since he also told Muslims that ‘loyalty to Britain’ means ‘accepting that … Islam is the problem.’ Striking a note Nick Griffin would commend, he called for the ‘re-Britannification of Britain’. (The BNP would later back Johnson over Livingstone for Mayor of London.) Johnson has called black people ‘piccaninnies’, and repeatedly portrayed the police as ‘victims’ of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. When criticised for linking Papua New Guinea to ‘orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing’, he offered only smug condescension, saying ‘I’m sure [its people] lead lives of blameless bourgeois domesticity in common with the rest of us’ and promised to ‘add Papua New Guinea to my global itinerary of apology’.
‘Let them go if they don’t like it here’ former Boris aide James McGrath told black Britons. His deputy mayor Richard Barnes derided dodgy ‘Irish builders’, and joked that police had put washing liquid in water cannons during the riots ‘to stop the colours running’. Witnesses to the remark were smeared and intimidated.
Michael Gove, who has described horrendous war crimes against Muslim towns as ‘ethic[al]’ and ‘beneficial’, sided with virulent Islamophobes against a proposed local mosque. The Cameron-run Conservative No to AV campaign, the Mirror reports, deployed racist depictions of Papua New Guinea and Fiji. Tory MP Philip Davies, who condemns foreign aid, bombarded the Equalities and Human Rights Commission with letters challenging the legality of an event aimed at South Asian women, demanding to know ‘why it is so offensive to black up’ and asking why a police officer’s reference to a BMW as ‘black man’s wheels’ should be considered racist. A former Tory candidate sacked after posing with a golliwog doll in a ‘campaign against political correctness’ sold his bookBritain – A Post Political Correctness Society, marketed with a picture of Enoch Powell and featuring two golliwog dolls on the cover, at the Conservative Party conference. A party organiser published an article entitled ‘Young Tory: gypos mugged me on king’s road’. A candidate for leader of the party’s youth wing waved a ‘bring back slavery’ banner at a University of York seminar, accused critics of a ‘witchhunt’, then ‘claim[ed] he did not know what the sign said, having picked it up from the floor’. The West Bradford campaign distributed anti-immigrant literature in white areas. The Oxford Conservative Association sang Nazi-themed songs and indulged in extreme racist humour. In 2011, the Conservative Association of St Andrew’s, which has historically burnt effigies of Nelson Mandela and toasted Apartheid, burnt an effigy of Barack Obama. A Tory mayor claims that there are ‘too many Pakis‘; elsewhere, a councillor told an Asian woman ‘If you don’t like it here go back to where you came from’, adding ‘nobody else except the EDL stick up for the English.’ Another councillor warned of a ‘sexual volcano’ created by lazy blacks and Pakistanis. Another attacked a Danish council worker as a ‘foreigner’ with ‘lesbian hair’. The Tory candidate for Eastleigh stated ‘I don’t care about refugees’; and called on the government to ignore AIDS in Africa in favour of ‘issues that affect’ people ‘like myself’. Tory MP Aidan Burley, who called the Olympic opening ceremony ‘leftie multi-cultural crap’, with a ‘huge, disproportionate focus on rap music’ was investigated by the French authorities after hiring an SS uniform, toasting the Third Reich and chanting ‘Hitler! Hitler! Hitler!’ at a Nazi-themed stag do.
‘Gay marriage can only ever be a ludicrous parody of the real thing’, Johnson wrote in 2005. In 2000, he was ‘more than happy to support Section 28’, to prevent ‘idiotic and irrelevant homosexual instruction.’ In October 2011, the Tories suspended a councillor for comparing gay marriage to bestiality. Yet Johnson had done the same thing, musing:
In the 1980s, Liam Fox tried to block the founding of a university gay society because ‘I just don’t want the gays flaunting it in front of me, which is what they would do.’ The election campaign of former party chair and minister Sayeeda Warsi distributed homophobic propaganda about schools ‘promoting … homosexuality to children as young as seven years old’, and laws ‘allowing schoolchildren to be propositioned for homosexual relationships’. One Tory MP complained of gay equality measures ‘imposing questionable sexual standards’ on children. Before defecting to UKIP, Tory MEP Roger Helmer defended psychiatric efforts to cure homosexuals, arguing homophobia ‘simply does not exist’ but ‘is merely a propaganda device designed to denigrate and stigmatise those holding conventional opinions’. Prominent Tory Philippa Stroud allegedly tried to ‘cure’ homosexuals through prayer. In 2002 the chair of Reigate and Banstead Conservative Association said:
One councillor received a police caution for leaving a homophobic rant on a bisexual rival’s voicemail, telling him ‘with a bit of luck you’ll get AIDS’.
Glyn Gaskarth, a former aide to Oliver Letwin and Special Advisor to David Davis, suggests that:
A Tory candidate in LSE’s student elections assured voters that ‘Girls love cooking and love to be in the kitchen’. Tory councillors have called café staff ‘bone idle bitches’ who ‘need a good beating’ and women in a viewing gallery ‘hags’. Cameron famously told a female opponent to ‘calm down, dear’. The Tory candidate for Eastleigh called herself a ‘pro-lifer’ who ‘would have voted to reduce’ the legal limit on abortion ‘as far as possible’. When told that ‘rape is rape’, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clark’s immediate response was ‘no it isn’t’; he cited date rape to prove his point. One Tory MSP said of a rape victim ‘somebody should be asking her what she was doing in … an area where quite a lot of the hookers take their clients’. Helmer claimed that women share the blame for many rapes through ‘establishing reasonable expectations’. One MP suggested teaching children ‘just say no’ would curb child sexual abuse. Environmental activists objected that they were unable to give informed consent when sleeping with undercover police; Boris Johnson joked about it. The Tory deputy chairman responded to arrests in the wake of the Savile scandal by tweeting ‘Imagine if the police started arresting everyone whoever [sic] smoked a joint at uni back in the 60s and 70s.’
Bigotry, disablism, far-right extremism
Edwina Currie tweeted during the Paralympics that ‘Italians are gorgeous even in wheelchairs’; a councillor labelled anti-cuts protesters – some disabled – a ‘collection of retards … spoiling it for real people’. More generally, the Government’s persistent lies about benefit claimants have helped create a toxic climate in which disabled people are routinely abused.
David Cameron sanctions anything up to ‘grossly disproportionate’ violence – such as ‘stabbing a burglar while he’s unconscious’ – against intruders. Helmer demanded that the army ‘shoot’ rioters ‘on sight’. Tory peer Howard Flight complained that welfare changes would encourage the poor to ‘breed’. A councillor and former chair of the party’s youth wing (now a UKIP member) advocatedstripping benefit claimants of the right to vote.
A local candidate was formally nominated by two BNP activists. Blaine Robin, face of the Tories’ ‘become a councillor’ campaign, boasted of his links with the EDL, was filmed attending one of their meetings and posted their propaganda on his website. A BNP general election candidate alsoattended Lancashire Conservative party meetings, and was asked to stand for them in the local elections.
In 1963, Tory politician Ian Macleod warned Harold Macmillan:
Macleod’s advice presciently captures something of the Cameronite dilemma: appease hard-right revanchists or detoxify the Tory brand? The Conservatives exist to serve wealth and privilege, priorities that naturally feed, and feed off, contempt for perceived inferiors. They have also long been happy to channel and reinforce popular bigotry where this secured votes and divided the lower orders; but as the country grew (in some ways) more socially liberal, the party’s ‘rampant’ xenophobia began to damage its reputation. Cameron’s rebranding exercise attempted to address this long-term threat, aligning the party’s public image with more progressive currents of public opinion via a hefty shove along the so-called ‘axis of UKIP’. For the hard right especially, the PR stuck; coalition with the Lib Dems, marriage equality and popular propaganda only reinforced it. So it is that the government’s viciousness towards the disabled, poor, immigrants and criminals has been met with calls for even more of the same.
UKIP are not an exclusively fascist club, of course: many of its members are the same businessmen and petit-bourgeois reactionaries that make up most right-wing populist movements. But the latter can also be said of the Tories. Far-right extremism seeps across party lines; UKIP might express it in more concentrated form, but the Conservative Party is no stranger to the kind of vile bigotry that sustains the far right.