by Kevin Meagher
David Cameron famously described UKIP members as a collection of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”. But are they fascist too? This is the question being posed by campaign group Hope Not Hate.
It is asking its supporters whether their successful efforts at taking on the far right in the shape of the BNP and English Defence League since 2004 should now extend to UKIP ahead of next year’s European elections.
“Should we begin to oppose them or should we stick to extremist groups like the BNP?’ they ask on their website:
‘The case for opposing UKIP:
‘UKIP is increasingly taking an anti-immigrant tone and as anti-racists we cannot ignore that. They are whipping up fears over new immigration and as we approach next year’s European Elections this will even get worse.
“The growing support for UKIP is scaring the mainstream parties and it will push them to adopt more hard line policies on immigration and multiculturalism. We need to prevent this and offer a positive alternative to the politics of hate and division.
‘The case against opposing UKIP:
‘We might not like some of UKIP’s policies but they are not a fascist or far right party. They are embedded to the democratic system and have more in common with the right wing of the Conservative Party than the fascists of the BNP. And, despite their current anti-immigrant rhetoric, they are still basically a single issue party.”
For an avowed anti-racist organisation like Hope Not Hate to begin campaigning against a mainstream political party is a dangerous extension of its terms of reference. It crosses an important Rubicon in our democracy. It encroaches, clumsily, on the delicate ground around free speech and effectively invalidates criticism of immigration as a policy. It dilutes their focus which has nobly been all about ostracising the far right.
To lump UKIP into the category marked ‘far right’ is silly gesture politics and will simply make ‘extremism’ a meaningless catch-all. Are the two thirds of voters who express a worry about large scale immigration to be dismissed as extremists too? Is Ed Miliband after raising the issue last week?
The strength of Hope Not Hate is that it is not exclusively the prerogative of people on the left. All those of good will who think racial inferiority and violence towards minorities are repellent ideas and who feel basic respect for other human beings is characteristic of British fair play can join in.
Also, it simply will not wash to bracket Nigel Farage with Nick Griffin. UKIP’s greatest strength is the simplicity of its message. ‘We want freedom from Europe and all its works’. People are at liberty to disagree with it or to critique its naïve simplicity, but it is hardly in the same league as the BNP’s poison. It’s a safe bet that Nigel Farage will not be troubled for his record in denying the Holocaust.
So ‘fruitcakes’ they may be, but the rise of the Fourth Reich UKIP most definitely is not. Hope Not Hate should stick to its valuable work fighting the real thing.
Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut