Gove, Boris and Vote Leave have aped Farage’s extremism. No-one can be surprised at the consequences

by Atul Hatwal

There is a transmission belt in political debate that transfers poison from the extremist fringes to the heart of the mainstream.

It operates when emotions are running high but, most of all, relies on mainstream politicians taking on the messages and rhetoric of the fringe.

This is what has happened in the EU referendum campaign as Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Vote Leave have followed Nigel Farage’s lead in whipping up a frenzy about EU immigration and Britain.

Two stages have characterised the descent into madness in this campaign: the validation of Ukip’s lies followed by a normalisation of these ideas within the debate.

Vote Leave’s fixation with Turkey has been the catalyst.

There’s no prospect of Turkey joining the EU. Every member state has a veto and France, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria would all exercise it if Turkish accession ever became likely.

Even the proposed deal to give Turkish citizens visa-free access to the Schengen area amounts to visa-free tourism for countries in the Schengen area – which does not include Britain- and conveys no rights to residency or employment.

Ukip have been scaremongering about Turkey for years but only when Michael Gove and Boris Johnson started repeating Ukip’s attack lines did the poison start to flow.

They are after all, senior members of the ruling party and in Gove’s case one of the most prominent members of the government. Their validation of Farage and repudiation of the reality of government policy on Turkey, suddenly legitimised Ukip’s fantasies about Turkish immigration.

The convergence of two these seams of clickbait gold – immigration and deeply personal, Conservative splits – means the media have been fixated with this wholly ludicrous topic for weeks.

The more commentators, journalists and politicians have debated it and dealt with the idea of Turkey joining the EU as a serious notion, the more it has become normalised as an issue that merits discussion.

There is a debate to be had about migration in this country but to focus on Turkey is to accept a wilful lie as the premise for the discussion and deliberately ignore the actual issues which Britain does face.

Vote Leave have done their best to feed the media frenzy on Turkey.

The extent to which they have simply become a mirror of Ukip is evident in the two posters below. On the left is Vote Leave’s poster on Turkey; on the right, Ukip’s infamous Breaking Point poster.

Two posters

Vote Leave’s poster is slightly more decorous. It has a nicer accent and smarter tailoring, but the core message and scale of lie on which the visuals are premised are exactly the same for both.

Turkey will not become a member of the EU and Britain makes a choice about the numbers of refugees it accepts.  But the trivia of truth doesn’t matter to either Vote Leave or Ukip.

On the Marr Show on Sunday morning, Michael Gove had the chutzpah to condemn Ukip’s poster, saying he “shuddered when he saw it.”  Nigel Farage was right to haul him up on this a little later when he was interviewed, saying,

“Well, have you seen their posters? They’ve been doing very strong posters, not only about Turkey, but about the number of terrorists and criminals who come into Britain under free movement rules.”

What has occurred during this campaign isn’t a phenomena restricted to Britain. It’s common-place across the world and every time it happens the consequences are grave.

In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has done more than any other politician to legitimise the ideas of the racist right-wing fringe.

On the eve of the 2015 election he released a video saying, “Hurry friends, the Arabs are going out in droves to vote, bused in by the left” and subsequently installed Avigdor Lieberman as his defence minister, a man who literally called for Arab Israelis to be beheaded if they did not swear a loyalty oath to Israel.

This is the political environment where settlers target Palestinians for increased violence – in one example late last year with 126 attacks or acts of vandalism in 48 hours.

In India, the ascent of Narendra Modi to the premiership has been accompanied by an upsurge in violence by Hindu nationalists.

Narendra Modi was the BJP chief minister in Gujrat when there were communal riots in 2002 that resulted in hundreds of Muslims being massacred by Hindu fanatics with Modi refusing to condemn the anti-Muslim pogrom.

This is the political environment where Hindu nationalist violence is rising with Muslims being beaten to death after false accusations of eating beef and college professors murdered for speaking out against idol worship.

And in Russia, where Vladimir Putin has increasingly co-opted the language of the nationalist right, a political environment exists where assaults on minorities are an everyday occurrence and football ooligans operate with the tacit approval of the authorities.

In an excoriating piece on the night of Jo Cox’s murder, Alex Massie said that “sometimes rhetoric has consequences.”

He’s right.

It could be coincidence that settler violence is surging in a country where Netanyahu acts as he does. It could be coincidence that Hindu nationalists feel emboldened to kill their opponents when Modi is leader. It could be coincidence that fascist thugs feel they can attack minorities in Russia with impunity under Vladimir Putin.

It could be coincidence that the cues of mainstream political leaders validate and agitate extremists, the world over.

It could be coincidence that tragedy struck last week in Birstall, in the middle of this referendum campaign, not six months earlier or six months later.

That this is even a question is testament to the type of campaign that Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Vote Leave have conducted.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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13 Responses to “Gove, Boris and Vote Leave have aped Farage’s extremism. No-one can be surprised at the consequences”

  1. Mike says:

    It is highly unfair for remain people to use the Cox murder for political gain. The issue of membership in the EU is far bigger than o e backbench MP.

    The breaking point poster is factually correct. Germany allowed 1.1 million young men mainly into the EU and once their status has been formalised they can travel where they like.

    I am personally torn on how to vote, but the issue of immigration is real.

  2. Tafia says:

    And some of the UK’s suicide bombers worked for public services – so does that mean they are a result of public sector extremism?

    And that’s before Sinn Fein/IRA are brought into the picture.

    Grow up Atul.

  3. John P Reid says:

    Ad the roan camp,with war criminal Alastair Cambell, making out how nice he is, and Bob Geldoff, lying about we’ll suffer ecenimic hard times, while attacking Farage, and smearing the leave side with lies about, ecenimic incompetence,are reduced to bullying,yet the remain camp,make out how nice they are,with attacks that any leaver is a racist, violent fascist,like the murder suspect.

  4. Disenfranchised says:

    And what do we do – just lie back and be trod into the dirt?

    For people to react, there needs to be an act committed against them.

    There are a tier of society in this country who certainly don’t feel part of any accommodation towards their community, identity, or culture.

    And the Labour party are at the forefront in disdaining any concerns that they may have.

  5. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Atul Hatwal,
    I refuse to even read your article, the headline “Gove, Boris and Vote Leave have aped Farage’s extremism. No-one can be surprised at the consequences” was enough to make me feel sick. You should hang your head in shame for trying to make cheap political capital out of such a terrible tragedy.

  6. Rallan says:

    Absolutely disgusting article. Atul has outdone himself with this one-sided selfish rant.

    People like Atul are using this murder as a shield to hide themselves from well deserved public contempt. The media, the chattering classes and big business have seized on it as an opportunity to smear and silence their critics.

    The fact is that our political class have spent decades abusing, cheating and robbing the electorate. They were loathed long before UKIP broke through in 2011, and the Jo Cox murder will not change that.

    The Westminster consensus is that mass immigration will not be halted and that the people (especially English people) will have no say in the matter. Immigration is a subject on which a clear majority of people are very worried about. Millions of people believe that England is being deliberately betrayed by its politicians. In 2015 we had the most undemocratic election result in British history when the only party in Britain willing to represent these voters got 12% of the vote but only 0.15% of the representation in Parliament.

    If you want to know who provoked the rage that got Jo Cox killed by a madman, go and look at the anti-democratic Houses of Parliament.

  7. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Jeremy Corbyn conveniently slips under the radar in Mr Hatwal’s article.

    “Jeremy Corbyn has been forced to abandon plans to give a speech calling for all Turkish citizens to gain access to the UK amid fears that it could push Britain out of the European Union.

    Senior Labour party sources told this newspaper that Mr Corbyn had planned a major intervention this month in Istanbul calling for Turkey to join the EU, allowing it’s 75 million people access to Britain under freedom of movement rules.”

  8. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Whats up? criticism too much for you to handle. That makes you worse than Farage. At least he is prepared to defend his views.

  9. Richard MacKinnon says:

    When I typed my comment of 1233 my first comment had disappeared.

  10. TCO says:

    Ironic, when you consider BoJo is a Turk.

  11. Anon E Mouse says:

    Is the bloke who wrote this a Tory plant?

    What a tragedy for the Labour Party that this odious piece is even allowed to smear the party by association.

    People with these views need to be driven out of the party ASAP and Labour needs to go back to representing the working classes

  12. Vern says:

    Re Anon E Mouse “Labour needs to go back to supporting the working classes.”
    Where have you been for the past 15➕ years. That ship has sailed! Those who choose not to work are your mainstays nowadays!

  13. john P Reid says:

    vern, I suppose if you define middle class luvvies who haven’t proper job,or those who just push money around the city, as not ACTUALLY working then yes that also stretches to the polly Toynbees or Islington

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