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.
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