Ukip’s Rise Should Provoke Soul-Searching Among Our Political Class

So the Ukip mask of respectability, always very thin and ill-fitting, has slipped. After what’s now generally known as Nigel Farage’s “car-crash LBC interview” and a leader in the Sun saying that the party’s position is “racist”, the party has been forced to take out a full page advert in the Telegraph to counter Ukip’s perception as a bunch of xenophobes.

Just consider the “clarification” Nigel Farage offered, in careful consideration in the cold light of day on Saturday morning: “any normal and fair-minded person would have a perfect right to be concerned if a group of Romanian people suddenly moved in next door”. That is a statement that can only be described as bigoted, racist and disgusting. Those “Romanian people” might be doctors, or IT professionals or care workers, or Roma seeking a better life away from prejudice and as likely as any other people to be good neighbours, who’ll feed the cat or lend you a cup of sugar.

However, as the Telegraph points out, with probably up to 40% of votes in the European election already cast (by post), the immediate electoral impact may be limited. But it should be a powerful reason for every voter opposed to Ukip’s approach to immigration, Europe, charging for NHS services and many other issues to take ten minutes to get to the polling station on Thursday.

What Ukip’s rise should do is provoke seriously soul-searching among our political class about why it has been able to get so far with its dangerous, divisive and damaging rhetoric, and been almost unchallenged.

The three largest parties haven’t taken on Ukip, but all too often pandered to it, seeking to pull back Ukip voters by outdoing it in rhetoric and policy.

The Tories and Lib Dems have introduced the dreadful Immigration Bill, which seeks to turn landlords and NHS staff into immigration agents. And just this weekend, we saw Ed Miliband again grovelling in apology at the former Labour government’s immigration policies. Do we see similar words on its disastrous encouragement of financial sector excesses, of the fact that after 13 years of a Labour government inequality had actually increased? No.

This is not only morally wrong, but politically stupid. By pandering to Ukip’s stance on immigration and Europe, the three largest parties have helped to make its claims that immigration has “caused” low wages, has “caused” housing shortages, has “caused” crowded hospitals and schools seem plausible. Continue reading