The self-styled anti-fascist protesters gathered outside UKIP’s public meeting in Westminster, central London, last night, certainly made the queuing up that little bit more exciting. Or perhaps that should be egg-citing, given the student-looking types’ proclivity for chucking their nominally left-wing ire at attendees in shell and yoke form. Either way, a smashing time was had by all.
When the protesters weren’t throwing things, they were hurling insults. ‘Bunch of bigoted wankers - that’s what you are’, said one charming young gent manning a stall adjacent to the queue. Meanwhile, his colleagues in the fight against UKIP were singing their disapproval, aided by a sound system emitting noise akin to an air-raid siren - an attempt, perhaps, to provide protesters’ Second World War blarney about the battle against fascism with a Second World War soundtrack.
It made for an odd sight: a very slow-moving, very eclectic queue of people, ranging from tweeded, white-haired UKIP stereotypes to smartly dressed black couples and besuited twentysomethings, being subjected to deafening accusations of racism and bigotry. ‘We hate racists, we hate racists, we hate racists, we hate racists - we are the racist haters’, went one catchy little ditty. Another went: ‘UKIP is a bigoted party, shame on you, shame on you; UKIP is a racist party, shame on you, shame on you; UKIP is a bankers’ party, shame on you, shame on you.’ A few even made a special point of trying to look into attendees’ eyes while they shouted ‘shame on you’. Very Paul McKenna.
But to understand the strangely bilious protests against UKIP last night as the work of ‘spoilt middle-class children who have nothing better to do’, as Paula McQueen, a black Jewish UKIP candidate in the upcoming Euro elections, put it, is to miss the real meaning of such demonstrations. It wasn’t the voice of the extreme left, to use UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s description, that could be heard outside this Westminster venue; and it wasn’t the righteous anger of self-proclaimed radical students driving the heckling from within. Rather, these egg-chucking anti-UKIP protesters are best understood as the vanguard of the political establishment’s anti-UKIP campaign. They are the youthful face of the political and media classes’ attempt to deal with UKIP, and to cope with the crisis that UKIP’s emergence as an electoral force represents. The protesters are the anti-UKIP campaign’s dreadlocked shock troops.
After all, the chants about UKIP supporters being racists are straight from the mainstream songbook. Barely a day passes without a UKIP-is-racist story appearing. It could be a media outlet publishing a tale of some UKIP member or supporter tweeting something ‘inappropriate’ about black people or Muslims; it could be a commentator calling UKIP’s election posters, yep, you guessed it, ‘racist’; it could be a cross-party campaign group accusing UKIP of, er, ‘racism’; or it could even be commentator announcing that, yes, he now thinks UKIP ‘is an overtly racist and extremist party’. (All of which goes to show the debasement of the meaning of racism rather than racism’s prevalence.)