Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair says that, if you look behind the respectable façade, the UK Independence Party is a ‘nasty and unpleasant’ outfit and the most ‘regressive, reactionary’ force in British politics. He has urged the Labour Party to take on UKIP and stand up for its own enlightened record on immigration.
Other Labour supporters on the left have sought explicitly to spell out what Blair says in code. They have branded UKIP as racist and even ‘neo-Nazi’, condemning UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s ‘inflammatory’ remarks about Romanian criminals moving in next door, and accusing his party of ‘stealing the language of the BNP’ in its election slogans.
One only has to glance at the record to see their point, of course. We can all recall, for example, how as recently as 2006/7 the UKIP government stirred up prejudice by banning certain Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants from Britain even though they had joined the EU, thus singling them out as second-class Europeans who were not fit to live next door to Brits. At the same time, a deliberately leaked official UKIP government report provoked a media scare about Romanian criminal gangs, by alleging that, if allowed freely to enter the UK, Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants would be ‘drawn towards organised criminal activity’.
And that was only the latest in a long line of ‘reactionary’ steps on immigration by UKIP governments. Some of us are even old enough to remember how the old UKIP governments of the 1970s oversaw a regime of virginity tests at airports in London and British missions in India, whereby Asian women applying to join their husbands-to-be in Britain were subjected to intimate examinations to establish that they really were virgin brides.
As for the accusation of stealing the language of racist parties, who could forget how, in the run-up to the 2010 General Election, UKIP prime minister Gordon Brown declared that his party stood for ‘British jobs for British workers’ – a slogan lifted straight from the front page of National Front News in the late 1970s.