Nigel Farage: Ukip would scrap racism laws
Nigel Farage thinks Britain has fundamentally changed when it comes to attitudes to race and is now as colour-blind as he claims to be himself.Reuters

If we needed further proof of the deep unpleasantness of Ukip Nigel Farage served it up in bucketloads yesterday.

When asked by a Channel 4 documentary if there should be a law against discrimination on the grounds of race or colour in a 'Ukip Britain', the Ukip leader replied emphatically: "No."

Despite some attempts at backtracking, he has maintained he would axe many of our race discrimination laws.

Farage likes to pass himself off as a colourful man of the people, down the pub with a pint. According to his cigarette-packet legalese, we should not protect people being abused or discriminated against because of the colour of their skin. This is outrageous.

These shocking views, from someone who wants to portray himself as fit for office, represent a throwback to the bad old days of 'No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs'. It proves just why Ukip is unfit for any form of power in a future legislative assembly.

Our anti-discrimination legislation is not a sign of weakness or unfairness to "British workers". It was devised to protect those being discriminated against because of their skin colour. It protects us all and is a measure of how far our society has progressed since the 1960s.

Instead of insinuating that foreign workers, gay people, the disabled or women are to blame (all targets of UKIP attacks and derogatory comments), perhaps Nigel would do well to leave the pub – in which he says he spends five or six hours a day – and focus on great initiatives like the Living Wage campaign or the massive benefit to our economy and NHS that working immigrants bring to the UK.

Yet it's almost as if he can't help himself.

No sooner was Farage claiming he had been misrepresented on race discrimination than he was defending comments made about Muslims representing a "fifth column" in this country.

Farage said that never before has there been a migrant group that wants to "change who we are and what we are".

Considering that many Muslims are second, third or even fourth-generation British now, this is a wild statement that panders to the basest prejudice. Nor does it do anything to actually pinpoint and prevent any would-be militants heading off to join the so-called Islamic State.

With each and every wild utterance, Ukip moves closer to being a radical-right, anti-immigration party rather than part of the mainstream future of this country. And every success it achieves only further encourages racist scaremongering, intolerance and hatred.

Ludicrously the party still tries to play the victim card and insist only "it" is scrutinised. Anyone who digests the media knows that the UKIP diet of anti-immigrant hostility has been dominating the headlines for years now. It is hardly as if we cannot debate such issues.

If Ukip wants to run (and be fit) for office, it better get used to such scrutiny: there's only so many "gay floods" or "problems with Negroes" that the great British public can keep excusing.

Crude racist scaremongering

More fundamentally, we believe that Ukip is part of a trend of populist right-wing parties rising across western Europe. The policies of these 'parties of prejudice' are challenging the very notion of a free and fair, multicultural society, where people of different backgrounds and faiths can live together peaceably.

It was not always thus. For many years Ukip confined its attention to withdrawing from the European Union (EU). As such, it was largely ignored by HOPE not hate. We have no position on the EU. In fact, in times past we were quite comfortable to work with Ukip members locally.

That changed in the spring of 2013. Ukip contested the Eastleigh parliamentary by-election on a strong anti-immigrant ticket. The party's campaign literature exaggerated the immigration threat and employed crude racist scaremongering to try and win votes.

Calais migrants
HOPE not Hate feels Ukip has lurched sharply to the right since 2013Reuters

Buoyed up by the attention it began to draw, Ukip started focusing incessantly on immigration.

At the time, we surveyed our supporters. They told us that it was best to expose any racists we discovered within Ukip – rather than oppose the party itself – but they also wanted us to promote our vision of a positive, modern and multicultural Britain.

By the time we reviewed our position in late 2013, the situation had worsened. Ukip was both increasing its use of anti-immigrant rhetoric but, more importantly, was deliberately stoking up public anger through exaggeration and misinformation. It made wild (and irresponsible) claims about the numbers of Bulgarians and Romanians likely to come to Britain at the beginning of the New Year.

Ukip's turn to the right was confirmed at the party's 2014 Spring conference. Nigel Farage made a Powell-esque speech about not recognising modern Britain and the absence, he claimed, of spoken English on his commuter train from London to Kent.

The political editor of The Sun, Tom Newton-Dunn, tweeted at the time: "He's purposely pushed the boat out on foreigner hatred to try to pull in more Labour blue collar, but it sounds ugly. Too BNP."

We offered UKIP's leaders the opportunity to meet us and discuss all these issues, but they failed to turn up to our meeting (inside their own headquarters!).

There is nothing wrong with talking about immigration or even expressing concern about the rate of change in migrant numbers, or immigration policy. In fact HOPE not hate has always argued that we need a much more honest and open discussion about the subject. But it is the manner of this debate that is so important.

Decrying its underdog status, Ukip has falsely claimed that 'PC' powers and liberal elites prevent immigration being discussed. That is simply a lie, as any casual glance at a newspaper headline will tell you.

Opposition to the EU seems to have become a proxy for complaining about the ethnic makeup of Britain: of wanting to turn back to the past. No wonder that a majority of Ukip supporters are among the over-65s.

From all of this, it is clear that Ukip is not interested in a debate: it is simply whipping up xenophobia with cheap platitudes and scaremongering, falsely blaming all of society's ills on newcomers. That is why responsible democrats, those with a vision and hope for the future of a tolerant and equitable society, should join with us in voting for hope, not hate, on 7th May.

Nick Lowles is chief executive of HOPE not hate: www.hopenothate.org.uk | @hopenothate