Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Real Bigots Are Those Who Label UKIP “Far Right”

As a young Jewish man, and a passionate believer in the virtues of a liberal, democratic and pluralistic society, I am abhorred by the claims made by Mathew Goodwin in the course of his defence of his decision to include UKIP members as a control group in his study on attitudes to violence and the far right. 
First, Goodwin defends his inclusion of UKIP by explaining that the authors of the report wanted a control group to the right of Cameron’s conservatives. Ed West, writing for the Telegraph, has already made the suggestion that surely a better control group would have been just an ordinary cross-section of British society. Nevertheless, it is my own submission that if Goodwin had wanted a control group “right of Cameron’s Conservatives”, I see no reason why he shouldn’t have just interviewed ordinary members of the Conservative party most of whom are much more right wing than Cameron who is frequently criticized by Tories as being a moderate, centrist, “heir to Blair” figure. 
Nevertheless, Goodwin makes the fair point that he never claimed UKIP is a party associated with violence and he points out that the assertion of UKIP’s leadership that it is opposed to extremism and violence is “backed up by our own data”. 
So how does Goodwin justify his suggestion that UKIP shares more with the far right than it admits? Given by his own admission UKIP members do not lust after violence, he does so by claiming that the party has “considerable policy overlaps with the extreme right”. Here is where Goodwin’s argument becomes disingenuous, warped and extremely offensive to members of UKIP such as myself who are members of minority communities.
The BNP are self-evidently right wing nutters: the leadership meets the KKK, have denied the holocaust and, until stopped by the courts, left membership of the party only to indigenous white Brits. Many of the BNP’s supporters are neo-Nazi skinheads and this is all a million miles away from UKIP. 
Yet Goodwin argues that UKIP’s sensible policy on immigration which is designed to promote liberal values overlaps with the BNP’s white supremacist policies. 
Goodwin quotes the UKIP policy of ending uncontrolled immigration as being overlapping with the extreme right. But surely wanting controlled immigration is not an unusual view at all after the unprecedentedhigh levels of immigration seen under New Labour? I myself, for example, believe immigration should be controlled with regards to the brain drain which many academics claim has led to the NHS stealing doctors and nurses from poor African countries where they were trained. Furthermore, Goodwin also claims that there is overlap in terms of the policy of wanting the “expulsion of illegal immigrants”. I cannot possibly see how this view is extreme.   
Yet there is one policy which Goodwin claims does not just overlap with the far right but is in fact a “radical right pitch to voters” and that is: ending multiculturalism. Here we spot the fundamental flaw in Goodwin’s paper and that is that “far right” is never properly defined. Being far right is innately a bad thing as far as Goodwin is concerned. This is evident in his description as UKIP as being “alongside the more toxic extreme right” implying that there is a less toxic, but albeit toxic category UKIP falls into. 
While I too would of course agree that far right politics is detestable, my own definition of “fair right” must be different, and in my view, more sensible, and I can demonstrate this in my support for UKIP’s allegedly extreme right policy on multiculturalism. Incidentally, I would argue that the Prime Minister agrees with UKIP on this given that he has said state multiculturalism has failed. 
UKIP is a libertarian party and British classical liberalism emphasises not trying to promote diversity but rather favours a policy of merely tolerating minority groups. That we don’t believe in throwing money at quangos or encouraging positive discrimination in order to achieve the successful integration of minority groups into British society is all that this policy is about. UKIP has long ago scrapped a silly French-style ban the burqa policy.
Indeed, UKIP is a liberal nationalist party in the British libertarian tradition. It is about preserving a nation-state which is tolerant towards minority groups and will not allow society to fragment. After all, a lack of social cohesion hurts minority groups the most. The narrative Goodwin paints is a clear smear against UKIP and it does not stand up to scrutiny. The real victims of this affair will be my Asian, black, and other friends in UKIP who are from minority backgrounds, and who will be looked down upon because others have deeply misunderstood their political beliefs.
Julien Conway is Director of UKIP Friends of Israel and a student of Law at Southampton University. Tweet: @JulienConway