A few months ago, I wrote a blog-piece here in response to claims by Chuka Umunna who said there was racism at the heart of UKIP. This is a party I know well and I was, until two days’ ago the Parliamentary Candidate for South Northants.
Review of recent events
About 10 days ago I learnt of a comment tossed off by David Corburn, UKIP’s only MEP in Scotland, who compared the Scottish Minister for Europe, Humza Yousaf to convicted criminal Abu Hamza, a man who is serving a life sentence in New York for terrorism. I immediately requested a meeting with Mr Farage which was denied- I am too much of a small-fry! I was told to go through the hierarchy and approach my “Regional Organiser” whose name is Paul Oakden. Oakden had already revealed himself to be a thug who threw his weight around, and never returned telephone calls. Time dragged on and I spoke to Humza early the following week to ask what I could do to help, talked to the Daily Mail and found myself resigning. For the next few days, I was at the centre of a media circus that was actually located somewhere in Edinburgh.
Bits of the furore tricked down to Northampton, and Oakden went in for the kill, accusing me on live radio of behaving like a brat, throwing his toys out of the pram. He questioned my competence as a candidate and so on, which meant I was obliged to answer back and the thing duly had a more local manifestation. But I was at pains to stress I had no evidence nor suspicions about any member of the local party being racist, homophobic or prejudiced.
And then came Adam Collyer’s blog which was a nasty attack on my partner- suggesting that he was not the victim of a torture event in Greece but probably the aggressor. It undermined my integrity, of course, and seriously upset my partner who had suffered 11 years’ of a legal battle for proper redress through the ECHR.
Adam Collyer, like David Coburn is an elected UKIP politician, one of the current high ranking and experienced leaders of the party. As a UKIP ranker, I think he must be held to higher standards than ordinary members who might aspire to but have not attained elected office. In other words, he is on the same rank as David Coburn and I hold him to the same standards. If he wants to lambast me, well I am fair game of course, but if he wants to attack my family, he should check his facts first and also make sure that what he writes is unambiguously clear.
One significant fact was wrong: Necati did not enter the UK as an asylum seeker. Another fact was presented in such a way as to be misleading: here is the offensive phrase: “… Necati Zontul, a Turkish asylum-seeker who has been involved in allegations of torture against the Greek police.” I was first alerted to this by a Greek friend who sent me a message : Κάποιος κύριος γράφει άρθρα σε “blog” για εσάς και τον Necati. Αυτός ο άνθρωπος δηλώνει πως Ο Necati δεν είταν’ το θύμα αλλά ο κατηγορούμενος της υπόθεσης. Αυτή την εντύπωση μου δίνει.
This person tried to leave comments on the blog, but was unable to do so. Adam does not like feedback.
Two points: firstly I am proud of what we did to bring Necati’s case to a successful conclusion – against the odds and under serious pressure to keep silent, and secondly, I do not doubt that Adam might have intended to write something else, and I agree what he writes is also open to a number of interpretations, but one of them is utterly wrong. We are in the business of using words to change people’s lives: that is what we do in politics. It’s also what we do when we make films and work in the media. That gives us a responsibility to do the job properly. We cannot make stupid jokes and get away with it. We cannot write things and say we did not mean it. People have lost their jobs for less- and today a bad tweet can cost us everything. Adam and Coburn just were not careful enough…And moreover, there was no reason at all to bring the story of Necati’s torture back into the public arena.
Anyway, where does this lead us?
The bottom line is very simple- the ordinary activist in UKIP may not be racist or homophobic, but it is quite clear that senior UKIP rankers will do anything they can to seize or hold on to power, often with personal abuse or inuendo. They are also equipped with the sort of thuggish views that should never be expressed or even considered – and Farrage will endorse the lot! Roger Helmer was excused for making a series of homophobic comments, Coburn was excused for making his racist attack on Humza, Collyer remains undisciplined for attacking a torture victim and on it goes.
These people are ready to pontificate about our lives, and look set to be thoroughly electable, many of them have already been elected to represent us in Brussels. UKIP will achieve a powerbase in Westminster in May. I wanted to ensure that among those elected were some reasonable individuals and they certainly exist too- I have met many of them. Douglas Carswell is a fine example, Tom Rubython, Rose Gibbins, Michael Gerard – all people who I am sure are as appalled at the racist stuff emerging from the ill-toothed mouth of Coburn, and yet I was the only one to resign.
This is it: the thugs have bullied their way to the top and they are the ones who, regrettably, control the destiny of the party. And racists attract racists – we should not be surprised by some of the astonishing things written on pro-UKIP websites and facebook pages. Bile against Islam features prominently.
The Black hole and personal Regret
My great regret about resigning the other day is this- that the media storm focused a little too much on the resignation rather than the reason. I thought I might stimulate debate on racism, but what happened was alot of questions about why I took this so seriously when Farage did not. I take it seriously because it is almost the most important thing in life- to have respect for the person sitting next to you. Humza and Coburn may be in different parties, and be political opponents but Coburn does not have the sense or the prudence to realise he is in the same business – and that fact alone should command proper respect. Coburn used his mass and stupidity in an attempt to belittle a good, no a great man. If we take an astronomical image, Humza is the rising star and Coburn is a black hole and the sooner he implodes completely, the safer we will all be.
So, apologies Chuka – you are not entirely wrong. But racism is not found at the heart of UKIP, it is found at the head (the Greeks say the fish smells from the head). The heart of UKIP, I think, beats with a passion that questions the wisdom of Brussels and the efficacity of the Brussels bureaucracy, something any Greek would be eager to applaud. But the UKIP rankers look down from their turreted fortifications – oddly for the most part in Brussels not the UK- and wince when they hear people on the train who do not speak english, whose skin is a different colour, whose religion is not anglican. There really is a danger that these people will have power.
And across the way will be the Scottish nationalists – I cannot say I favour a fractured Kingdom at all, but I have never met an SNP politician I do not like. It’s odd- it’s obviously nothing to do with being Scottish- because I detested Gordon Brown in a way I can barely describe in words. (I will add a picture of him in a few minutes to entertain). I think it is something about being fresh and having a very specific message. It does not matter whether we like that message- we have to admire the way it is presented. Now, UKIP also is relatively fresh and focuses on a single message. In so many ways, there are parallels, except that UKIP is top-heavy with racist, homophobic “has-beens” and the SNP is quite free of these. Even Alex Salmond is endearing. And just think back to the speed of his resignation: that is a picture-book demonstration of honour and integrity.
We hear all this nonsense these days about the importance of policies, but UKIP has yet to publish a manifesto and the election inches forward. I rather fancy making my mind up on the basis of who is the most polite, the most honourable, who has the most integrity and is the most personable. I think I would fill the whole of Westminster with the SNP!
Despite claims by Adam Collyer to have resigned and to have left UKIP, after a short illness during which he said he felt his family was under attack, he has returned to work as usual. He was assisted in this process by none other than Paul Oakden.