Our new UKIP MP Douglas Carswell has reportedly said that UKIP needs to show an “inclusive face” and not blame immigrants for Britain’s problems. He added that dislike of foreigners is “not merely offensive, but absurd”. And for good measure he made a point of saying that “We should never make the mistake of blaming outsiders for the failings of insiders in Westminster”. Absolutely right. (Nor should we blame energy utilities for high energy prices that are the fault of legislators and regulators)
I think Douglas will find very few UKIP members who disagree with him. Until his celebrated election to Westminster, the centre of gravity of UKIP parliamentarians was of course in the European parliament. In Brussels, we employ many non-Brits (I hesitate even to use the word “foreigners” — these are good friends and colleagues, and they certainly don’t feel foreign). We work with them day-to-day. It’s become almost a cliché for me to add “My lead staffer in Brussels is Italian, and our Leader Nigel Farage is married to a German”.
And we are forging alliances with politicians from other European countries — the sort of people who may well be in government in their own countries, and may be useful contacts, after Independence Day. As Douglas rightly says, there is nothing splendid about isolation, and we are determined to remain good friends, allies and trading partners of continental nations after we leave the EU.
Of course it is a constant theme of our opponents that UKIP is “anti-foreigner”. Perversely, they seek to conflate a managed immigration policy with anti-foreign prejudice, when of course it is no such thing. Indeed the immigration policy operated by the Coalition today is profoundly discriminatory — it discriminates in favour of unskilled Eastern Europeans, and against highly qualified Commonwealth citizens. Mass immigration has created huge strains on our social cohesion and social infrastructure — but Douglas is right. We must blame the politicians who conceived and implemented the policy, not the immigrants who took advantage of it.
We have certainly had recent embarrassing examples of UKIP members making unacceptable comments, and (again, as Douglas says) we must show that these comments are unacceptable to our Party — and we do. And no doubt some UKIP members are attracted to the Party in the mistaken belief that “managed immigration” is a euphemism for anti-foreigner sentiment, despite all our efforts to explain otherwise.
It is important, however, both for our Party and for or ethnic-minority members, that we should avoid giving any impression that we allow any credence to the mistaken accusations of our opponents in this regard.