UKIP: “The Only Biraderi that is Important is the British Biraderi.”
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By Fatima Patel
The UK Independence Party has risen in a relatively short space of time and has pushed its way into the political spotlight, dominating news stories and surprised political pundits with its by-election victories. The most interesting question of all is who, exactly is voting for Nigel Farage’s people! Nigel Farage has become as recognisable a figure as the big three party leaders. In Bradford, UKIP seems to be grabbing the spotlight too, with loyal Labour activist of 23 years and Labour member of 15 years, Owais Rajput defecting to UKIP. Questions In fact, UKIP’s Bradford Chairman, Jason Smith is confident of an election win in Labour’s Bradford South seat.
UKIP was founded on 3 September 1993 at the London School of Economics by members of the Anti-Federalist League, which had been founded by Dr Alan Sked in November 1991 with the aim of running candidates opposed to the Maastricht Treaty in the 1992 general election.
UKIP’s growing vote share in national elections:
1999 European elections 7%
2001 General election 1.5% (saved deposit in one seat)
2004 European elections 16%
2005 General election 2.3% (saved deposit in 38 seats)
2009 European elections 16.5%
2010 General election 3.2% (saved deposit in 100 seats)
2014 European elections 27.5%
Candidates must get 5% of votes cast to save their deposit
Following the 2010 election, when the party failed again to turn European into UK political success, Lord Pearson announced in August 2010 that he was stepping down, saying he did not enjoy party politics. Five hopefuls entered the race to succeed him, with Mr Farage triumphing.
From that point onwards the party has seen its poll ratings rise, overtaking the Lib Dems and staying above them in most polls, and putting in increasingly stronger showings in by-elections.
In an exclusive interview we caught up with Jason Smith and the new UKIP defector from Labour, Owais Rajput to hear their views on whether UKIP really can be an alternative to the three mainstream parties.
During the interview Jason Smith first tackled the perception of UKIP as a xenophobic and racist party. He rejects this as utterly false and claims that the media has painted the party as an Islamaphobic and racist party when the reality is that they are committed to the principles of equality. “We represent fairness, equality, diversity and go by the rule of the law. All members subscribe to these views. For us the only biraderi that is important is the British biraderi.”
UKIP is patently aware that if it is to have electoral success it must challenge the prevailing view that it is a racist party. The Party is eager to point out that it promotes British values but is inclusive of people from other cultures, or at least that is how Jason Smith views UKIP. He is also critical of all-women shortlist and considers them to be discriminatory because he believes that people should be allowed to run regardless of race, gender or background.
However, the party found itself in hot water over the issue a few days before its Rochester win, when its candidate Mark Reckless, suggested EU migrants would only be allowed to stay in the UK for a fixed period if the UK left the European Union.
Those remarks Those remarks were clarified later by UKIP, to reject the idea EU citizens faced deportation, and Mr Reckless later said he had been misquoted.
The party says leaving the EU is the only way to be able to control who moves the UK from Europe and says it would boost the UK’s border force to crack down on illegal immigration. They would also change the law so that those without identifying documents can be sent back to the country they travelled from.
Jason Smith goes on to define UKIP as a libertarian party that promotes political freedom. In response to accusations that the Party is closely aligned with the BNP, following endorsement of UKIP by its former leader Nick Griffin, Mr Smith feels that this does not necessarily put UKIP in a negative light. He believes that while anyone should have the right to support UKIP, the party does not have to support the extremist views of far-right parties. He declares that UKIP does not allow anyone who has been a BNP member or anyone who has extreme views to join the party. In fact he suggests that Labour and the BNP are quite identical. Both are socialists but he acknowledges that the BNP is the more extreme. He also points out that interestingly BNP members are defecting to Labour which he believes says more about Labour’s legitimacy in comparison to UKIP.
Mr Smith makes it clear that it is committed to working with local people and therefore supports the idea of local devolution which the party will put to a referendum. In line with its commitment to localism UKIP will be fielding local people in all Bradford Wards. The councillors for East, West and Shipley will be announced by January 2015, with Mr Smith as PPC for Bradford South and Paul Little as PPC for Keighley already being declared. The Party feels most confident of its electoral prospects in Bradford South and in Keighley, where they believe they will secure the working class votes. Mr Smith claims that people with traditional Labour and Tory values have been defecting to UKIP as they feel let down.
On the Respect Party and the victory of George Galloway in the 2012 by-elections, (where UKIP gained a 3.3% share) Mr Smith feels that this was due to winning the majority Asian vote due to framing international issues that affected the electorate of Bradford West. He considers UKIP and the Respect Party have some similarities particularly as they are both anti-war. However, the Respect Party is much more of an Asian or even an Islamic Party while UKIP does not wish to focus on religion. They do not align themselves to any group and stand independently, having members from Asian, Eastern European, and Black backgrounds. Mr Smith feels UKIP is a more diverse of party than any other mainstream parties.
There have been rumours that members have joined UKIP only because no other party will take them and that UKIP has offered them a financial reward as an inducement. Mr Smith retorts that “UKIP has money, but nothing will be available to local candidates. They have to find their own funding for their campaigns. The money that is there is targeted for specific seats in targeted areas”. He feels that the rumours that are circulating about UKIP is because they have no substantive criticism against the party and they are coming up with excuses.
In response to the question of why it is deciding to announce candidates for the General election so late, Mr. Smith says that this is due to the influx of new members and UKIP wants to ensure that they have looked at the skills and credibility of all of its members in detail. “Ultimately we want to make sure we have put the best person forward for the job.”
We are aware as the party name The UK Independence Party, implies its main key policy is to leave the European Union and focus on Britain. In economic terms they want to focus on the nations of the Commonwealth. Mr Smith thinks that focusing more on the Commonwealth is where the opportunity for maximum economic growth lies. The economy of Europe is in decline in comparison to places like India that are growing year on year.
So does this mean Ukip vote is going to the immigration averse aspirational working class, split fairly evenly between former Tory voters, former Labour voters and those who were not inclined to vote at all because they believe that politicians are ‘all the same’ and so on? The possibility is strong that the votes Ukip are picking up now are from the people who have decided most of our recent general elections destructively anti-immigration, politically incorrect and most of all, feeling let down by the three main parties.
Owais Rajput, a recent defector from Labour to UKIP is very confident of UKIP’s future prospects. He sees a potential for growth particularly among youth voters and Muslim youngsters. He has been campaigning for six months on doorsteps in Bradford East, particularly in areas such as Eccleshill, Idle and Thackley and according to him the feedback from these areas is that they feel they have no option but to choose UKIP as the main parties have let them down. There are around 2200 voters in Bolton and Undercliffe Ward and according to Rajput’s first-hand information on the doorstep, he says the youth are saying our elders have always voted Labour and Lib Dem, but we want change and they feel UKIP can bring this change.
Mr Rajput says at the 2012 Bradford West by-election young people proved that they will utilise their democratic vote for a party who will deliver change. Owais feels that UKIP can deliver this. He goes on to say if you have the right policies for the area history can be made. UKIP has put a focus on the youth vote as they have an insight into politics and how things can change. Owais Rajput feels that the youth are the main stakeholders while the main parties in contrast only focus on 30 per cent of elderly votes; these votes count too but they do not bring change.
“UKIP believes in democratic values and he claims they have opened the door for lots of other Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic candidates to join them. Not only are Asians joining, but Eastern Europeans and Africans too.” Rajput goes on to declare that UKIP will make history by bringing the first African black councillor for Bradford.
Owais Rajput is questioned as to why he left Labour, after being active for 23 years. He feels that the major parties do not give local people a voice and he wants to give power to real voices at the grass roots level. He is in politics to see change at this level and doesn’t see this being possible under the three main parties. He doesn’t think they work for the working class and their policies come from Whitehall. He believes 88 per cent of revenue is spent in London and that needs to change.
It is a possibility that Owais Rajput left Labour because he did not get the Bradford East seat. Rajput quickly defends this as ‘rubbish’. In 2006 he says he was a PPC for the party and he was long-listed and short-listed quite a few times. He says that he left Labour as they broke their principles and his trust. He thinks Labour no longer knows if it is left or right wing in Rajput’s view and there is widespread discontent within the Party and he does not want to be embroiled in it. Instead he wants to focus on developing a bottom-up politics rather than top down and listening to local people rather than forcing Whitehall politics upon them.
Owais considers himself to be committed to using an inductive approach, in that he never puts forward his personal views but prefers to focus on the collective will. He also thinks that his politics is consistent with his faith as a Muslim, which requires one not to break the rule of the land. He does not consider UKIP a racist party as he has not been discriminated for his beard and UKIP is a diverse party. He questions the notion of Britishness and believes people need to be seen as human.
It remains to be seen whether UKIP can prove itself to be an alternative to the three main parties. Their policies might have traction with those who have become disaffected by mainstream politics. UKIP’s stance on Europe and the xenophobic and racist statements made by Party members continue to haunt the party, especially if we go by Farage’s recent antics of telling mothers not to be ‘openly ostentatious’ when breast feeding and his recent comment in the Jewish Chronicle of blaming Muslims for the recent rise in ‘anti-semitism’ in Britain and Europe. Nevertheless, even if UKip manages to secure electoral success in 2015, they still have quite a long way to go before they convince a wider majority that UKIP is a serious contender.
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