Why nobody should work with UKIP

Jamie Insole outlines his concern about the normalisation of UKIP’s presence in the Assembly

On Friday May 6th, I wrote; “When Senedd reconvenes, Assembly Members from all parties must openly indicate their refusal to cooperate with UKIP. For the sake of our communities, Wales can ill afford to accommodate or appease racism.”

Having won quite a bit of traction, this perspective is now being tested. The Welsh Lib Dems have made their position clear. Labour & Plaid have just agreed a common approach for the first 100 days of this term. For that reason, this might very well be the moment to pause and reflect.

UKIP now sit in our Senedd. Regardless of their mandate, they got there by, amongst other things, seeking to weave associations between Welsh people from international backgrounds and rotting trash. Who can forget Gareth Bennett’s characterisation of Cardiff’s Cathays district as a “a melting pot of different races all getting on each other’s nerves”? Moreover, Welsh UKIP’s pedigree around such statements sets it aside from the other parties. As recently as last year, it was reported that Donald Grewar, Newport East candidate, endorsed statements published on far right BNP & EDL websites (describing gay people as “fascist perverts” and “paedophiles” whilst proclaiming “no surrender to militant Islam or political correctness”). There are similar examples from Swansea East and elsewhere. Whereas my word count will not permit a more detailed inventory, I am sure that the reader will have encountered at least one other example.

I believe that there is a reason why we do not read more about this. After all, writing about UKIP is the Dirty Sanchez of journalism. As an indication, there is my own personal experience. I had some small hand in breaking the ‘Donkey Gate’ story back in 2014. This followed a raucous day in Merthyr, during which I joined a local Trade Union’s Council demonstration. Having filed to various news outlets, I was relatively unsurprised by the alacrity with which the news cycle seized upon Mr Rees-Evans tale of homosexual donkey-assault. All in good jest. However, what I did not anticipate were the messages and posts from self-defining UKIP supporters.

There was the pedestrian stuff concerning ‘Liebour’ and hypocrisy. Fair dos. However, there were also invitations to imagine the screaming children of Rochdale (for which I was said to be responsible), conditional threats of physical violence/execution, material alleging Islamic plots to colonise “Europa” and, of course, the perennial charge of ‘traitor’. Whilst all of this will be depressingly familiar to anybody who has encountered the stylistic preoccupations of the extreme-right, two other things struck me as significant. Firstly, the fellow who claimed to be the local UKIP Party Chair made no effort to distance himself from the online content. Secondly, this was the first occasion upon which I encountered the ‘Valley Front Line Firm’ – a group of far-right ‘casuals’ who subsequently organised to disrupt festivals and left-wing political meetings throughout the Rhondda Valley.

Please understand. I do not suggest that UKIP has formally engaged such far-right groups. Similarly, it would be unfair to hold any party responsible for the excesses of its self professed supporters on any single occasion. However, there is a recognised phenomena whereby organisations such as Britain First have sought to dovetail with UKIP. To my mind, this is not so much a pattern as a process.

Consequently, when I saw Nathan Gill’s rather awkward performance during the St David’s Hall Leaders’ Debate, his coded references to “knowing who’s coming in” reminded me of that old definition of tact and audacity; ‘knowing how far to go without going too far’. Let’s be honest – immigration and  race occupies a central theme within the UKIP brand.

For this reason, the very worst thing that any party can do is involve them in the trade of everyday business. This will normalise their presence and, by definition, can only favour the extension of their influence and the politics which they represent. There are those who suggest that such an embargo could only enhance UKIP’s ‘anti-establishment’ credentials. This is an intelligent point, but I would reply that its logic is underwritten by a complete lack of faith in the progress that we have already made. Principles should not melt in the first ray of realpolitik.

As a working example, I acknowledge the point that Leanne Wood made with respect to the convention surrounding the election of a First Minister. However, I am also told of an understanding between the four parties whereby issues around race would not be politicised for the sake of electoral gain. Has UKIP subscribed to this convention? If not, then all should balance the relative impact of each on the life and wellbeing of our communities.

Nor do I single Plaid out for anything. Again, I think that this very novel and unfortunate problem would be greatly assisted were all parties to adopt a position of open non-cooperation. This might be made conditional on UKIP’s subscription to the moral norms within which our young democracy has developed. After all, there are some in UKIP who recognise the problem. My solution offers them the opportunity to raise voices and put proper measures in place.

Ultimately, we cannot afford to be complacent. The fact that there are people whose frustration with austerity has sharpened an appetite for change (and others who argue for ‘rope day’!) does not mean that we should pander to the worst instincts. We can do better!

Jamie Insole is from the Cardiff People’s Assembly.

6 thoughts on “Why nobody should work with UKIP

  1. I detect a problem within this attitude:-

    “However, I am also told of an understanding between the four parties whereby issues around race would not be politicised for the sake of electoral gain”

    One of the over-riding problems with the National Assembly has been the lack of diversity of opinion. I know what Jamie might say; some opinions should not be given credence or justification by discussing them. To me this is a problem in itself.

    Prior to the Assembly elections there was a YouGov poll that asked what the main concerns of the electorate were and how they ranked when considering how the respondents would vote. Immigration was the second most concerning issue for Welsh voters when considering how to vote in the ASSEMBLY elections. It is on the back of this concern that UKIP had such success. The only other quite unique position that UKIP takes (a position that isn’t shared by any other party) is their desire to leave the EU a subject that neatly splits Welsh opinion 50/50.

    Whatever you might think about the nasty hinterland of UKIP support the fact remains that the political positions that they represent are actually matters that concern a significant number of Welsh voters and that no other party in Wales is willing to discuss.

    I could draw some parallels with the nasty hinterland of Plaid’s support for instance. Cymdeithas yr Iaith regularly makes anti-English incomer statements as do Plaid supporters in the Fro Cymraeg. Cymdeithas is a splinter group from Plaid and you can safely bet that their members are financially supported by Plaid politicians and vote Plaid. In recent months we have Plaid supporters claiming that UKIP is Un Welsh and that they have gained AMs by pandering to…English White-Flight incomers.

    By association we are asked to link racism with being English in Wales. Is this so different from what Jamie is alleging about UKIP? Should we then treat Plaid as pariahs in the Welsh Assembly?

    The trouble with freedom of speech and freedom of thought is that it throws up thoughts in the extreme spectrum as well as the mainstream. If we refuse to engage then we end up having a democratically elected Government that does not represent a significant number of voters. The business of declaring subjects forbidden in the Assembly (The welsh language must not be “made a political football” is an example) results in injustice for non-Welsh speakers for instance.

    Jamie Insole suggests a dangerous course when he asks that UKIP be excommunicated.

  2. Ineresting. Although I personally believe UKIP will fracture after the referendum & some will return to the tories, which will also wipe out plaids claim of the official opposition and further complicate their proposed exile.

    The main body of the article appears to attack UKIP for the individuals representation of their party. The logic of this must be applied to all parties with equal vigour. Leanne wood took care of the prospect of leighton andrews returning to the assembly, but would the author exile labour over his ‘cheap date’ comments? Should plaid be exiled by other party’s because one of their members has made misogynistic public statements, who even during the last 24 hours has been using mysoginistic attacks on a female member of his own party?

    Is gareth bennet UKIP or is UKIP gareth bennett? By which standard are we holding them to account and is that equitable or is there a special place for certain brands nastiness?

  3. Let’s be honest, the UK is going to hell in a handcart. Our debts are mounting, our services keep crumbling, our armed services can only mount limited operations, often has a de facto brigade of the US army. All our politicians in Westminster can do is play the fiddle while the UK burns. All our media can do is blame foreigners and the EU. Instead of constantly, and pathetically, trying to punch above our weight and sit next to the US at the top table and keeping our seat on the UN security council, lets concentrate on Wales and the UK and to hell with sitting next to Uncle Sam. There is no longer any special relationship between us, it’s just an expression unionists use to keep themselves in happy ignorance. Let’s have more devolution and more power to sort out the problems we have inherited and let’s have parties in the assembly that are not beholden to Westminster. There is no such thing has Welsh Labour or Welsh Conservative, Labour and Conservatives are union parties only concerned with the status quo. Both have failed Wales, the UKIP will fail Wales and if it gets its way will seriously fail the UK. The past is gone, it will be forever a foreign country, for far too long its held us back, it’s time to forget it and move forward. Repeat after me, to hell with the empire.

  4. Diolch James. Heartening to read and in strong agreement with what you say – although I might go further. I think given their leadership, associations and various incidents their position cannot be squared with ‘the moral norms of our young democracy’.

  5. There is a problem in theory and in practice with this type of “no platform/safe space” argument. As my namesake points out; refusing to engage with a party that represents some of the views of many Welsh people is not terribly democratic. Also in practice a party of 7 in a legislature of 60 with no government majority has to be dealt with. Deals will be done, in committees and on legislation. As Mr Insole`s views are held by many others, these deals will be denied. Hypocrisy and mendacity reinforced.

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