On May 25th, we had Gordon Brown in the European parliament making “the positive case for Britain to stay in the EU”. Most of the audience consisted of EU/Labour supporters who wanted us to Remain. But in the second row were a dozen UKIP MEPs.
Brown gave a competent summary of the Remain position – indeed he was quite engaging – and of course he got a standing ovation from the In-Crowd. Son on the Manse that he is, he was preaching to the choir.
When it came to questions, Paul Nuttall was brilliant. He made a point of congratulating Brown on keeping the UK out of the €uro – which went down with that audience like a pork pie at a bah mitzvah.
But it was Brown’s comments on UKIP that caused offence. He decided to make capital by attacking us. He spoke of our position on immigration, saying that immigration had contributed mightily to the UK’s economic performance. He may have a point – but it would have contributed more if we had been able to select the skills we need, and reject the less qualified.
He pointed out that the NHS would collapse without foreign labour – but no one is proposing to send doctors and nurses home.
But he became most offensive – I would say scandalous – when he asserted that Sadiq Khan’s election as Mayor of London was ” a rebuke to UKIP”. That can only be an accusation of racism.
As a famous British comedian once said “Let me tell you a story”. Yesterday I went to a meeting of the All-Party Climate Change Group in the Jubilee Room at the House of Commons. Sitting opposite me on the Victoria line from Saint Pancras was a guy who recognised me and introduced himself. He was Neville Watson, a UKIP member, and a former UKIP candidate, on his way to a “Christians for Britain” event with Lord Pearson in the House of Lords. And he’s black.
During the course of my seventeen years in the European parliament, I have had a number of ethnic minority staffers in my office. We in UKIP have had many ethnic minority candidates. I remember canvassing with a UKIP councillor of distinctively Middle Eastern appearance, who knocked on a door to have the householder shout “Go away – I don’t talk to UKIP – you’re racist”. Our Councillor’s name, by the way, was “Jihad”. We spent a long time laughing at the incongruity.
Unlike our current government’s immigration policy, which favours (generally white) Europeans over (often ethnic minority) non-Europeans, our UKIP immigration policy is utterly colour-blind. I’d rather we had an Indian dentist that an unskilled Eastern European.
Gordon Brown’s implication that UKIP is racist shows ignorance, and prejudice – or perhaps just dishonest malice and political opportunism.