'UKIP Is Racist, M'kay?' Says Dan Hodges
Dan Hodges, a Blairite media commentator now in apparent exile from a left-lurching Labour Party, has used his column in the Telegraph today to follow up the Sunday Mirror's world-beating scoop about alleged "racism" at the UKIP conference. He writes:
"Over the past year Ukip has gone beyond raising general concerns about immigration to directly targeting and stigmatising individual national groups. Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians and Albanians are amongst the favourite targets."
Credit to Hodges, he declares an interest: he has been involved in media for the 'Hope Not Hate' campaign group, which runs a UKIP-obsessed blog called 'Purple Rain'. One of the organisation's apparent raisons d'etre is to demonstrate that UKIP, far from being a bunch of blazer-wearing golf club bores, are in fact all wannabe Julius Streichers.
It's an exciting theory. But where's the actual evidence that UKIP is in any way institutionally racist?
Hodges' claim seems largely to depend on his belief (purportedly shared by the Sunday Mirror - at least for the purposes of its non-story) that when a political party like UKIP hires a comedian as its entertainment for the evening, he must be take care never to crack any jokes that wouldn't look acceptable in a 1200 word Polly Toynbee article celebrating the importance of diversity in our gloriously multicultural society.
Given that most UKIP-ers are of a conservative and mildly reactionary persuasion, this seems rather a big ask.
But Hodges is asking - nay, demanding it - anyway.
On hearing that there may have been one or two mildly risque jokes – and, no doubt, tongue-in-cheek too: because of course UKIP knew there would be media in the audience when its stand up went on stage – about racial issues at the UKIP dinner, Hodges primly wrote:
"Any mainstream party leader would immediately disown such comments. Given the opportunity to do so Nigel Farage, pointedly, chose to defend them. "I'm not going to comment on individual jokes, but I think we're in huge danger here. This was a guy telling jokes about national stereotypes, not racial stereotypes.”
But Farage is correct. Joking about the ethnic diversity of certain neighbourhoods in Britain is hardly racist. If Dan Hodges wants to visit any pub (outside of Westminster or Islington) with me, he will find that many members of the British public, be they white, black, Asian or any other race, make 'racist jokes'.
Nor is Hodges' other line of attack any more convincing. He says he doesn't believe Nigel Farage's claim that he traveled on a Charing Cross train to Hither Green and couldn't hear an English-language conversation until he was sufficiently far enough out of London. Hodges says:
"Nigel Farage's tale is rubbish. There is no rush hour train from Charing Cross or any other London station that an English speaker would board and find themselves in a minority, or anything close to it."
I lived in Elmstead Woods, and frequently took that Hither Green, Grove Park train in South London. I've also lived in Uxbridge, and spent a significant amount of time in Harrow, too. It is not uncommon to board a train from Charing Cross, or a bus in Uxbridge or Harrow, and be unable to hear an English conversation for much of the journey. And if you don't think that's a bad thing, then fair enough, just say so.
I've always liked Dan Hodges and his writing, but I fear his article in the Telegraph today is basically just a Hope Not Hate press release. And I'm not sure we should be trusting information from an organisation that lists 'Unite Against Fascism' branches – an organisation infiltrated by Islamist radicals – as 'local groups and supporters'.