I tend to disagree with most of the reasons people put forward for why they don’t like UKIP. The party is racist, they say. Yes of course it has far too many members with horrible views, but I do think it is more than slightly unfair to label the entire party a bunch of bigots.
Ironically UKIP’s immigration policy would probably result in a greater proportion of immigrants to Britain being people with different coloured skin to most of its members. Fewer white EU immigrants mean a higher percentage of non-white non-EU immigrants, after all.
UKIP hate women, some claim. Sure some of the party’s politicians have made stupid comments about women, though it is slowly getting rid of the Godfrey Bloom generation. Opposing gender quotas and political correctness is really not sexist, as many of UKIP’s misguided detractors allege.
UKIP are a load of nutters, say others. A great deal of the party’s members are deranged, unhinged sociopathic morons. As are a great deal of Tory members, of Labour members, and almost all Lib Dems. Much of the grassroots of all parties are mentally unbalanced; this is not unique to UKIP.
No, none of these typical criticisms of UKIP bother me. There is however one thing that really does.
This weekend UKIP sought to pre-emptively spike a story about the party’s funding arrangements that the Times newspaper had scheduled to run on Monday. It put out an angry press release headed “Statement on smear campaign by the Times”, accusing the paper of “questioning the private lives of party staff that would disgrace the now defunct News of The World”.
It continued: “We anticipate being on the receiving end of a continued smear campaign from pro-EU journalists but will not allow it to deflect us from our mission to secure for the British people a vote on withdrawing from the EU and taking back powers of self-government and control of their borders.”
This is not the first time UKIP has responded to negative coverage in the press by crying “smear!” Last year Nigel Farage accused the Conservative Party and the right-wing press of a “smear campaign” based on controversial statements made by his members on social media. A smear is only a smear if it is untrue. Those statements made by his members definitely did happen. Farage was plain wrong.
We heard the word “smear” used again when undercover reporters exposed race-based jokes made by a comedian and xenophobic comments made by one of its young members at its conference last week. Did the Sunday Mirror make the story up? No. Those people did say those words, the story was true and it was certainly not a smear.
By denouncing every criticism made of the party by journalists, by questioning the integrity of journalists who write about its members in a frankly disturbing manner, UKIP is revealing its utter contempt for our free press.
UKIP want voters to believe there is some grand establishment conspiracy dreamt up by David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Paul Dacre and some Fleet Street masonic lodge to undermine the party at every turn. The job of political journalists is to hold politicians and their parties to account. That means UKIP is going to come under scrutiny from the press, just like the Tories, just like Labour. When you are dumb enough to hold a fringe meeting on Sharia law at your conference and journalists decide they want to attend, then trying to keep them out – as the party did last weekend – is beyond stupid.
Nigel Farage’s party is a nationalist party. It believes in upholding British values above just about all else. One of the most important values this country holds dear is its defence of a free press. When journalists write legitimate, true stories about your party it is not a smear campaign. Accusing journalists of such is unacceptable. If UKIP truly believes in promoting the best of Britain, it should stop attacking the press, suck it up, and get its own house in order.