The BBC has jumped all over a story about Peter Bucklitsch, a former UKIP candidate and party member who claimed that the death of the Syrian child featured in British newspapers was the fault of his parents. UKIP’s only Member of Parliament Douglas Carswell said the tweet was “pretty grotesque” and claimed that “we have duty to act” over the incident.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Bucklitsch’s worst crimes are being south of the zeitgeist today, given the emotional nature of the picture, and being clumsy with his language while he was at it.
He tweeted: “The little Syrian boy was well clothed and well fed. He died because his parents were greedy for the good life in Europe. Queue jumping costs.”
He even went on to comment on the reactions by Twitter users and the mainstream media: “Predictable unthinking outrage. Turkey is not a place where the family was in danger. Leaving that safe place put the family in peril.”
But before you go thinking I’m some heartless bastard, please consider the very basis of his tweet.
He’s not denying that this is an awful human tragedy. Nor is he saying that the images didn’t make him balk like it did the rest of us, as I said this morning on my interview with Sky News.
In fact, he’s echoing the statement made just yesterday by Conservative Party MEP Daniel Hannan, who wrote for the Guardian: “Instead of taking the people who have applied properly and waited in line, we allow people to jump the queue by breaking the law.”
I understand that UKIP is at this very moment considering what action to take against Mr Bucklitsch. I would urge them to remind him of his duties as a public figure to use appropriate language, and to read the mood of the country, and the media, before tweeting. But beyond that, I hope they don’t expel him.
I don’t know Mr Bucklitsch either, so this comes from an entirely detached position. But here’s what he was saying:
1. The Syrian boy was dressed in Western clothing, and wasn’t emaciated. A fact that the BBC even pointed out this morning on the Today programme on Radio 4.
2. His parents were trying to make their way from Turkey, a relatively well off country where they weren’t in danger, to the European mainland.
3. People are ‘queueing’ to get into Europe legally, and the refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants we’ve seen in recent months are trying to skip that queue.
Those things are all correct.
Again, his only crime was clumsiness.
Not heartlessness. Not offensiveness. Not xenophobia.
He tweeted some facts, and phrased them badly.
I hope UKIP puts principle over politics and doesn’t kick him out over it.
UPDATE: As I was going to publish, UKIP has issued the following statement: “Peter Bucklitsch is not a candidate or officer of the Party, and his opinions on social media in no way represent the views of party.”