One of the largest and most powerful “progressive” campaign networks in the UK could mobilise to “drown out” UKIP at the general election, claiming the party’s “new priority is racism” after the Brexit vote.
Political-activism organisation 38 Degrees, which claims to have 2.5 million members across the UK, has shortlisted three possible issues to focus on in the run-up to June’s election after surveying 200,000 members’ views.
First on the list, emailed to members on Thursday, is “drown out the toxic messages of UKIP”, along with “build relationships with new MPs”, and “get more people to vote in the general election”.
In the e-mail, 38 Degrees Executive Director David Babbs writes that “UKIP have got their original aim of Brexit – so their leaders have chosen a new headline message. UKIP’s new priority is racism, hatred and hardline attacks on Muslims. If their new strategy works, there’s a risk other politicians could copy them.”
He claims: “This isn’t about trying to block Brexit. Instead, it’s taking a stand against UKIP’s toxic, hateful 2017 election message. We could focus on specific areas where UKIP are hoping to build their influence, and drown them out.”
Asking: “Should we campaign to reject UKIP’s 2017 message of racism and islamophobia, by encouraging people to vote for ‘anyone but UKIP’ this time?”
Mr. Babbs is referring to UKIP’s new integration agenda, which includes a promise to ban the full face veil and discriminatory Sharia law.
Some of the past targets of 38 Degrees, however, have aligned with the aims of UKIP. Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage even praised the group for their campaign against the Trans-Atlantic Trade Partnership (TTIP).
In a video, published 24 April, the group reiterated their claim to be “independent of any political party” and their supporters include many UKIP voters.
Their outright assault on UKIP, therefore, has angered some members. Commenting on the survey results, 38 Degrees member Rosemary wrote:
“I’m beginning to have serious doubts about the impartiality of 38 Degrees! The diagram above shows no majority of respondents to your survey wanting one particular party supported or opposed.
“Where is the data showing that respondents want UKIP targeted as ‘toxic’? This makes me think that someone in your organization has not read or understood its aims of fairness & democracy & is pushing their own agenda – UKIP bashing! Even the links at the bottom of the e mail are heavily slanted [as] anti UKIP!”