UKIP had a bit of a shocker with some of its more extreme members last week. First the star of the party’s TV broadcast for the upcoming European elections, Andre Lampitt, was revealed to have made a series of racist comments about Africans and Muslims. Nigel Farage admitted “something has gone wrong” with the vetting process and suspended him immediately. Then UKIP candidate William Henwood was exposed for saying that the black comedian Lenny Henry should emigrate to “a black country”. UKIP’s Roger Helmer quickly described the comment as “totally unacceptable”.
That UKIP has some members with racist views is not much of a surprise. These sorts of stories have been doing the rounds for years now. But do the extreme positions held by fringe elements of the party mean that the party as a whole is racist? It is worth looking at how UKIP’s immigration policy would impact upon ethnic minorities compared with the policies of the other main parties.
UKIP’s website says its immigration policy aims to “protect our borders” and “end uncontrolled immigration”. It says this is “only possible by leaving the EU”. Once Britain is out, UKIP would introduce a “points-based visa system and time-limited work permits”. Immigrants would have to support themselves financially for the first five years they are in the country. The party says “they should pay into the pot before they take out of it”.
The Conservatives say they want to “control immigration” so that “we only welcome those who want to work hard and contribute to our society”. Their website says they are doing this by “clamping down on benefits tourism and health tourism” and “cutting non-EU net immigration to its lowest level since 1998”.
In April this year shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper committed Labour to a much stronger position on immigration. She said that “action is needed to tackle the unfair impact of immigration”, that “immigration needs to be properly controlled and managed” and that “stronger controls are needed”.
The Liberal Democrats are the most pro-immigration party in terms of rhetoric. Despite this the policy page of their website is hard to distinguish from Labour or their Coalition partners. The party supports “more controls to the system” and praises its achievement in government of “help[ing] to cut immigration by a third”.
Ironically, of the the four immigration policies from each of the parties outlined above, it is actually UKIP whose approach is fairest to ethnic minorities.
The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all say they want more controls on immigration and agree that uncontrolled EU immigration under the last Labour government was a mistake. But because they all base their immigration policies on membership of the European Union, all three of these policies give preferential treatment to potential immigrants from within the European Union. They may impose tougher controls than before, but the policies of the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems all mean that it would be easier for someone from the European Union to come to Britain than it would a non-EU migrant. Under EU law, Britain would not be allowed to retain its membership unless this bias were in place.
UKIP’s immigration policy is centred on leaving the EU. Once that happens, the party would have the same approach to potential immigrants from the EU as those from outside. It may seek a lower number of overall immigrants of course, but the process to decide who is allowed to come in would make no distinction between EU and non-EU applicants.
Bizarrely, this actually means that UKIP’s immigration policy is the least racist of all four parties. Since EU immigrants are overwhelmingly white and non-EU immigrants are overwhelmingly non-white, the immigration policies of the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems effectively discriminate in favour of white immigrants and against ethnic minorities. UKIP’s policy meanwhile would treat the overwhelmingly white EU immigrants the same as everyone else, by definition having the effect of being fairer to non-white immigrants from India, Asia and elsewhere.
In fact, UKIP’s immigration policy would actually mean a higher proportion of immigrants to Britain are ethnic minorities. Discriminating only on skill and not on EU membership, UKIP would proportionally let in fewer unskilled white workers from Europe and more skilled non-white workers from India and Asia.
This all leaves us with the almost amusing result that UKIP has the least racist immigration policy of all four parties. I wonder what the likes of Andre Lampitt and William Henwood would think about that.