Monday, February 23, 2015

Send in the Clowns time in South Thanet

"Meet the Ukippers"

The BBC was allowed what seems to have been total access to the UKIP Party workers on the ground in South Thanet – the Constituency for which Party leader Nigel Farage hopes to be elected as Member of Parliament in the upcoming General Election. The programme has become famous because of the views of Councillor  Roxanne Duncan, a dim-witted and openly racist woman in her mid sixties who is one of two UKIP members of the local Council. She revealed deep-seatedly prejudiced views directed at “negroes” or “people with negroid features”. Among other things she said:

 “A friend of mine said “what would you do if I invited you to dinner and put you next to one?” I said I wouldn’t be there. Simple as that.”

Ms Duncan’s honesty was curiously refreshing - repellent though her views are. Her fellow activists, a bit more media savvy, were much more circumspect. The Branch Chairman Martyn Heale, had a rather large skeleton in his cupboard – he was once a member of the neo-Nazi “National Front” and seemed irritated that people keep mentioning this. He was the sort of person familiar to grass roots activists – an energetic enthusiast and the type of person you might expect to see running a local bird-watching group. As was Liz Langton (pictured above with her husband) Ukip’s then press officer for South Thanet, who might be the lady Captain at a run of the mill small town  Golf Club. Sincere people with not much hinterland except dogs and, in Mrs Langton’s case, a passion for collecting clowns. Heale and Langton didn't really express strong views but it was clear that they fully bought into Ukip’s anti-establishment, anti-EU and anti immigration meme.

The party activists and local members were seen at various meetings one of which Nigel Farage spoke to. They were almost without exception in  late middle-age ( or older) and (it seemed) of modest education. None of them was articulate in a broader sense and one suspects that they know what they are against but not what they are for. Curiously the programme revealed little in the way of a coherent Right Wing ideology and few of the South Thanet UKIP team or its supporters could present a coherent and detailed case for any political position. The strongest moment was when a couple of building workers were interviewed about their complaint that they had lost casual work because Bulgarians were prepared to work longer hours for the same money. Langton was excited by the this and tried to get the local media interested in the story - but they weren't. 

It is important to remind ourselves that South Thanet is Nigel Farage’s chosen constituency and its demographics certainly suggest it has plenty of the archetypical Ukip supporters around. An ageing population. A deprived area. A long way from London emotionally if not actually (75 miles) and contemptuous of the Metropolitan elite. But if their local Ukip membership and activists are typical of other Constituencies then Ukip has a problem. These were political  rookies with no practical experience at all and few of the talents you expect of local party workers in the traditional parties. This naivety Ukip tries to present as a virtue but frankly on the evidence of this documentary you wouldn't expect them to have the nous to run any sort of decent election campaign. Too old. Too ignorant. Too narrow. Too biased. And, in the case of Councillor  Roxanne Duncan so gruesomely prejudiced that she should not be allowed any forum to present her staggeringly offensive views. 

Nigel Farage is no fool and surely he will realise that it will be a struggle to win in South Thanet with this lack of organisational talent on the ground. Will he ship in people of real competence to run his campaign? I wouldn't bet against it. In the meantime Duncan and the rest have had their brief moment in the spotlight – and a right pig’s ear they made of it. The metaphor of Liz Langton’s collection of clowns was apposite.  


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