Legal Viewpoint: UKIP - People's Army or Barmy Army?

By Rob Virtue on June 6, 2014 10:20 AM | 

By Jacqueline McGuigan

What is it about Nigel Farage that gets people in a tailspin?

Is he the real deal or is he the temporary protest vote heading up a racist party?

After leading Ukip to a resounding victory in the European Elections with an impressive 4.3million votes for a "one man band" is Ukip a legitimate political party, offering an alternative vote to people who Boris Johnson described as a peasants' revolt, or is this a sinister racist party with an agenda to get rid of all the foreigners in the UK?

Leading up to the last few weeks in the European election the media reported on an almost daily basis examples of Ukip being a racist party.

We had Mr Farage saying at his spring conference that parts of Britain were becoming unrecognisable because of mass immigration.

He went further in a LBC interview saying that he would be concerned if a group of Romanian men moved next door to him.

This had a lot of people jumping up and down in the media and social media branding Farage a racist.

Labour leader Ed Milliband described the Romanian comment as a racial slur. Members of his party, namely David Lammy and Diane Abbott ,brandished his remarks as racist.

Prime Minister David Cameron said it was up to the voters to decide if Ukip was racist.

This seemed to me to be more about political posturing than truly believing that Ukip was a racist party in the sense of the British National Party. The good people of the UK know a racist political party when it sees one.

Trevor Phillips the former boss of the Equalities Commission speaking on the Andrew Marr show said he was not worried about Mr Farage himself being a racist but he was worried about the conversation that his party had provoked.

Mr Phillips said he would not being labelling Ukip racist as there was probably racists in every political party.

However he was worried about the use of the term "racist" to cover behaviour from being disobliging about Mexicans through to some of the things the political parties say about immigration, to street murders. He said this was beginning to be a problem as it was depriving the word of its moral force.

The ugly face of racism can be catastrophic, as shown by the IRR website.

The murder of Stephen Lawrence brought home the true reality of how dangerous and destructive racism can be.

As a discrimination lawyer this entire racist branding troubled me a great deal. It seemed to diminish the true meaning of what a "racist" is.

The term "racist" seemed to be banded around without any sense of the true horror of what racism actually means and what it can do to people and their lives.

I agree with Trevor Philips that Ukip is not a racist party. The media will be watching very closely to see how UKIP evolves in the lead up to the general election and whether the "peasants" will stand by their man.

Jacqueline McGuigan is principal solicitor at One Canada Square based TMP Solicitors in Canary Wharf.