Farage under fire over race equality laws
UKIP’s leader is coming under criticism after calling racial discrimination laws outdated. He says racism isn’t a problem now, but some accuse him of not recognising it within his own party.
Much of Nigel Farage’s time as leader of UKIP has been spent dealing with a never-ending string of controversies over questionable remarks from his party. Now he has a media storm of his own making to deal with: Channel 4 has released details of an interview in which Farage argued that employers should be allowed to discriminate against foreign applicants for jobs.
Farage says the current law, which states that employers can’t discriminate on grounds of race or origin, is ‘ludicrous’. He also claims that some British Muslims form a ‘fifth column’ who ‘hate us and want to kill us’.
The leaders of the main parties have rushed to condemn Farage’s comments. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has accused him of ‘conflating various sensitive issues on immigration and extremism’, while Labour’s Sadiq Khan called his comments the ‘most shocking’ thing he has ever heard from a mainstream politician.
The UKIP leader has vigorously denied that his proposals are racist. ‘The REAL racists in our society are the ones who hear me say “British” and think “white”.’ He claims that Britain has moved passed the need for discrimination laws — although surveys have shown that 30% of people still admit to racial prejudice.
Since its rise in popularity, UKIP has been embroiled in a series of rows over ethnicity and national identity. Farage’s most infamous comments include blaming a traffic jam on immigration, saying he felt uncomfortable on a train because he couldn’t hear anyone speaking English, and admitting he’d feel uncomfortable if Romanians moved next door to him.
But it’s not just Farage. At the party’s spring conference, a spokesman linked immigrants to strains on supplies of water and food. A UKIP councillor from Kent was expelled last year after making racist comments on camera, and a string of candidates and MEPs have made similarly offensive remarks.
All of these incidents have led some to draw unflattering conclusions about UKIP: 44% of British people think the party is racist, according to a recent poll.
National pride and prejudice
There’s nothing racist about protecting the interests of British workers, UKIP supporters insist: a government’s first responsibility is towards its own citizens. Farage wants to discriminate against people based on their passport, not the colour of their skin — and that’s a perfectly reasonable idea.
Not so, says the shadow home secretary: Farage ‘turns a blind eye to racism by his candidates. Now it’s clear he would allow racism by employers too. What a nasty party!’ Many agree: however careful UKIP is not to say anything explicitly racist, they say, it is clear that the party is appealing to ugly xenophobic sentiments.
- Is UKIP a xenophobic party?
- Do we still have a problem of racism in the UK?
- Research UKIP’s policies and what it stands for. Plan an essay answering the question: why has UKIP had a surge in popularity since the last election?
- Pick a populist political party of the present or past and make a presentation on its policies, how successful it was and why certain issues struck a chord with some voters.
Some People Say...
“Nigel Farage is attention seeking.”David Cameron
What do you think?
Q & A
- Is Farage right about racism not being a problem anymore?
- Many would say no, Farage is not right. In fact, this is especially the case in relation to employment. Recent data shows that the number of long-term unemployed young people from ethnic minority backgrounds has risen by almost 50% in the last five years.
- So what’s the appeal of such a controversial party?
- The party is currently reaching between 10 and 15% in the polls, and while many are confused by this, UKIP fans have their reasons. Some think Farage stands up for British people with his policies. Some say the party is a refreshing protest against the two-party political system and complacent politicians in the UK. For others, UKIP may be a protest vote motivated by dissatisfaction with traditional politics.
- Current law
- In 1965, the Race Relations Act came into force in the UK, outlawing racial discrimination in public places. In 1968 this was extended to include housing and employment. The Equality Act 2010 was introduced by the current coalition government to strengthen the law. It is now illegal for an employer to discriminate against someone for their colour, nationality or ethnic or national origin.
- Fifth column
- A term usually used in reference to espionage, referring to a group of people who undermine a larger group from within. Farage says that a certain set of Muslims within the UK constitute such a group, and that those concerned about it are not prejudiced. Others have understandably disagreed with him.
- In the 2012 general election, UKIP won no Parliamentary seats. It now has two MPs who defected from the Conservative Party, and is set to win around four seats this time around.
- Xenophobia is the fear of anything that is perceived to be strange or foreign, including people. It is different from racism, as it doesn’t always concern race.