UKIP ready for gains, but old problems keep coming back
Bloom’s outbursts making party subject of ridicule
UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom, who yesterday told women party members gathered in Westminster’s Central Methodist Hall that they were “all sluts” if they didn’t “clean behind the fridge”. Photograph: Getty Images
Nigel Farage had, in his own words, “the most blistering row” with one of his MEPs, Godfrey Bloom, the other day in Strasbourg,
He told him that the UK Independence Party needed “to stick to the big messages” if it is get British voters to back them in greater numbers.
Mr Bloom, however, is slow, or incapable of change; ever ready to come forward with yet another antediluvian opinion – one of his most recent being that overseas aid should not be sent to “Bongo Bongo Land”.
Yesterday, he was at it again, telling women party members gathered in Westminster’s Central Methodist Hall that they were “all sluts” if they didn’t “clean behind the fridge”, which rapidly became the story of the day for British media happy to feast upon Ukip’s latest faux pas.
Once upon a time Bloom’s bloomers were an amusement. Now, however, he makes the party the subject of ridicule – an unacceptable outcome for many in Ukip who believe they are on the cusp of serious advances.
First, it is bidding to win the greatest number of seats in next May’s European Parliament elections, along with taking hundreds in local elections in parts of England the same day. A year later it is targeting Commons seats.
If party strategists were unhappy with Bloom, it does not mean that Ukip is abandoning its less than politically correct habits: “When we believe something we don’t go, ‘Are you thinking what we’re thinking.’ We say it out loud,” Mr Farage told conference delegates.
He believes public opinion is moving Ukip’s way. Twenty years ago, less than one-in-five voters wanted out of the European Union; today that figure has risen, with some polls putting that at two-thirds.
Concerns about immigration are part of the public debate in a way that would have been unimaginable, even discouraged, a few years ago. And this is partly reflected in Ukip’s local election victories this year.
As far as his detractors are concerned Farage is a racist. But his position is that he represents the common man.
“We are a nation that has always been open-minded about immigration. But more people came to this country in one year, 2010, than came in the thousand years before it.
“I’m not against immigration. Far from it. Migrants have qualities we all admire. Looking for a better life. They want to get on. I like that. We admire that,” he said, before adding, “half a million new arrivals a year!”
Mr Farage is also not shy of so-called “dog-whistle” politics, feeding on concerns that the UK will face significant immigration from Romania and Bulgaria next year when EU controls are lifted.
‘Romanian crime wave’
“There is an even darker side to the opening of the door in January. London is already experiencing a Romanian crime wave. There have been an astounding 27,500 arrests in the metropolitan police area in the last five years; 92 per cent of ATM crime is committed by Romanians.
“This gets to the heart of the immigration policy that Ukip wants, we should not welcome foreign criminal gangs . . . Mr Cameron, Clegg and Miliband, are you listening?” he told delegates.
Many British commentators have argued that the Conservatives have most to fear from Ukip, who could derail Tory victories in key marginals.
However, Mr Farage’s message is wider, telling working-class British – Labour’s traditional constituency – that they are the ones who have lost out most from European Union immigration, losing jobs or facing pay cuts.
Mr Farage believes the Tory-Lib Dem coalition cannot deliver on this issue and has put down a challenge: a ban by January 1st on unconditional entry by Bulgarian and Romanian migrants.
“If they ignore it then we must turn the Euro elections into the referendum [on EU membership] that we have not been given,” he said. It is a message that will resonate with many, if they are not distracted by Mr Bloom that is.