Ukip discord at mini-carnival in Croyden
The party’s effort to combat allegations of racism descend into chaos
A crowd in Croydon waits for Ukip leader Nigel Farage who didn’t turn up. Photograph: Dan Dennison/Getty Images
Marcon Hibbert and the Endurance Steel Orchestra were hired on Monday evening to play steel drums outside the Whitgift shopping centre in Croydon in south London yesterday afternoon.
By the time he arrived yesterday, Hibbert realised the client was the UK Independence Party, which had organised a street carnival with ethnic minorities to help it fend off a slew of charges that it is racist.
Hibbert was quickly regretting his agreement to play: “My parents are from Jamaica. If Ukip had their way they wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be here and England wouldn’t be as diverse as it is.”
The Endurance group slowly took out their steel drums, but their hearts were not in it as they played a couple of pieces: “Oh, God, I am just trying to get through this,” Hibbert told The Irish Times.
By now, the Ukip event had descended into a bizarre form of chaos, where a gay Ukip member whose “friend, George lives in Bucharest” was confronted by a Spanish anarchist who said she was a Romanian and who complained that Ukip “are Nazis”.
Ukip’s leader, Nigel Farage, has been badly mauled in a series of media interviews in recent days, leading to fears within the party that it could impact on their vote in tomorrow’s Euro and local elections.
Farage has already rowed back from a declaration in one interview with the London-based LBC radio station – during which he said most people would not want to live next door to Romanians – claiming that he had been tired.
Yards away, Winston McKenzie, whose parents came to Britain from Jamaica, declared that Britain was being overrun by emigrants and that Ukip was the only party prepared to heed the public’s concerns.
A former boxer, publican and hairdresser, McKenzie said: “I have been discriminated against all my life, but I get up, I get on with it, I don’t complain, I didn’t try to abuse the system.”
Looking on, three black women in their 30s were clearly puzzled at McKenzie’s appearance at a Ukip rally: “Isn’t he the guy who used to run the pub. Is he having a laugh?” said one, “What’s he doing with that lot?”
Facing questioning from a black youth, Anthony St Croix, McKenzie argued that British voters are being “disenfranchised” by the changes to the country that have been permitted by a succession of governments.
St Croix was unimpressed, politely saying: “The youth in Croydon are smart. We will not follow like sheep because they have one or two people from ethnic minorities representing them.”
However, Ukip is getting support. Thelma Saunders, a middle-aged woman from Nunhead, said she lived next door to a black family and had “no problem whatsoever with them”, but she drew the line at eastern Europeans.
By now, it was clear
Farage was not going to turn up at an event designed to try and turn the tide of criticism, while McKenzie, running for the council in nearby South Norwood, had just called Croydon “a dump”.
Meanwhile, the Endurance Steel Band, who had been told to set up their instruments outside a shop with the sign “Love Colour”, had quietly stopped playing and packed up.