Nigel “Thirsty” Farage has now found out what it’s like to go from hero to zero within the space of a week. One day he’s taking the moral high ground after Anna Soubry makes her finger-up-the-arse remark live on The Andy Marr Show (tm), and then he’s being ritually slagged off by his own supporters for having the effrontery to suggest the UK honours its obligations on taking in refugees.
And in doing so, he has discovered that UKIP has not merely attracted those who want to be outside the EU, but a following that is bigoted and xenophobic in the extreme. All that Farage did was to say that Britain should accept a small number of those displaced by the continuing conflict in Syria. He wasn’t suggesting we take them all – just a few thousand people.
The UK has been doing this for decades: when Idi Amin foolishly threw out the Ugandan Asians in 1972 (because God apparently told him to), Britain took the largest number. Many of those displaced had UK passports. The influx of highly motivated and talented individuals did the economy no harm at all. The effect on all those businesses left behind in Uganda was not so fortunate.
But the beneficial effects of migration are lost on many UKIP supporters, and the party’s Facebook page was flooded with negative feedback. “I don't think Nigel has won many votes with that statement ... No sorry we are full. I feel for these people. But it's not our problem ... No, Italy, Turkey, Spain, France, Russia have room. We're at breaking point here. Roma in a few weeks and then Syrian refugees?”
The intolerance of anyone talking foreign knew no bounds: “once here they will get access to benefits along with housing, NHS treatment and eventually our jobs ... No Nigel, we have enough ... it’s time we shut the immigration door and looked after the white indigenous people of the UK ... tell them to sort out their own shite ... We are completely full to brim we have no space for anyone else”.
One does not have to look far down the list of over a thousand comments on the post concerned to find those quoted. The conclusion has to be that UKIP has attracted not merely those who are anti-EU (but, one suspects, do not object to the right to buy property and live in Spain, Portugal or Italy), but the kind of voters who would have previously coalesced around the BNP.
Small wonder the BNP has all but collapsed: UKIP has brought its former supporters on board, as they have seen Farage and his pals as similarly intolerant of anyone who is not white and English speaking. “Thirsty” can protest all he likes that he and his party are not racists, but the Syrian refugee crisis shows that much of UKIP’s support certainly is. And that may only serve to drive others away.
Does Farage still think his party is “The Real Opposition”? Because it isn’t.