Thanks to the recent rise in xenophobia and anti-immigration rhetoric in Britain the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is currently enjoying its most successful period to date. According to an ICM poll for the Telegraph, support for UKIP is just three points below Labour who are on 30%. In an attempt to capitalise on this increasing popularity, UKIP has just launched its ‘biggest ever’ advertising campaign in the run up to the European elections next month. Unsurprisingly, this highly controversial poster campaign does not celebrate the diversity of British society or welcome EU migrants to the UK with open arms. Instead we are warned that 26 million people in Europe are looking for work and they are intent on taking our jobs. On every poster we are also urged to ‘Take Back Control of Our Country’. For those who have not had the opportunity to see these delightful new posters I have included a selection below.
Understandably, this advertising campaign has proven extremely controversial, with many (including Labour MP Mike Gapes) labelling the posters ‘racist’. However, regardless of whether you believe that these posters are openly racist or not, it is undeniable that this poster campaign (along with other anti-immigration rhetoric from politicians) is helping to fan the flames of racism in the UK. This is not to say that any talk of reducing immigration must be inherently racist. After all, it is important that migration remains at manageable levels. No country has an infinite amount of resources. To make such arguments is not racist.
However, it is the way in which such arguments are being put forward that I find disturbing. For example, the word ‘our’ continuously appears in the UKIP poster campaign. Our jobs. Our country. The use of this word is not coincidental. It is a deliberate attempt to separate ‘them’ from ‘us’. ‘Them’ being migrants who are invading our country and ‘us’ being so called real Britons such as you and I. This attempt to create a division is racist and ignores the huge contribution which migrants have made, and continue to make, to this country every day. They are our doctors, our cleaners and our chefs. There is no ‘them’, only ‘us’ (To take David Cameron’s phrase, ‘we are all in this together’).
For too long the major political parties have failed to treat UKIP as a serious threat. Politicians have been all too ready to dismiss Farage and Co as a party of lunatics which, although popular with a minority of Eurosceptics, in reality poses no real danger. In light of the various gaffes and faux pas which seem to plague UKIP it is easy to see why the party is often quickly dismissed.
For example, earlier this year former UKIP councillor David Silvester was suspended from the party after bizarrely blaming the heavy flooding on the government’s legalisation of gay marriage. The party was also embroiled in more controversy this week as it emerged that the man who featured in UKIP’s poster campaign as a ‘British builder’ hit hard by the unlimited cheap labour from Europe was actually an Irish migrant. However, the anti-immigration message preached by UKIP is no laughing matter. This message is essentially the same as that of the BNP: migrants are to blame for all this country’s problems. The only difference is that, unlike the BNP, UKIP attempts to disguise their xenophobic views under a cloak of respectability.
However, what is perhaps most disheartening is the way in which any sensible and important debate on immigration has now been lost and replaced instead by outright hostility towards migrants in this new, xenophobic Britain. Politicians use inflammatory anti-immigration rhetoric to score cheap political points and newspapers warn us about ‘scrounging’ EU migrants in an attempt to sell papers. Whilst it would be unfair to blame Mr Farage and UKIP entirely for this state of affairs, it is undeniable that UKIP has led this war on immigration, and in doing so, fanned the flames of racism in the UK. I for one am proud to live in a diverse Britain where different cultures are celebrated instead of feared. Migrants have played, and continue to play, a huge role in the development of this country. Please do not let our politicians convince you otherwise.
BBC News, ‘UKIP councillor blames storms and floods on gay marriage’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-25793358
— –‘UKIP embroiled in row over use of actor in poster campaign’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27154700
Don Flynn, ‘Refusal to face the realities of migration opens the door to racism’: http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/blog/2014/04/refusal-face-realities-migration-opens-door-racism
The Guardian, ‘Nigel Farage targets Labour heartland as poll shows Ukip support undamaged’: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/apr/21/nigel-farage-ukip
— –‘Nigel Farage defends Ukip’s election campaign after critics call ads racist’: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/apr/21/nigel-farage-ukip-election-campaign-racist-immigration-european-parliament
Ukip, ‘UKIP has just launched its biggest ever advertising campaign as the European parliamentary elections battle gets underway in earnest’: http://www.ukip.org/ukip_has_just_launched_its_biggest_ever_advertising_campaign