Last night Nigel Farage addressed a UKIP rally in London. Nothing remarkable in that, and although I was aware it was happening, I didn’t really pay much attention. However after the meeting I saw that Nigel had Tweeted the following:
Tonight is truly UKIP’s Clause 4 moment
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) May 7, 2014
How exciting, I thought. What could have happened? There must have been some momentous policy change, something truly mould breaking for UKIP that would be a real game changer.
As it turns out, last night’s meeting was an attempt to put the ridiculous accusations of racism that have dogged the party in recent weeks to bed. Taking to the stage following a succession of speeches from ethnic minority UKIP candidates, Nigel announced that the evening should mark UKIP’s clause IV moment:
“Let this be UKIP’s Clause IV moment…I don’t care what you call us. You can call us right wing, left wing. You can call us small-minded. I don’t care what you call us but from this moment on, please, do not ever call us a racist party. We are not a racist party.”
Now, I may be missing something here, but as I recall Labour’s famous clause IV moment was Tony Blair announcing the decision to drop their commitment to nationalisation. Specifically, they dropped a constitutional commitment to nationalisation in order to become electable.
To call last night’s demonstration of UKIP as a non-racist party our “clause IV moment” is to replace the word “nationalisation” in that last sentence with the word “racism”. Nigel is rapidly beoming a hero of mine, but this seems a huge error. It is to say that UKIP, while formerly constitutionally racist, are now dropping that commitment to become electable.
UKIP do not need a clause IV moment on race. We are not a racist party, nor have we ever been.
It is a particularly bizarre comparison, given the overtures made by the party in recent months to court former Labour voters. Many of these ex-Labour voters will be able to trace their disillusion with the party back to clause IV and the rise of New Labour. Clause IV is therefore a toxic term for them, and will likely put them off UKIP.
I understand the temptation to tackle the racism accusations head on, every ounce of energy we spend on defending ourselves against accusations of racism is an ounce of energy we are not using to win the argument on EU exit. However last night’s event will do nothing to put the issue to bed. We are dealing with a hostile media, hell bent on bringing UKIP down. The accusations of racism will continue, and indeed intensify over the next year. When you have white protestors infiltrating an audience and screaming “racist” at ethnic minority figures on the stage, as happened last night, you know you are beyond the realms of rational debate. We simply cannot win this argument in the eyes of the media and the established parties.
Which is OK because we are not trying to make friends in the establishment, we are trying to talk over their heads to the public and win votes. The recent mud slinging efforts have done little to dent UKIP’s poll figures, indeed I would suggest that the more the establishment turn their fire on UKIP, the more we appear in the role of plucky underdog being picked on by more powerful bullies, something that will only win votes. Staging a rally to parade our non-racist credentials is unnecessary and is simply playing our opponents at their own game. Calling it a Clause IV moment is even less helpful. Much better surely to rise above it all and concentrate on the messages that actually matter.
Photo by European Parliament