My colleague Nick Cohen has a piece asking ‘Are you fit to be British? Take the UKIP test.’ In it he cites a number of horrible and silly and things said by people in UKIP before he himself descends into rudeness. Stuart Wheeler is apparently a ‘cadaverous gambling tycoon’. ‘Cadaverous’? As in old? I suppose it must come to us all.
But it is Nick’s conclusion that spurs me to respond. He finishes, ‘The scandals are so frequent you have to conclude that it is not the odd rotten apples that needs throwing out but the whole stinking barrel.’
Nick is not the only journalist to take this view. The British media in general are keeping up a sustained open season on UKIP. This is because the many people who wholly oppose UKIP’s policies are worried that the party looks likely to come top at next month’s EU elections. Which of course presents them with a problem. Because if the claim by Nick and others is true – that UKIP is indeed a racist, misogynistic, homophobic party to its core – then it must mean that in very large numbers we the British public are racist, misogynistic and homophobic. Or that we need re-educating as we are utterly ignorant of the true nature of UKIP and never read the news.
Or is it possible that there is a third explanation? Could it be the case that it is not entirely fair to judge an entire political party on the basis of a few stupid people on a notoriously stupid social media platform? I wonder. To try this theory out let us see whether we can turn from a very new party to a very old one, and from the realm of ‘nasty words’ to the realm of ‘nasty deeds.’ In other words, let’s try turning ‘Are you fit to be British? Take the UKIP test’ into ‘Are you fit to be a Liberal Democrat? Take the party test.