Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Is he or isn’t he a racist? Why politicians don’t want to give a straight answer about Farage

Mainstream politicians, never known for giving a straight answer, have been giving particularly wibbly and unclear responses to one particular question today. Is Nigel Farage a racist and was what he said about Romanians moving in next door racist?

Ed Miliband did pick a particularly tortured definition of what Nigel Farage had said when asked about it on the Today programme. It was a ‘racial slur’ but Farage is not a racist, or at least, Miliband didn’t want to make politics more ‘disagreeable’ by accusing Farage of being a racist. But he did say that Farage was right to apologise. Helpfully, Nick Griffin pitched in to tell BBC News that Farage wasn’t racist, presumably on the basis that it takes one to know one.

David Cameron decided that he would leave others to judge whether Farage was a racist, which is a very unusual example of a politician not intervening in a debate to give their own judgement. He told BBC News:

‘I think he has said in recent days some really pretty unpleasant things and he even himself has had to admit that he got it wrong. So I’ll leave others to judge, but what I’ve heard from some of the candidates, some of the donors to the party is a succession of pretty appalling things.’

Why are the party leaders dancing so carefully around what they think of Nigel Farage? The first reason is that Ukip is not a racist party and so to brand it as such would be a lie. Perhaps there is also confusion over whether stereotyping of Romanians is xenophobic rather than racist.

But the second is that to brand Ukip and Nigel Farage racist would also damage the three parties, who are all bleeding voters to Ukip.

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