Sunder Katwala

It’s easier to win an argument with Ukip if you admit it’s not a racist party

There have been one or two calls to brand Ukip a racist party, and some media debate about whether it is. But what’s become clear during the last fortnight is that there is a strong, cross-party consensus both that Ukip isn’t a ‘racist party’ – and that it must get better at keeping out individuals that hold racist views.

On debates such as the BBC’s Question Time, you can clearly see that this consensus has extended across the front and backbenches of the different parties. Just one or two MPs take a different view. Labour left-winger Diane Abbott told the BBC that she did not regard Ukip as racist but saw it as having US ‘tea party’ tendencies.

There are good reasons why the general public, the media and his political rivals treat Nigel Farage differently to Nick Griffin. Ukip does not have extremist roots. It was founded to get Britain out of Europe, a legitimate cause. But an anti-EU party which campaigns to end EU free movement will attract both legitimate voices for that cause, and those who have more virulent and toxic motives.

Claiming that Ukip is just the BNP in blazers doesn’t work – because it isn’t credible with the public, the media or the mainstream parties.

A better challenge to prejudice within Ukip would be to welcome the fact that Nigel Farage does not want to lead a racist and toxic party like the BNP. Since they have attracted some of the same people, Ukip’s willingness and ability to police the boundary seriously becomes a test of Nigel Farage’s leadership and credibility. It is precisely because UKIP is not considered a racist party that it makes sense to call on Nigel Farage to kick racists out of Ukip. Nobody has ever bothered to challenge Nick Griffin to kick racists out of the BNP. What would be the point? There would be nobody left.

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