In an interview last week with Sky News business secretary, and rising star within the Labour party, Chuku Umunna said that UKIP needs to act to remove racists from within its party’s ranks.
“Of course there are racists in UKIP,” said Umunna. He continued, “And that is unfortunate and that's something they need to address. They say terrible things about women, they say terrible things about different parts of our society.”
UKIP has come to be synonymous with racist for many following a series of controversial – sometimes outright racist – comments from members of the party. Indeed, a recent poll by YouGov for the Sunday Times found that 55% of voters believe UKIP is more likely than other parties to have candidates with racist or offensive views. Yet voters remain split on whether Nigel Farage’s party itself is a ‘racist party’, with 41% voting yes and 41% voting no.
Among the incidents which have led to UKIP being perceived as racist by many voters were the absolutely shocking comments made by some of the party’s officials regarding Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager murdered in a racial hate attack in 1993. The remarks, which were made on an internal party forum, included that of secretary of UKIP’s Redcar branch Pamela Preedy, who mocked the dead man as ‘Saint Stephen’ and also complained about his death being commemorated, writing, “we are supposed to publicly mark the anniversaries of his death . . . Please give it a rest!” In her highly insensitive and thoroughly offensive comments Preedy added, “I’m sure his mother still grieves for him, but it’s time she did it privately without setting him up as some kind of media icon. She risks . . . boring us all to tears.” UKIP council election candidate Keith Woods joined Preedy writing, “As for St Stephen of Racism, I feel sorry for the parents of many white youths that have been murdered . . . no one seems to give a toss . . . your son gets murdered, you become an expert on race relations it seems . . . but only if you are a particular colour.”
Some UKIP members have also shared their support and alliance to the views and policies of the openly racist extremist groups that are the English Defence League (EDL) and British National Party (BNP). UKIP committee member in Poole & Mid Dorset, Martin Caine, wrote: “I actually agree with the EDL on what they protest about.” Alexander Monk, a UKIP member from Lowestoft, said: “What really grinds my gears about it is people are declaring the EDL as “extremist” which is tosh in my eyes.”
The startling ignorance which fuels such racist comments being made was evident when another member of the party, complaining about the impact of immigration on the NHS, wrote: “I am informed by past media that Black Caribbean and not Black African have a higher instance of schizophrenia. I wonder if this is due to inbreeding on these small islands in slave times or is it due to smoking grass.”
Euro MP Mr Farage has defended his party and insisted that it does not tolerate or condone racism. “Anybody who makes racist comments isn’t welcome. Anybody with a racist agenda has joined the wrong party,” said Mr Farage. There are some signs that Mr Farage is serious about keeping racism out of his party, but many are still not convinced. William Henwood, a Ukip candidate in Enfield, north London, resigned from the party earlier this year following remarks he made about black British actor and comedian Lenny Henry. Henwood has said that Henry "should emigrate to a black country. He does not have to live with whites," after Henry simply called for the need for greater diversity on British TV.
Back in June, Chuku Umunna was himself targeted by racist UKIP supporters online, who branded the business secretary ‘a cave man’ among other things.. One person wrote, “Maybe he uses drums to communicate perhaps.” Another said, “This guy calls himself Chukka 'Spear' Umunna.” Another internet troll wrote, “I say he needs immediate deportation from Britain back to whatever 3rd world hellhole he crawles out of.” Umunna brushed off the racist comments. “As a black politician or mixed race politician, whatever you want to call me, it goes with the job. But you don’t let it get to you,” he said.
Mr Umunna has also warned voters against supporting a party that is renowned for racist and sexist views among several of its members and affiliates. “I don’t think anyone should give any quarter to UKIP. […] I feel that party stokes up fear, division and loathing in our community and seeks to set up different communities against each other,” said Mr Umunna.