Hey, Nigel Farage and Kerry Smith – my family are East Enders too and never use that word

Shrugging off casual racism as the result of a ‘working class background’ is a poor man’s excuse

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Ukip, no strangers to controversy, have done it again. This month’s party black sheep is Kerry Smith, the former parliamentary candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock forced to step down after mocking gay party members as “disgusting p****ers” and referring to someone with a Chinese name as a “ch***y bird”.

Those fond of Ukip may well be rolling their eyes, like an aunt at a Christmas party, affectionately exasperated by the actions of an inappropriate relative: “That Kerry, eh. What is he like?” And in this case, the exasperated aunt is the Ukip leader Nigel Farage, the defender of the racist (“but no harm done”) everyman. “If you and your mates are going out for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?” he told LBC this morning.

He went on to describe Kerry as a “rough diamond”, a “council house boy from the East End of London” who left school early and talks and speaks in a way that a lot of people from that school and background do”.

My family are East Enders, who left school early, too. But there’s a difference between them and Kerry Smith: they call a Chinese ‘a Chinese’, a Thai ‘a Thai’, and comments like this what they really are – racism, passed off as generational or geographical ‘slang’.

We’ve already suffered through the likes of former Radio 1 DJ Mike Read and his Ukip Calypso song, Ukip MEP Janice Atkinson calling a Thai constituent a 'ting tong' – she blamed “poor judgment and naivety” for that particular gaffe – and Enfield council Ukip candidate William Henwood suggesting comedian Lenny Henry should leave Britain to live in a “black country”.

Even Mr Farage himself admitted live on air that he felt “uncomfortable” at the thought of having a Romanian family move in next-door to him, later blaming the comments on being “tired”.

But a “working class background” is no excuse for bigotry. And neither is being under “great stress and taking strong painkillers”, as offered in explanation by Mr Smith. It’s funny, but even after three hours sleep, or on medication for a bad back, I still don’t notice any racist side effects (perhaps I’m taking them wrong).

That Nigel, eh. What is he like?