Nigel Farage has sparked another race row by saying that legislation preventing racial discrimination in the workplace should be scrapped because it is out of date.
The Ukip leader said laws barring discrimination on grounds of nationality or race were not required because race is no longer a significant issue in modern Britain.
“I would argue that the law does need changing, and that if an employer wishes to choose, or you can use the word ‘discriminate’ if you want to, but wishes to choose to employ a British-born person, they should be allowed to do so,” he said. “I think you should be able to choose on the basis of nationality, yes. I do.” Asked specifically if Ukip would retain laws against discrimination on the grounds of race or colour, he replied: “No, because … we as a party are colour-blind.”
Last night Mr Farage came under fire but stood by his remarks for a Channel 4 documentary, Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True, to be shown next Thursday.
He claimed that 50 years of legislation banning discrimination on grounds of race, ethnicity or nationality had led to serious and unwanted consequences.
Mr Farage also argued that employers should now be free to discriminate in favour of British-born workers because racial discrimination no longer takes place in the UK.
“If we’d sat here 40 years ago, having this conversation, your point [on the need for laws preventing racial discrimination in the jobs market] would probably have been valid. I don’t think it is today,” he told Trevor Phillips, the interviewer.
“I don’t think, if I talked to my children – I mean, I don’t actually, but if I did talk to my children about the question of race, they wouldn’t know what I was talking about.”
Mr Farage’s assertion that racism is no longer a problem in the UK employment market appears to conflict with figures from the House of Commons Library, which show that the number of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds who have been jobless for more than a year has risen by 49 per cent since the 2010 election.
In the interview Mr Farage told Mr Phillips, the former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission: “I think the employer should be much freer to make decisions on who she or he employs. I think the situation that we now have, where an employer is not allowed to choose between a British-born person and somebody from Poland, is a ludicrous state of affairs. I think that we have taken our relationship with Europe to a level that, frankly, has gone against common sense, and certainly against self-interest.”
A Ukip spokesman said: “We don’t think there’s anything controversial in what Nigel has said, at least not [for] the vast majority of the country.” He said Mr Farage had got on very well with Mr Phillips and the two men were sympathetic to each other’s views on equalities legislation.
But Sadiq Khan, the shadow Justice Secretary, said: “This is one of the most shocking things I have ever heard from a mainstream politician and demonstrates breathtaking ignorance. We have made huge progress on tackling racial inequality and discrimination in this country, partly because of Labour’s strong anti-discrimination laws, but things are still far from perfect.”
Mr Khan added: “When my parents moved to London they frequently saw signs saying “no blacks, no dogs, no Irish”; what Ukip is suggesting would take us back to those days.”
Sunder Katwala, director of the British Future think-tank, described Mr Farage’s comments as “quite a throwback”. He said: “We can debate the content of anti-discrimination legislation, but there is a strong consensus that if you believe in equal opportunities then that means anti-discrimination legislation.”
In the past, Mr Farage has blamed immigrants for causing a motorway traffic jam, has claimed he felt “awkward” because he could not hear English being spoken on a London commuter train and said he would feel uncomfortable if a group of Romanians moved in next door to him.
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