Why are ethnic minorities supporting Ukip?

Ukip's non-white candidates might stand alongside Nigel Farage on stage, but how can they do the same when it comes to immigration?

Amit Singh
Friday 09 May 2014 20:12
Nigel Farage (centre) speaks on stage during a Ukip rally held at the Emmanuel Centre, London
Nigel Farage (centre) speaks on stage during a Ukip rally held at the Emmanuel Centre, London

Nigel Farage has desperately been trying to move Ukip away from the claims that his party are racist. The latest step in this PR campaign has seen him appear on stage at a rally on Wednesday, surrounded by ethnic minority supporters.

Alongside roughly 40 ethnic minority UKIP candidates, Farage revelled in the moment. “Let this be Ukip's Clause IV moment,” he said, referring to Tony Blair's political breakthrough in 1995.

Yet it's still difficult to ignore the numerous outbursts from party members and supporters in the last month which have revealed a much darker side to the party than the one Farage has been trying to present to the world.

So why, in spite of what we know about Ukip, are ethnic minorities supporting the party?

It could be because many of those affected by immigration are ethnic minorities already living in the UK, and competing with each other for low-skilled, low-paid jobs.

However, this doesn’t explain the support for Ukip from Sanya-Jeet Thandi, a privately educated LSE student born to Punjabi parents, who appeared on Channel Four earlier this week to talk about her membership.

Thandi debated identity with the musician Awate, who told her she was ”betraying her skin colour“ by supporting Ukip. It was a strange accusation to make - how can anyone ”betray“ their skin?

I wouldn't say Thandi has betrayed anyone, but the fact that she thinks Farage is on to something is still bizarre.

She may now be middle-class, but at some point her family would have come to the UK for a better life. And now she wants to protect her lot by making it more difficult for others to enjoy the same benefits? It doesn't add up.

There is an idea that around the 50's and 60's there was a golden age of immigration when immigrants came to the UK and worked hard, contributing to key services and helping to lift the country up in the post-war era.

But where is that attitude now? Today immigrants are presented by the right-wing press as nothing more than caricatures, scrounging off benefits and living it up at the expense of hard working British people and taking British jobs.

Ukip appear to be utilising ethnic minorities in the same way that the EDL and BNP have done in the past. Tommy Robinson was careful to parade Gurmeet Singh, and Nick Griffin held on dearly to the Reverend James Gitau. These two men were foolish enough to believe that they were not a part of racist organizations, and were duly trotted out.

But they were merely tokenistic pawns in each party's electoral game (and in Singh’s case he was also deeply Islamophobic).

Tokenism is a clear way to try and deflect racist attention, and for some reason some members of ethnic minorities been duped into playing along.

What Farage is doing is the classic ”I have black and Asian friends, how can I be racist?“ But for members of ethnic minorities who have benefited from immigration, it is quite odd for them to be opposed to it, even if Ukip do centre their anti-immigration rhetoric on the EU.

Those who join and support Ukip aren't cleansing the party's image, but just masking it, and giving it a false sense of legitimacy.

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