Since the EU referendum UKIP has been struggling to realign itself to find a new purpose and justify its existence. That struggle seems to be coming to an end. Behind the suits and the tweed is a rapidly diminishing rabble becoming unashamedly xenophobic and specifically targeting Muslims to mop up ex BNP voters and supporters of Britain First and the English Defence League.
First came the announcement of the burqa ban, a thoroughly illiberal policy targeting a minority of Muslim women to satisfy the prejudices of xenophobes. The policy is often justified as being intended to promote gender equality (funny how people suddenly become feminists on certain issues), but the idea that it would liberate oppressed women is misguided.
Those women who do not freely choose to wear the veil will more than likely be forced into isolation by the very same religious leaders or oppressive husbands who force them to wear veils in the first place. The ban will do nothing to tackle this deeply embedded cultural problem but will punish those women who wear a veil because they want to.
Islam is a very socially conservative religion and thus many women choose to wear a veil. That element of choice is essential in a liberal society; banning clothing is utterly un-British. Who are the Kippers to tell people what they can and cannot wear?
We need to learn the lesson from France, where the burqa ban was quickly followed by an increase of verbal and physical attacks on Muslims. Estimates suggest that violent attacks on women wearing the niqab increased by around 34% after the introduction of the ban. State-sanctioned discrimination will only empower racists and create a sense of victimisation.
Warming to this theme, Paul Nuttall used his first election speech yesterday to set out UKIP’s “integration agenda”. The centrepiece of the agenda was the truly astounding policy of imposing “school based medical checks on girls from groups at high risk of suffering FGM. These should take place annually and whenever they return from trips overseas”. Wowza! Let that sink in a moment.
It is now UKIP policy to force Muslim school girls to have their vaginas inspected by doctors on at least an annual basis. It’s a warped mind that believes that integration of Muslim girls can be achieved by forcing them to have their genitals inspected every year and after overseas trips. “Excuse me love, it’s time you became a proper part of British society, now whip off your knickers!”
FGM is a serious issue but the solutions can only come through education and ensuring teachers, police and social workers are fully trained on the issue. Vulnerable women need to feel empowered to come forward; forcing invasive examinations on them is going to make them feel violated and alienated. It will have the opposite outcome to its intended effect. From a supposedly patriotic party, this is an astonishingly ugly, thoroughly un-British authoritarian policy. An integrated society is clearly desirable; but it won’t be achieved by government diktat.
The general election is going to be a disaster for UKIP. They have no funds and are severely lacking in candidates. Their spiritual leader Farage is pursuing his career as a shock jock and prefers his MEP expenses to standing in the election. Their current leader is weak and made a laughing stock of himself yesterday by locking himself in a room rather than telling journalists whether he will stand in the election or not.
They have lost their only MP and are looking to a future where they will no longer have MEPs to bring in the cash. The supposedly principled decision to not stand against pro-Brexit MPs masks the need to save money and concentrate its resources on a few target seats, none of which they will win.
The future is bleak for the last Kippers standing. In an attempt to rally its hardcore base the party has retreated to its last refuge; authoritarianism and inciting xenophobia. UKIP used to pretend it was a “Libertarian Party”, now it’s clearly aiming to emulate Marine Le Pen’s Front National. It’s a strategy that misunderstands the British electorate and will reap only failure. All decent people left in the party should abandon it now.
Ben Kelly is an Executive Director of Conservatives for Liberty.