Until recently, anyone who dared raise the issue of mass migration was denigrated as a racist. And we have been accused of this time and time again, not least by the Prime Minister. It is not racist to ask questions of policy. We have taken these insults on the chin, but it is those who throw them that are prejudiced, not UKIP, writes UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
• For those of us in UKIP, the tidal wave of interest in the party over the past few days has been unprecedented. What lies behind it is, however, no surprise to us. It might be a surprise to the political and media establishment that, owing to the appalling situation in Rotherham, where a family was stripped of its foster children because of the blind prejudice of the local social services, they have had to come to terms with the truth. UKIP is an established and significant part of modern political debate.
We have long said that UKIP is neither on the Left nor on the Right, but at the centre of public debate – rather than at the centre of the discourse that exists in the Westminster bubble. If you spend time travelling the country, as I do, speaking at public meetings where the door is open to all, not just party apparatchiks, then you can gauge the mood and opinions out there. And they differ wildly from the received opinion of College Green.
Out there in the pubs, coffee mornings and, yes, even the golf clubs of Britain, the policy platform that we are presenting is entirely uncontroversial.
We believe that Britain should be independent of the European Union, free to decide how and with whom we trade, comfortable with ourselves and with a government that is accountable to the British people and none other. Recent polls show that this opinion is held by more than half of the population; if you add a free trade deal with the EU, that rises to more than 60 per cent. These are UKIP policies, policies that are held by no other party, no matter how some in the Conservative Party may be licensed to dog-whistle in that direction. Among Labour voters the majority in favour of EU withdrawal is also significant, and even Lib Dem voters are moving that way, with 34 per cent now calling for us to leave the EU.
In taxation terms, we have long called for those on the minimum wage to be taken out of the taxation system entirely. How can it be fair for people to be paid the minimum, then be hit by the taxman? It is indecent and illogical. And again, our position chimes with the majority view.
In education, our support for choice for parents – grammar schools, if you will – is something that is driven by a belief in equality of opportunity rather than some mirage of the perfect educational establishment. Today, the education of our country, despite the hard work of teachers, is increasingly a matter of who you are and where you live. It is a destructive choice for society. And it is instructive to note that the people who have been most let down by the decades of failed egalitarian experiments are those at the bottom of the pile. The people who need reforms like the ones we propose are not the moneyed voices; they were once represented by Labour, but they have been forgotten by that metropolitan party.
When we turn to energy policy, the damage being done to the country’s prospects by policies championed by the political elite is already here, as manufacturers find themselves priced out of the global market through sky-high tariffs. Only last week, Tata Steel announced hundreds of redundancies, caused in part by those high prices, made worse by having to chase after climate targets inflicted by Brussels. These climate policies are trumpeted by Cameron and his Lib Dem Energy Secretary, but were designed by Ed Miliband himself when he was climate change minister. Again, who is it that suffers? It isn’t the comfortable middle class; it is those on low wages, and struggling businesses that are unable to expand due to financial fears.
Even on the great immigration debate, those in the Westminster village cannot, do not and will not feel the impact of large numbers of low-skilled migrants arriving here. It is great to have cheap help, but not if you are from that sector of society that used to provide the help. Now their wages are being driven down, even if they can still find employment. Who speaks for them?
Until recently, anyone who dared raise the issue of mass migration was denigrated as a racist. And we have been accused of this time and time again, not least by the Prime Minister. It is not racist to ask questions of policy. We have taken these insults on the chin, but it is those who throw them that are prejudiced. UKIP is not.
There are two phrases that we rarely hear these days: “it’s a free country” and “there ought to be a law against it”. We do not hear these any more for the simple reason that we are no longer a free country, and more often than not there is a law about it.
The political traditions of Britain are largely about the growth of liberty, freedom, equality before the law and tolerance. We believe in fair play and muddling through. We don’t like grand plans and irrational manoeuvring for political gain, as seen in Rotherham. We are decent people, who are fed up with the nannying, pettifogging overlordship of the grey bureaucracies.