UKIP often attracts negative media coverage, and, equally often, this is for sound reasons. With the ex-Radio 1 DJ Mike Read eventually apologising over his calypso song, which was sung in a fake Caribbean accent and mocked ‘illegal immigrants in every town’, the issue of UKIPs bigotry does not seem to fade away. It also raises broader issues of ‘political correctness’; how do we balance freedom of speech and offence in a democratic nation?
Labour’s shadow business minister, Chuka Umunna rightly argued that the song was distasteful: “A lot of people have said they think it’s racist. I don’t know whether his intention was to be racist.” In a country such as Britain, where racism still persists more covertly and is ingrained institutionally, a song which mocks the Caribbean accent can clearly lead to offence.
UKIP palpably disagreed, and tried to argue the fact that it was merely ‘a bit of fun’; claiming that the results of the sales would have gone partially to Red Cross. This is clearly a diversionary tactic; which exposes the deep rooted ‘tone-deaf elitism’ found within UKIP, as David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, soundly remarked.
Nigel Farage claimed that it showed up left-wing commentators as having the wrong priorities at a time when the awful Rotherham child abuse scandal also featured heavily in the news. Rather unsurprisingly, he argued on the radio show LBC that “Had he done this in any other context than UKIP, there wouldn’t be a row at all. But because it’s UKIP people will scream blue murder.” Of course people will scream “blue murder”. A party that has previously been explicitly racist and sexist will only encourage more scrutiny, and rightly so.
“This is clearly a diversionary tactic; which exposes the deep rooted ‘tone-deaf elitism’ found within UKIP”
We cannot deny that there are examples of political correctness going too far in some cases. But these remain in the minority. The idea of political correctness itself in this example is irrelevant, as to draw on racist tones is clearly not only politically incorrect, but immoral.
This is not to argue that the 15% of the electorate (recent YouGov poll) who would vote for UKIP are ‘closet racists’. It highlights the more fundamental issue of how the backlash on immigration in this country is allowing potentially racist ideas to flourish. Students are generally more liberal and tolerant, exemplified by the international character of our university; it should therefore be no surprise that support for UKIP, not only amongst Nottingham students but amongst students across the country, remains very low.
“It highlights the more fundamental issue of how the backlash on immigration in this country is allowing potentially racist ideas to flourish.”
Thus this recent controversy is not an example of UKIP being needlessly slated in the media; it is another example of its bigotry. It will be no surprise if we begin to see more scrutiny upon all political parties in the run up to the general election; this is what we expect from a democracy. If UKIP has nothing controversial in the works, it has nothing to be afraid of and should not hide beneath the banner of “political correctness gone mad”.
Image courtesy of Ian West/PA via the Guardian