UKIP are making the news. Putting aside all the more outlandish elements – like the major donor who thinks it should be illegal for women to wear trousers, or the councillor who thinks there’s a causal link between gay marriages and flooding, or the guy who thinks we should euthanize babies with Down’s Syndrome (these are all real things – Google them) – there is a chance of electoral success in 2015.
Certainly, what UKIP has done is drive an increasingly hostile political narrative around immigration. The way immigration is reported and the way immigrants are written about in the press is almost entirely negative. It’s as if wanting to live somewhere else is criminally immoral and anyone wanting to move overseas is a black-hearted monster. Which I guess is bad news for the one and half million British-born people sunning it up in Spain.
I have a stake in the immigration debate because my Grandmother was an immigrant. She met and married my Granddad while he was on active service during the war – getting married in 1945 before the war ended. She gave birth to my Mum just after coming to this country, in January 1946.
It was a difficult time to be an immigrant. Being Scandinavian, Grandma had an accent that sounded a bit German to many people. Many men had been killed in the war, so there was an imbalance in society meaning many women were unlikely to meet and marry someone. So there was resentment of a foreigner marrying a man, when men generally were in short supply. (My Grandma was told this.)
My Mum has told me that when she was little the other mums in her village wouldn’t let their children play with her. For no other reason than her mum (my Gran) was foreign.
These days we would call that racist. And rightly so, because it was.
But that racism is what I think of when I hear Nigel Farage braying on about immigrants. The narratives we listen to shape our thought patterns. If we really believe the wicked foreigners are after our jobs and our women and our comfortable lifestyles; if we think they are criminals and thieves, then that will shape how we respond to them.
Racism is subtle. We can easily find ourselves agreeing with comments like the one Nigel Farage made about not wanting to live next door to a family of Romanians. And the next thing is you’re not allowing your kids to play with their kids for no other reason than because you are racist.