Tuesday 21 November 2017

Don't say St George was an immigrant

Admiration: UKIP leader Nigel Farage comes across as a man of the people
Admiration: UKIP leader Nigel Farage comes across as a man of the people

At most general elections, the genteel Victorian seaside town of Broadstairs in Kent might be expected to vote true blue Conservative.

This was once the seaside refuge of Charles Dickens, who spent summers there in Bleak House. Cosy tea shops, populated by blue-rinsed ladies of mature vintage, line the streets.

With old-fashioned beach huts along the golden strand, this is where London families came for holidays before the era of cheap Spanish packages.

The blue stronghold may be about to change. Broadstairs is in the constituency of South Thanet, the political stomping ground of Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-Europe, anti-immigration UK Independence Party.

He may not win many seats on May 7, but wherever I went in England I heard expressions of admiration for Farage: they admired his unabashed fondness for a pint of ale in the pub, and his dislike of Poles.

Anti-East European sentiment runs much deeper in England than in Ireland. Farage has even said he prefers Indians to Poles.

In the Cat's Whiskers sandwich bar in Broadstairs, Vanessa Howell tells me: "There's an area near here, and the Poles have overrun the place. It's not safe for English people to go there any more.

"I like Farage, because he is a man of the people and he looks like he's done a day's work. This place is normally Conservative, but I know solicitors, accountants and professional people who are all voting UKIP."

More significantly, UKIP has also won the support of many less well off white working-class voters, who feel their wages have been undercut by the East Europeans.

In its manifesto, UKIP says that if it achieves power, Britain will leave the EU and take back control of its borders.

Immigration of unskilled workers will be stopped for five years.

At the UKIP constituency headquarters in Ramsgate, party workers are keen to point out that the party is not racist.

Using terminology that is not normally heard in modern political discourse, a party worker tells me: "We do have some negro and coloured supporters."

UKIP has promised to turn St George's Day into a national holiday if it achieves power.

But when asked if it would have allowed St George, a Greek-speaking Turkish Palestinian, to move to Britain, the party was a bit flummoxed.

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