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Farage’s “victim” of hatred comment ill-judged

by Luke Lythgoe | 19.06.2016

The resumption of referendum campaigning after Jo Cox’s killing was a chance for a change of tone – particularly on the divisive topic of migration. Yet Nigel Farage didn’t back away from an inflammatory poster, launched last week, which shows a long line of migrants at the border between Croatia and Slovenia with the title “BREAKING POINT” and, under it, the words: “the EU has failed us all”.

There are several problems with the poster. One is that the migrants were not actually coming to the UK. Because we are not in the EU’s border-free Schengen Area, it is quite hard for migrants in the Balkans to get here. Another is that many of the people on the move from the Middle East are refugees, to whom we owe legal and moral duties. Yet another is the poster’s resemblance to anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda of the 1930s.

When Robert Peston told the UKIP boss that “many people say that you are a politician who stokes up hatred”, he countered: “I’ve been a politician who’s been a victim of it to be honest with you.” Farage added that George Osborne, in an earlier interview with Peston, was already “doing the same thing again”. (watch from 31:00). The chancellor had condemned Farage for “putting up that disgusting and vile poster…. which had echoes of literature used in the 1930s.” (watch from 10:30)

There is no doubt that the UKIP leader inspires hatred in some quarters. But portraying himself as a “victim” was ill-judged.

He continued to portray himself as such the next day, on the BBC’s Today programme (listen from 2:12:00), saying he had been laughed at, ridiculed, condemned and demonised. Farage again failed to apologise for the poster, calling it “unfortunate timing that within a couple of hours of releasing it this terrible, tragic murder took place”.

Farage further denied, when challenged by Peston, that he had ever suggested a “serious risk of violence” over migration in Britain. “I’ve never said it at any point in this referendum campaign.” But on May 18, when asked whether violence might happen in Britain, he replied: “I find it difficult to contemplate it happening here. But nothing’s impossible.”

Part of Farage’s defence was that Vote Leave, the official Leave campaign fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, had also been producing “very strong posters – not only about Turkey, but about the number of terrorists and criminals who come into Britain under free movement rules.”

In an earlier interview with Andrew Marr, Gove said when he saw Farage’s poster he “shuddered”. Yet Gove went on to defend a Vote Leave statement, quoted by Marr, warning that Britain can expect “an additional million people added to the UK population from Turkey alone within eight years”, linking this to issues with crime and gun ownership. (watch from 5:45)

There is no chance Turkey will join the EU in this timescale, and it’s debatable it ever will.

The rhetoric around migration needs to change in the final days of the campaign. Leave campaigners must stop scapegoating EU migrants for all the country’s problems – schools, housing and hospital waiting times – when often they are our own government’s fault.

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Remain campaigners must also champion policies to alleviate pressure on local services, as indeed Jo Cox did in her final article before she was killed. She wrote:

“We can also do more to help communities facing the greatest pressures. We know that EU migrants who arrived in the UK since 2001 contributed £20 billion more to our economy than they’ve taken out in benefits. But this money shouldn’t just disappear into the Treasury coffers. We need a clear formula to ensure that the taxes that migrants contribute go quickly to the areas where they are living, to make sure that local health services and schools get the funding they need when the population changes.”

Jeremy Corbyn backed the idea of reviving the Migration Impacts Fund, launched by the last Labour government, which would be similar to what Jo Cox advocated, in his own interview with Andrew Marr. David Cameron promised something like this in last year’s election manifesto, but has yet to activate it.

EU migrants benefit Britain overall. But that doesn’t mean all communities do well from it. Whatever the referendum result, we need to work harder to make sure that the tensions created by migration are better managed and change our rhetoric so Britain comes together rather than pulls apart.

InFacts contacted Nigel Farage and Vote Leave but received no response.

This article was updated on June 20 to include comments made by Nigel Farage on the BBC’s Today programme. 

Edited by Hugo Dixon

4 Responses to “Farage’s “victim” of hatred comment ill-judged”

  • Never heard of your website but somehow a link popped up. Nigel Farage is absolutely right while most of the others are pussy-footing around trying to be PC and not offend anyone – god forbid!
    Vote Leave for freedom.

  • Sadly, as with Trump in the US, Farage appeals to feelings rather than facts. One’s feelings can often be a good indicator. However, not when they have been distorted by the spreading of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) spread by the leave campaign and especially ukip. Not to mention being aided and abetted by more than 3/4 of the British press over the past 30 years.

    The above poster appeals to the inner fear many have of the different, the outsider and the idea that someone else ‘over there’ is always to blame without looking at domestic factors first.

  • This is the text of my letter published in today’s ‘i’. I think it sums up the truth of the situation fairly adequately:

    “Is anyone seriously fooled by the Brexit ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine? The official Leave campaign pretends to hold its nose at the deplorable campaigning tactics of UKIP – the ‘Breaking Point’ poster is only one illustration of this. In the meantime, Gove and Johnson et al quickly stuff the votes these tactics garner into their back pockets and walk away whistling. Shame on them”.