In a country pub in Kent, “an occasion of pure love” celebrating diversity and unity sent a message to Nigel Farage that we will not take his hatred quietly. Sophie W spoke to a few of the Beyond UKIP Cabaret members about the event, and their thoughts on UKIP and political activism more generally.
Why do you think the Beyond UKIP cabaret caught people’s imagination?
We were really impressed at how we were able to engage so many different community groups in such a creative way. That those of us who are have been persecuted by UKIP are refusing to be pushed to the margins. We think enthusiasm for the event is largely down to its celebratory focus. It’s a great mix of solidarity and entertainment.
How was it planned? Who was involved?
The media has largely portrayed Dan Glass as a ‘leader’ of our group, when in fact we are horizontally organised, as in we take collective decisions and there is no leader. Dan has put a lot of work into this and took a lead in the media work at the beginning and was one of the people who thought of the original concept. However the whole group will agree that it never would have come together without any of the organisers, the groups involved or the people who turned up on the day!
There were a series of meetings that were by attended by public sector/charity workers, students, different activist organizations, performance art group who aim to expose misogyny in modern society, breast feeding mothers, people living with HIV, different migrant solidarity groups, queer activists and individuals who would be in some way oppressed by UKIP’s policies should they gain power, and possible some we’re forgetting! This was such an amazing coalition of diversity.
How do you feel about the media coverage?
Well it was interesting to see first hand the power of influence that UKIP can have over the public through misleading media stories. They used the event and the false idea of children running away from an ‘angry mob’ to deflect from the genuine struggles faced by our group members and allow for furthered acceptance of their persecution. There was also a massive focus on Dan Glass as an individual also, rather than our event by some of the media and we felt this again retracted from that is was a celebration of diversity and show of solidarity, a mixture between a political action and a celebration.
Since Monday’s attack by Britain First, UKIP clearly realise how damaging it is for them to be associated with these far right thugs, so they are trying not to draw further attention to the situation. UKIP will always deny accusations of racism but you only need to look at their support base to discover who they really are.
Mainstream parties, including Labour, are chasing UKIP’s hard right agenda on immigration. How can we push back against that?
There needs to be more awareness of the facts around immigration and we need to dispel the prejudices. More profiling on how immigrants are positively impacting our communities and the economy and parties should be called out for using the issue as a scapegoating tactic.
UKIP’s rise in mainstream media and the massive press coverage given to them has popularised their right-wing racist rhetoric on immigration. This in turn has made the other mainstream parties in Westminster feel like they also need to show anti-immigration policies and has drawn a real focus onto this rather than real economic issues in the run up to the elections. We can push pack against this by dispelling the anti-immigration rhetoric with the real facts!
Immigration has been proved by numerous different academics and economists as not economically damaging for our country but economically beneficial. A study by LSE showed that there are no discernible effects that migrants negatively impact the opportunities or wages of native-born workers. A further study by The National Institute of Social Economic Research stated that reduced migration could have a disastrous affect on the UK economy.
The economic crisis is the responsibility of the financial elite, not immigrants. We need more parties to be honest about the facts, and not take the populist line on immigration to appease the right wing.
Support for UKIP is often presented as a rejection of establishment politics. How can the left create a genuine alternative?
A genuine left alternative is already happening, there are lots of activist communities and grass roots groups that are anti-establishment already in London and the UK. It is important for them to show solidarity with each other, as is starting to happen with some campaigns such as ours.
It is also important to dispel the myth that UKIP is a rejection of establishment politics. Nigel Farage, was born to a stockbroker, privately educated and prior to politics worked as a commodity broker, he has never been outside of the establishment. If his party were truly rejecting establishment politics they would be advocating a complete overhaul of Westminster and creating a system that represented the interests of people over big business.
Scapegoating immigrants and the most vulnerable in society is not anti-establishment: it is simply fear-mongering. UKIP are economically and socially destructive. We will counter their hateful rhetoric through getting the facts out to people and celebrating the beauty in our diversity. If you want to be involved with the Beyond UKIP Diversity Cabaret and create a world free from bigotry please get in touch.
Sophie W is a medical student and NHS campaigner in London.