By Harry Phibbs
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As part of the natural "set them up, knock them down" rhythm of the media, UKIP has had a generally bad press over the last couple of days. This is right and proper. The Observer has some leaked emails showing that many within the Party are concerned that achieving coherant policies is a struggle – Godfrey Bloom MEP says its like "herding cats."
As a protest party, the difficulty is that adopting anything much by way of policy narrows their potential support.
It has also emerged that several of their council candidates have racist links or connections. Again this media scrutiny is welcome – especially as a warning to voters before the elections on Thursday. It is no good UKIP complaining about it being a "smear campaign" if the revelations are true. If any of their candidates are caught out as secretly being former BNP members – or making racist or anti semitic comments – then the response from UKIP should be to remove them and to thank the media for alerting them to it.
There are 1,739 UKIP candidates on Thursday. It does seem that the Party should have done more to vet them – in the age of Google it is not that hard. UKIP's rivals have obliged in doing the task for them.
However, the number exposed as extremists is under 1% – indeed I think still in single figures. Furthermore UKIP should be commended for removing them. Chris Scotton, Alan Ryall, Anna-Marie
Crampton and Susan Bowen are all out.
Where I think they are in trouble is over the case of Caven Vines in Rotherham.
The Guardian reports him as saying:
"If you are a Muslim in Britain you can almost do what you want with the good old Labour Governments blessing."
Vines also complained that: "Muslims go to war warring [sic] the same clothes as ordinary people who they hide behind they cover their faces, they hide behind women and children they set up rocket launches in school yards they use children to push wheel barrows into crowds and soldiers then detonate it killing innocent people SO WHO ARE THE COWARDS.
"Its about time the Government and the Police stopped pandering to these so called British Muslims and other foreign nationals."
Contacted by the Guardian on Tuesday, Vines stood by the blog. The Rotherham-born engineer said too many Muslims had been allowed into Britain. "When they get here, suddenly – you don't have to be born in this country – you can come here, live here for a while and stand as MPs and that sort of thing. We are giving 'em power which they shouldn't have. We couldn't go to Pakistan and stand as an MP. All I'm saying is we've opened ourselves up to this."
However, when the Guardian asked Nigel Farage's spokesman whether Ukip endorsed Vines's views on Muslims, he said: "I have been instructed not to comment."
How could a Muslim voter – a law abiding British patriot, perhaps with a fondness for grammar schools and a hostilty to wind farms, the EU and, indeed, uncontrolled immigration – be expected to join UKIP and share a Party with Mr Vines?
Allowing Mr Vines to remain a member makes it hard for UKIP to deny being an anti Muslim party. I hope their failure to remove him is simply a matter of delay.
Generally I don't think seeking to compare UKIP to the BNP is an honest or effective strategy. The vast majority of UKIP council candidates are decent people, not Nazis. Where they are Nazis, they are being kicked out.
The process will not always be easy. What if there is a genuine conversion? What if a former Nazi has genuinely turned away from racial hatred as a former Communist might genuinely renounce class hatred? Were the Labour Party wrong to accept a councillor in Burnley defecting from the BNP? Probably not. I think their decision to allow a former Nazi to be a Labour council candidate in Milton Keynes was rather more devious, as they were secretive about it.
It is welcome that UKIP are being thoroughly investigated by their rivals and the media. They should be held to account. But UKIP are not a bunch of skinhead thugs. They are not National Socialists. The charge that they are in any way comparable to the BNP is simply not credible.