It seems like an easy shrug for Nigel Farage. A councillor is making plainly racist remarks, UKIP suspends her and Nigel says “…we just don’t tolerate that sort of thing”. It’s his second shrug off in the week following the Chelsea yob photo op. The famous have neither the time nor intention of knowing a thing about the person who has just captured a fan snap, and then vanished, so if in the run-up to the general election, anyone chucks at Nigel that he seems to attract people with undesirable attitudes and behaviour, he can distance himself effortlessly. However, with a few days to mull it over, does Mr. Farage wonder why the yob or councillor would find empathy with his party, and that maybe he’s attracting the wrong sort of following? On the other hand, perhaps he’s actually happy with them.
There is a real problem with the Chelsea-adoring, racist-Paris-underground morons (CARPUMs). They’re not ashamed. Everyone, almost to a person, is appalled by them, which the CARPUMs themselves are perfectly aware of but they don’t care because they’ve declared themselves. It’s part of casual yobbery’s appeal, be it chanting at a football match, reading Viz or binge drinking. It’s a release, a form of bonding with your peers, a sense of community or the chance to indulge in guilty pleasures. But while vulgarity or alcohol may simply be bad habits, these are times of racism hyper-awareness, which in the main is a positive force that leaves a lot of people indignant that “you can’t say anything these days”. You can actually – as long as it isn’t racist.
Racism is not simply ONE BIG THING, but an umbrella-shaped spectrum of engagement where CARPUMs and racist councillors are at the pointy top and from where different levels of offence are made, gradually fading into overt, then covert racism, then careless stereotyping till we get to the silly accusations, like Benedict Cumberbatch saying “coloured” being branded a racist gaffe. The problem is that anyone who is inclined towards racial stereotyping – say, by assuming all Muslims are jihadis – can look at the CARPUMs and say “Ooh terrible. I wouldn’t ever behave like that. I’m not a racist.” Anyone believing that it’s OK to say “negroes” and “yids”, or can’t tell Sikhs from Muslims is guilty of degrees of lazy racism. However if that same person wouldn’t dream of being overtly yobbish like a CARPUM, or holds the shop door open for a nice Nigerian lady, it doesn’t mean they’re not racist. It just means they are polite.
I am certain that many UKIP supporters would say they liked that Polish builder who rebuilt the garden wall, or the Asian bloke they bought their Fiesta off. So Mr. Farage, why would your polite supporters want to line up alongside cheerfully proud racist morons in supporting your party? Is it that your party makes people feel comfortable with their position on the racism and xenophobia umbrellagram? Is it that they can beef on as broadly as they like about immigration and being bossed about “by Brussels”, knowing that they’d never push a black guy off a train? Even if CARPUMs are the exception, just what is it really that attracts the politely prejudiced to UKIP? As the scrutiny becomes more intense towards the election, Farage might not be able to shrug it off so easily.