UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom this afternoon prompted outrage when he suggested a room of women were “sluts” for not “cleaning behind the fridge”. Party leader Nigel Farage appeared on television shortly afterwards to announce the withdrawal of the party whip.
As followers of this blog will know, I have been a long-time critic of Bloom. His words today were not an isolated ‘gaffe’ or a one off misjudged joke. Since becoming an MEP he has repeatedly courted controversy, whether it be his ‘Bongo Bongo Land’ remarks, his Nazi jokes in the EU Parliament, or his assertion that no business should hire “a woman of child-bearing age”. His social attitudes are not just old-fashioned – they are prehistoric. There is no place for the likes of Bloom in British or European politics, and there has not been for several centuries.
The condemnation Nigel Farage made of Bloom was carefully calibrated, calling him “beyond the pale” but at the same time referring to his “dad’s army” sense of humour. The intention was to distance Farage and UKIP from Bloom, but simultaneously to pass the whole episode off as a storm in a teacup, blown out of proportion by a politically correct media.
We must not allow either of these things to happen. Bloom’s comments today were not just the words of a marginal buffoon (as Farage wants us to believe). They in fact come far closer to representing the true spirit of UKIP than anyone in the party’s high command would admit. Barely a day goes past without a UKIP candidate somewhere making a racist or sexist comment of some kind, and many of the party’s elected representatives have at points flirted with far right politics.
Many right-of-centre politicians use dog whistle messaging to make clear their position on race or gender. UKIP are particularly guilty of this. Bloom is only unusual in that he routinely breaks ranks and is openly derogatory. Farage and others in UKIP must not be allowed to distance themselves from him. Their language may be more refined, but their actions and voting records tell us what they really think. Bloom is just the tip of the UKIP iceberg.