On Thursday 2 May the UK Independence Party (UKIP), led by Nigel Farage, gained 23% of the national vote and more than 130 seats in the local elections in England [Guardian]
After many of the results had come through, David Cameron withdrew a claim, made in 2006, that UKIP are 'fruitcakes', saying: Look, it's not good insulting a political party that people have chosen to vote for. ... we need to show respect for people who've taken the choice to support this party.' [Guardian 2013; Guardian 2006]
Cameron's change of tone is almost explicitly tactical. It certainly isn't logical. Nothing about UKIP has changed recently, except the extent of their electoral success. If they were fruitcakes in 2006, then fruitcakes they still are. I myself think 'fruitcake' is a rather inappropriate tag for them. It almost makes them sound cuddly. They are not.Some landmarks in the history of UKIP
1991 Alan Sked, a historian at the London School of Economics, formed the Anti-Federalist League, a group opposed to the Treaty of Maastricht, which established the European Union.
1993 Sked and others founded the UK Independence Party. The party's primary aim was to take Britain out of the EU. [Guardian]
1997 Sked resigned from UKIP. In 2010 he said, in a letter to the Times: 'I founded UKIP as a tolerant, liberal and democratic party. By 1997 I could already see the far-right writing on the wall and quit as party leader and member. It is a decision that I have never regretted...' [Junius on UKIP blog]
1999 Three UKIP MEPs were elected, including Nigel Farage, a City commodities broker.
Soon afterwards, a photograph was published showing Farage talking to two members of the British National Party (BNP): Mark Deavin, author of a paper that argues that what he calls "the mass immigration of non-Europeans into every White country on earth" was the result of an international Jewish conspiracy, and Tony Lecomber, jailed for three years in 1986 for possessing explosives, and again in 1991 for stabbing a Jewish schoolteacher. Farage admitted having lunch with Deakin, but had 'no recollection' of meeting Lecomber. The photograph was taken in the summer of 1997. A Guardian report stated that 'Farage ... is a man who often used words such as "nigger" and "nig-nog" in the pub after committee meetings.' [Guardian]
2004 UKIP took third place in the EU elections, with 12 MEPs elected. [Guardian]
New UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom quickly achieved a kind of fame when he put himself up for a seat on the parliament's committee for women's rights and promptly announced: "I am going to promote men's rights." He stated: "I want to deal with women's issues, because I just don't think they clean behind the fridge enough," explaining, "I am here to represent Yorkshire women, who always have dinner on the table when you get home." Then he clarified his views on local television: "The more women's rights you have, it's actually a bar to their employment .... No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age." [Guardian]
2006 Nigel Farage was elected UKIP leader. [Guardian]
2009 UKIP took joint second place (with Labour) in the EU elections, with 13 MEPs elected. Farage co-founded the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group in the European Parliament, together with Italy's Northern League (Lega Nord). Other parties involved include the Danish Peoples' Party, the True Finns party (Perussuomalaiset) and the Dutch Reformed Political Party (SGP).
It was reported at the time that 'A number of the parties in the EFD have been variously described as far-right, anti-immigration, xenophobic and in some cases, racist, by both national and European media.' [EurActiv.com]
2010 (January) UKIP MEP Nikki Sinclaire resigned her membership in the EFD Group citing the extremist views promoted by some of the other parties, which included, she said, 'anti-semitism and violence'. In her resignation letter she particularly mentioned the Italian Lega Nord [Northern League] party. She also said that her 'working relationship and trust with ... Nigel Farage' had broken down. [Junius on UKIP blog]
2010 (February) Godfrey Bloom became a member of the EU Parliament Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, to which he still belongs. [European Parliament website]
2010 (March) Nikki Sinclaire was expelled from UKIP because of her refusal to belong to the EFD Group. [BBC News]
2010 (October) Nikki Sinclaire, who is an out lesbian, stated on her blog that she had been subjected to public abuse by Godfrey Bloom. She also gave some details of the kind of thing that had made it impossible for her to remain as a member of the EFD Group:
'I identified extremist behaviour including homophobia from the Italian Co-Presidents of the group, Liga [sic] Nord. I since discovered convicted racists, anti-Semitic and further homophobia. I found it incredibly difficult to accept that my colleagues parties called for racial segregation on Italian public transport, that the gas chambers in Auschwitz were nothing more than disinfecting chambers and its former mayor of Treviso called for the "ethnic cleansing of faggots" from his city.' [Nikki Sinclaire's blog]
2013 (March) Marta Andreasen MEP, who left UKIP in February, told the Guardian that 'Farage and others were "very dismissive and disrespectful" when discussing legislation that affects women':
'The general attitude was that we would never support anything that was in favour of women. He told me that his attitude was that women who are at the age of being able to give birth to children should not be employed because they are a burden to their companies. It is a very extreme position. He dismisses you as if you were not a proper interlocuter. He does not discuss with you, because you are a lower-level human being. ' [Guardian]
Sinclaire said she had faced many years of sexism from the party:
'Ukip used to hold national executive meetings in men-only gentlemen's clubs in central London such as the Caledonian Club. "I was allowed to attend the actual meeting but could not join the rest of the NEC in the bar, where the eventual decisions were actually made".' [Guardian]
Andreasen and Sinclaire are the only women who have ever been elected as UKIP candidates.
2013 (April) In a radio interview Godfrey Bloom MEP repeated his statement, first made in 2004, that it is foolish for businesses to employ women of child-bearing age:
'...if I wanted a receptionist or I wanted a dental nurse I would be thinking very carefully about the age of that woman because she has to turn up at 9 o’clock every morning. This isn’t rocket science is it? This is perfectly straightforward small business policy.' [Spectator]