Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, reports on how one local party thinks that ‘defending democracy’ means putting a couple of heavies on the door to exclude people from a debate
UKIP’s Croydon branch has admitted that its members – at least two of them – were volunteer bouncers for an event organised by the local Conservatives, at which government housing minister Gavin Barwell was speaking.
But according to one of the two ersatz security guards, he was only there to support a friend and he did so by interrupting a visit to the local branch of… Lidl, the cut-price German grocery store.
Croydon’s Tories and Kippers have been at pains to deny any campaign collusion between them in the past. But the two parties locally have shared and exchanged members on a frequent basis.
And career politician Barwell just hung on to his Westminster seat at the last General Election in 2015. In part, at least, that was thanks to the underwhelming campaign staged by UKIP in Croydon Central, while Barwell deliberately dallied with UKIP voters. After the election, Barwell and his Tory mates in Parliament handed Nigel Farage’s party (current status: 0 MPs) just what they had craved so much: the EU Referendum.
But for a government minister to have to rely on bouncers from UKIP at an event held in his own constituency is laden with considerable embarrassment for Barwell, who begins to look like a UKIP stooge going into an election campaign in which his own party leader, Theresa Maybe, is committed to delivering exactly what Farage and his mates have always wanted: Brexit.
Croydon UKIP, with the sort of warped nonsense that observers have come to expect from them, confirmed at the weekend that they were “defending democracy” by barring the entrance to Barwell’s supposedly public debate where it was claimed “all welcome”.
Inside Croydon reported last week how an officer of Croydon UKIP, Michael Swadling, had blocked access to the Croydon Conference Centre, where Barwell was talking to a hand-picked audience of what the Tory activist who organised the event described as “supporters”.
Swadling, a member of his local party’s committee, was readily identified. The man who accompanied him has since come forward as Graeme Harker.
Harker sought to post a self-justifying comment on Inside Croydon, but broke some of our publishing rules, such as the need for veracity.
But Harker did admit that he was a member of UKIP, and that he acted as a bouncer at the event.
“My presence there was purely by chance. I was on my way to Lidl,” he said.
Harker went on to make a number of claims which are contradicted by several eye witnesses. Harker tried to insinuate that he had a recording of the event, though he has so far failed to produce any footage. He also denied “the clearly implied racism towards one of the protesters” by offering the imbecility that, “I have a half-Muslim daughter by a previous relationship”. Someone may need to explain to him that Islam is a religion, and not a race.
And UKIP Croydon has officially confirmed that it was its party’s members who were working the door at Barwell’s Tory event.
In an anonymous post on its own website they justified their members barring the entrance to the event by saying, “The far left in Croydon are trying to shutdown debate and use blogs like Inside Croydon to push their message.” Oh, how we laughed at that.
“On Thursday night a small group of far left activists tried to stop members of the public with tickets gaining access to the debate.” This, like much of the rest of UKIP’s claims in the piece is, of course, untrue.
“A variety of people including some UKIP members kept them away from the front door to allow others in. As a party that believes in democracy and freedom we don’t feel a few people should be allowed to try and intimidate others and close down debate,” they wrote.
The notion that UKIP, nationally or locally, are some kind of defenders of democracy against what they term “the far left” is, of course, a joke. It is also utterly perverse.
But following the Brexit decision, they are now a party without a purpose.Given some UKIP members’ previous dalliances with the likes of the National Front and BNP, this is an interesting spin on reality for a party with no MPs, no local councillors, no ready source of public money – once their hypocritical MEPs can no longer leach payments and expenses from the European Parliament – nor backing from millionaire private donors such as Arron Banks.
Scratch beneath the surface, and their old neo-fascist tendancies quickly seep out with hate-filled bile, as it did on a UKIP-supporting Facebook group following the racist assault on asylum seeker Rekar Ahmed in Shirley last month.
No doubt the likes of Swadling, Harker and the rest of Croydon UKIP, just as they blocked the entrance to a public debate last week in the name of “democracy”, will defend their chums’ rights to incite hatred of other minority groups. Because there has not been a single word of condemnation of this bigotry conducted in their name on Croydon UKIP’s website.
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