I'm getting into a bit of trouble from some people who support the far-right party Ukip. They object to the following sentence in an article I wrote earlier this week when I referred to "the purple and yellow colour scheme of far-right party Ukip".
You can guess which bit the Kippers objected to. Here's one email from a Mr Allan Tallett:
I must protest at this baseless description. It is typical of people like you with far left views to denigrate the loyal Britons who believe in sound common-sense policies and I would point out that our members, increasingly from ex-Labour supporters, understand that freedom, independence and self-government are ideals that are wanted by all. We espouse liberty and prosperity as well as social mobility and there is no way we could, honestly, be considered right wing.
Politics.co.uk, which avoids getting bogged down in partisan divides where possible, is definitely not 'far-left'.
That aside, the writer's suggestion that Ukip transcends the left-right divide is pushing it a bit. It does raise an important question, though: where on Earth should we place Ukip?
To answer this thorny dilemma I took to Twitter to get the counsel of our dear readers. The responses were mixed, as you'll see below. But a good chunk of those responding thought the only decent answer is 'yes'.
@Politics_co_uk Words are restrictive. If you don't call UKIP "far right", what do you call them? They're certainly not a "moderate right".— Alice Romano (@TwitticeRomano) January 9, 2014
@Politics_co_uk "clueless" is more apt...— Phone Monkey (@dez_ombie) January 9, 2014
@Politics_co_uk yes because they are.— Jess McCabe (@jester) January 9, 2014
@Politics_co_uk Yes, because they want huge increase in defence spending, harsh restrictions on immigrants and anti-european co-operation.— Dave (@the_bitter_end) January 9, 2014
So there you have it. A clear view from many of our readers that it's perfectly reasonable to call Ukip 'far-right'.
But wait. That was not the only view expressed. The same values talked about above were just as important reasons for justifying 'not fair' responses, too:
@Politics_co_uk Far right parties tend to believe in the supremacy of the state. I'm not sure UKIP have even thought about that.— Andrew Hall (@andrewhall2468) January 9, 2014
@Politics_co_uk No. BNP were far right. UKIP are more firmly right wing. Calling them far right simply a way to take away their legitimacy.— John Francis (@JohnFrancisGA) January 9, 2014
Indeed, some of those responding seemed to view the mere use of the phrase 'far-right' as being completely unreasonable - especially when the far-left is taken into account.
@Politics_co_uk don't be silly..unless you're a typical loony leftist in which case indicating right in you car would make you a nazi..— Cllr James Jackman (@JamesJackman) January 9, 2014
Ah, the Nazis. You were probably wondering how long it would take before we got to them. This is the sensible middle ground approach to the question, the best rebuttal to the 'far-right' tag:
@Politics_co_uk no, far right has connotations of fascism and whatever you think of UKIP, they're not fascists— Alex Dismore (@Dizzydismore) January 9, 2014
@Politics_co_uk Not quite right I think, far right implies neo-nazi/fascist to me. Golden Dawn, National Front, BNP.— Louie Stowell (@Louiestowell) January 9, 2014
@Politics_co_uk ignoring typical fascist connotations of 'far-right', UKIP are politically on the far-right of the political spectrum.— Matthew Cunliffe (@Adagis) January 9, 2014
Academics who have looked at far-right extremism don't think Ukip are far-right - but they do have a lot more in common with parties like the BNP than they would like to admit:
• An end to uncontrolled immigration, just like the BNP (earlier this week Farage repeated that 2010 manifesto promise for 2015)
• Illegal immigrants to be expelled, just like the BNP
• Abandoning all promotion of multiculturalism, just like the BNP
• Scrapping benefits for immigrants, just like the BNP. And, er, a bit like the Conservative party.
Earlier this year I went on the doorstep with a bunch of Kippers. They were at pains to angrily and self-righteously deny even the merest hint of being far-right politicians ("we're not racist! we're not!").
Nevertheless, the real test came when they were confronted with voters whose views were, obviously, more extreme than their own. They nodded and shook their heads when they really ought to have distanced themselves with a bit of moderation. Their failure to do so might have been political inexperience. But it might have been something more sinister.
And that's the truth of it: Ukip are, still, an unknown quantity. Even after all these years they are a developing political force which fits somewhere in the disparate political ground to the right of David Cameron's Conservatives. It's up to Nigel Farage to determine whether they're near the Tories or the BNP.
In the meantime, should we continue calling them 'far-right' in copy? It's true the term is a little loaded. Next time the issue comes up, perhaps I'll take the advice of this excellent journalist from Croydon:
@Politics_co_uk I prefer 'hard right'. As in Thatcher and Tebbit, not Hitler and Griffin.— Tom Black (@tomblackuk) January 9, 2014
If it wasn't for the 'I don't mean the Nazis!' qualifier, it'd be getting as close to the mark as is possible right now.
Ask me after the 2014 European elections campaign is over, and I might have a different view.