Central political strategy for UKIP: Xenophobia?


The UK Independence Party is preparing to exploit ‘fears’ over mass immigration from Romania and Bulgaria by putting the issue at the centre of its campaign strategy. UKIP, which has seen a surge in the polls, claims that 350,000-400,000 immigrants from the two countries will come into the UK. They also claim that a rise will ‘impact’ crime rates.

UKIP assertion that 350,000-400,000 Romanians and Bulgarians, will come into the UK, has been challenged by migrant experts. Migrant specialist say that Romanians are more likely to go to Italy, Spain and France, than to the UK, as they share cultural and linguistic links with these countries.

They also pointed out that the restrictions on immigrants are being lifted at the same time for other Western European countries. Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union in 2007, however caps on their movement with the European Union were placed. The caps are due to be lifted in January 2014.

UKIP believes that the issue will play a ‘major’ role in local elections in May, as well as, European parliament elections in 2014. UKIP seek to link the issue with leaving the EU, which is a ‘major’ concern for voters. Private polling suggested that any party that successfully ties the two issues, would appeal to 80% of the electorate. A UKIP spokesperson told the Independent:

We will be able, quite legitimately, to tie the Government’s inaction vis a vis the European Union and a local impact on people’s towns and villages”.

He went on to say:

The free movement between Britain, Romania and Bulgaria is going to have an impact on schools, housing, roads, facilities, health care and I hate to say it- crime”. The rhetoric from UKIP, has caused alarm in the Conservative party, as they fear that the new strategy will take away traditional Tory voters.

Conservative MPs have called on the Government to impose new restrictions on immigration from Romania and Bulgaria. On Wednesday, Tory MP Stewart Jackson, will present a commons Bill calling on fresh limits on Bulgarian and Romanians coming to the UK. He said:

We don’t want to make the same mistake as we did in 2004 which was to import a very large number of low-wage, low-skill workers and embed welfare dependency in our indigenous workforce”.

Comparisons with 2004 are misguided, migration expert warn. In 2004, Britain was the only major economy to adopted an ‘open doors’ policy towards Poland and other EU member states. Up to one Million Polish migrants came to the UK, however half of them left the UK after a few years. Scott Blinder, acting director of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University said:

If you compare what is going to happen next year with what happened in 2004, most of what we know suggests it will be a smaller impact, smaller scale event”.

The electoral campaign from UKIP is based on misinformation and a distortion of the facts, the implication that voters are worried about ‘immigration’, because of supposed links to crime and disintegration is a cause for concern. What is even more concerning is how the ‘dangerous’ rhetoric has caught on in the other parties. The net benefit of immigrants for the UK is quiet high, Immigrants play a huge role in the UK economy and they tend to play a pivotal role in the health service.

The strategy of UKIP is regrettable, seen by many as xenophobic and wrong, however this surge did not happen in a vacuum. They have merely played into a wider climate of xenophobia created in part by media’s depiction of ‘immigrants, crime and the economy’.

This image is juxtaposed with the idea that ‘Britain is full up’ and being ‘overrun’ by ‘foreigners’, despite the fact that 95% of people in this country are citizens and 81% of this country is uninhabited. Whilst, tough scrutiny of UKIP is needed, it should also be applied to the Media that feeds us these stereotypes.

Usman Butt