Ukip’s we’re-not-racist ethnic minority carnival in Croydon always looked as though it was going to provide plenty of material for sketchwriters and critics. It was another attempt by the party to showcase its non-white members and candidates, with local candidate Winston McKenzie on hand too.
But the event aimed at spinning a line about the party’s open-mindedness spun out of control. The steel band told journalists they didn’t know they’d been booked by Ukip, and were pretty unhappy about it too. Then a group of protesters accused the party of being Nazis. Then McKenzie, explaining why Nigel Farage had pulled out of attending the event, described the town he is standing for election in as a ‘dump’ and ‘unsafe’ because it had been failed by successive governments.
The Conservatives have become increasingly control-freakish about their big campaign days, excluding the press in favour of selected broadcasters so that the party can stage manage every moment as much as it possibly can. They even escorted a Telegraph journalist from an event yesterday. But the Conservatives at least have the advantage of large party organisation, many experienced spinners and (by and large) candidates who’ve had a bit of media training.
Ukip should be even more paranoid about controlling events, rather than leaving themselves so very open to ridicule like this. If booking a steel band without mentioning who the booking was for was naive, organising an event like this without wondering whether the risk of it descending into farce was foolish. The party’s supporters may argue that the event went badly because the media wanted it to go badly (that useful persecution complex again), but if you’ve got a media that wants an event to go badly, why organise an event with such colossal potential to do so?
It shows an unfounded confidence in the party’s ability to remain polished in an uncontrolled situation such as a street carnival where protesters and journalists can come and go as they please. Ukip may wish to avoid looking like a mainstream party that has spun itself into insincerity, but it surely also wishes to appear vaguely competent at organising a carnival, a drinking event in a brewery, or a campaign.
More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.