If UKIP thinks it is the victim of a smear campaign in the run-up to the local elections, then it needs to have a little think about whether the chief smearers hail from UKIP HQ itself, or CCHQ, as Paul Nuttall claimed they did when he appeared on the Sunday Politics earlier today. This evening, one of its internal smearers took to the airwaves to remind voters of a few other interesting aspects of the party’s character. Godfrey Bloom, the party’s MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, gave John Pienaar an interview on his show this evening in which he reiterated his belief that businesses shouldn’t employ women of a childbearing age.
You can hear the full exchange, including Bloom telling the show that he’d employ me because I’m a writer and can work from home (presumably in order to make sandwiches and clean behind the fridge properly), here, but these are his key lines:
‘Well the point I was making with draconian employment legislation, we have a problem that employers are frightened to employ women of childbearing age so they tend to employ women whose families have grown up and that has been vindicated in spades so when I said that in 2004 it caused ooh shock horror and now it’s received wisdom.’
‘I wouldn’t have a problem employing Isabel because she’s a writer – she can do her work from any work station, that’s not a problem – but 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.’
Aside from what appears to be a very shaky understanding of how maternity leave and maternity pay work, Bloom’s comments are either proof that UKIP contains ‘fruitcakes’ and – as Ken Clarke put while wearing his own rather fruity tweed jacket and turtle-necked outfit – ‘waifs and strays’, or it doesn’t matter because no-one who votes for this party cares what its policies are. Certainly Nigel Farage’s willingness to U-turn over a former manifesto pledge for a flat tax suggests that the party’s high command thinks the latter is the case; that their appeal as the anti-politics party supersedes any work they have done on what the really believe.
But there is one other thing worth mulling about this idea that really, employing any woman who even falls within her local NHS trust’s catchment age for IVF makes bad business, is that it does fit a certain strand of anti-politics thinking that UKIP is looking to capture. The party claims to be libertarian, but also opposes gay marriage, presumably because of the electoral benefit this incurs as unhappy social conservatives look away from the Tories (Alex Massie wrote an excellent piece on this a while back). There are of course many people who take a principled stand against gay marriage but who would never dream of questioning the role of women in the workplace or employment rights for mothers. But Bloom seemed very pleased that he was able to remind Radio 5Live listeners of his views on women of childbearing age, presumably because he believes there are votes in endorsing ‘perfectly straightforward small business policy’ rather than worrying that he might be offending 50 per cent of the electorate.