Ukip has been unusually quiet in its response to the Woolwich killing last week. The only thing we’ve heard is a tactful statement on the day from Nigel Farage, slamming the incident and calling for calm. Not a peep more, and certainly no outlandish statements about tackling the ‘cancer’ of Islam. The muted response is a clear sign Ukip is working hard at its message discipline.
The party still has one significant issue to overcome — the views of some of its members. In their response to the Woolwich incident, it appears Ukip wanted to avoid a rerun of the difficult stories they encountered at the local elections. Coffee House has seen an email sent out to all Ukip members shortly after the Woolwich killing, warning the rank and file not to cause trouble by voicing their opinions on the incident:
‘With the recent interest by the media in UKIP it is essential that we all do not cause unnecessary problems.
Therefore please do not Tweet or email any comments about this in case they are constructed as an official UKIP comment.’
This email suggests the Ukip leadership is well aware that some of the party’s members hold views that would not do them any favours if aired publicly. As Matthew Parris explains in his latest Spectator column, many Ukip supporters view the world through a prism, where extreme measures are the only appropriate response to the tyranny their perceive to be living under. Farage recently admitted some of his party may be BNP supporters, while Nick Griffin is actively encouraging BNP members to join Ukip. As he said in a lengthy article, hidden away on the BNP’s website:
‘They [the ‘genuine nationalists’] can still play a valuable role in the next stage of nationalism’s Long March: They should join Ukip, if necessary under false names.
‘[…] the curious long-term role of Ukip in the providential order of things will then one day become clear. So don’t be frightened of Ukip and don’t resent their temporary success.’
The communique also highlights the unique position Ukip now find themselves in. They’ve been living on the edge of British politics for twenty years and are still evolving into a respectable party. At the same time, they are squaring up to Labour and the Tories in the polls — currently at 27 per cent for next year’s European elections and 20 per cent of the national polling — neither of whom had to issue a diktat to their members in the event of a terrorist incident. But this diktat is a clear attempt at growing up fast.