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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

UKIP and its more than mildly eccentric membership

Today's Times spills the beans on the UKIP candidate approval process and the test that has failed to help the party weed out the more extreme 'fruitcakes' as the paper describes them.

They say that the company that ran a “fruitcake test” for Ukip has said that its psychometric assessment is not an appropriate tool for selecting political candidates:

The Times has obtained details of the questions that were put to people applying to be MEPs to try to “weed out the Walter Mittys”, as Nigel Farage has put it. Designed to assess emotional intelligence, candidates were asked to rate themselves on a scale of one to five on statements such as: “I generally hope for the best”; “I find it difficult to describe my feelings”; and “I would describe myself as a calm person.”

Martin Reed, chief executive of Thomas International, said that the company had no idea that the test it designed would be used to choose parliamentary candidates. “It would generally be used as a coaching and development tool,” he said. “It’s not a black and white process.”

One councillor who applied to be an MEP was rejected on the basis of the test, which was used as part of a wider assessment process by the party. However, he later discovered that he had scored 99 per cent overall, with high marks for empathy, well-being, independence and optimism. He believes that he was a victim of a “stitch-up” by Mr Farage.

A friend in the party told him that he was clearly “too sane to be a Ukip MEP”.

My favourte part of the article however is at the end in which the paper outlines some of the more embarrassing highlights of the party's investment in its members. It is worth quoting at length:

There is still scope for embarrassment, though. The bestselling children’s writer G. P. Taylor — author of the Shadowmancer series — joined Ukip, giving money and standing as a councillor, but left last year because he felt uncomfortable with the members. “I met quite a few and I decided they weren’t the type of people I wanted to be around,” he said. “There was one guy who looked like a character in ’Allo ’Allo!, with a trilby and a leather coat.

“There were some very odd people in the Ukip fold — a couple of conspiracy theorists, others who were saying things which I felt were verging on racist and misogynistic. I decided I didn’t want to be involved.”

Last week Donna Edmunds, a Ukip councillor who is standing for the European Parliament, was criticised after claiming that businesses should be allowed to refuse service to women, gay or black people. There was controversy over the party’s former Commonwealth spokesman, who had been jailed for his role in a kidnapping gang in Pakistan. A prospective MEP, Shneur Odze, refused to shake women’s hands, claiming that his Orthodox Judaism forbade contact with women other than his wife.

Pearlette Hopkins, who is standing as a councillor in Bristol, arrived from Jamaica in 2001 and is now a UK resident but has yet to become a citizen. “It’s so expensive to become one,” she says.
She resents the fact she cannot bring her two children and three grandchildren to this country. “It’s impossible for them to come over here now. There are too many other immigrants and they wouldn’t be able to work or get benefits unlike the Eastern Europeans. It’s unfair for Britain to turn its back on the Commonwealth like this,” she says. “I love Britain but the schools are shocking and they speak so many languages here now, you barely realise you are in Britain any more.”

David Silvester, the Ukip councillor from Henley who was suspended from the party after claiming that the floods were a punishment from God, has been asked to reapply for membership. “I don’t regret what I said at all,” he said. “I believe God is behind all the weather, the Old Testament makes that absolutely clear. I’ve had letters and e-mails of support from several hundred people and quite large numbers of them are Ukip members.”

He thinks other punishments may be meted out from on high: “This nation has got a lot to answer for — abortion, for example. Since 1967, we have killed more foetuses than Jews were killed by the Nazis.”

As it expands to fill the “protest party” vacuum left by the Lib Dems, Ukip seems happy to welcome individuals shunned by other parties. One activist at the spring conference, who would not give his name, said: “I was a teacher and I was sacked for swearing and touching a child but I didn’t do it. Ukip are the only ones who have supported me. They recognise that this PC gone mad is hounding good people out of jobs.”

The party has also accepted money from donors who would set alarm bells ringing elsewhere. Demetri Marchessini, a Greek businessman who has donated at least £10,000 to Ukip, describes homosexuality as “immoral” and insists that women should never wear trousers. “It says in the Bible that anyone who wears the clothes of the opposite sex is an abomination,” he told us. “For thousands of years it was a crime. In any case women look terrible in trousers . . . maybe Audrey Hepburn or Marlene Dietrich could wear them but most women can’t.”

He said that he had photographed many women “from the rear” to prove his theory. “Women no longer dress to please men or even just to look nice.”

He said that sexual harassment allegations were also “absurd”. “How can you have sexual harassment if men and women are equal? If someone touches your leg, you ask them to move their hand.” He also criticised working mothers, saying that they should stay at home for their children.

Then he suggested lunch, saying: “The Ritz is always safe for ladies.”

To use a fairly hackneyed phrase, you could not make it up.
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