The leader of Britain’s anti-immigrant United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) turned to the words of Mahatma Gandhi to imply his party gaining ground from the fringes of British politics. Nigel Farage, who has pushed the Liberal Democrats down to fourth position to capture third place after the ruling Conservatives and Opposition Labour in recent months, used a famous Gandhian quote as he wrapped up his campaign las night.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, and then you win,” he said. The irony of his use of the Indian Independence leader’s words will not be lost as his party is viewed as divisive and on the far-right of British politics, with a strong stance against immigrants allowed to work in the UK.
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“Whatever they say about us, we must turn the other cheek and not descend to their level, and that’s what we have done,” Farage added. In line with the overall knife-edge picture in the UK as millions began voting today, the polls are neck-and-neck between Farage and his Conservative party opponent Craig Mackinlay in the Thanet South constituency in Kent, south-east England.
After emerging from the poll booth he joked on Twitter: “I can’t tell you who I voted for!” The UKIP leader, who had been dismissed as a loud-mouth commanding no popular support, led his party to an impressive performance in the 2009 European Parliament elections with the second-highest share of the popular vote after the Tories.
He has defined the 2015 general election as the “biggest day in his political career” and has vowed to step down as UKIP leader if he loses. However, it has been anything but smooth sailing for the party, with a number of candidates being suspended over allegedly racist remarks.
Indian-origin Jack Sen, whose grandfather served as a doctor in the British Indian Army during the Raj era, was to contest the seat from West Lancashire but was suspended days before the polls for anti-Semitic posts on Twitter against his rival candidate. The party still has three Punjabi-origin candidates – Avtar Taggar, Harjinder Sehmi and Harjinder Singh – in the fray who say they agree with the party’s stand on strict
controls over immigration.
The UKIP manifesto calls for leaving the European Union to “take back control of our borders” and on immigration it wants only those who can speak English and fill certain skill gaps to be allowed into the UK. The vote-share of the party in these elections will be reflective of Britain’s general stance on these key issues.