Dead Men Left

Monday, June 07, 2004

Nick Cohen: At least they're not Muslims (pt.2)

Pressing chapter deadline notwithstanding, there was an interesting letter in this week's Socialist Worker.

Please note: I left UKIP

IN YOUR article '10 Things You Should Know About UKIP', you wrongly use the present tense. You say that I "write" for Third Way. In fact, I haven't written for it or had any contact with it since 1998. Also I did not co-author UKIP's 2004 manifesto, but their 2001 manifesto for the general election.

I have since left UKIP because, as a gay man, I found it institutionally homophobic. I now reject all forms of right wing politics. I also unequivocally oppose all forms of racism, and my position on the Iraq war is the same as Respect's.

Aidan Rankin, London

(In fairness to SW, UKIP still appear to be plugging their 2001 manifesto as a substantive policy document, as a visit to their website shows.) Fair play to Aidan, though, for apparently making the break with "all forms of right wing politics". What particularly interests me, however, is his description of UKIP as "institutionally homophobic". I don't imagine anyone out there will be surprised by this, but it strikes me as somewhat peculiar that Nick Cohen should write that Respect has "reach[ed] a pact with religious bigotry", citing an instance in which another, smaller organisation - not Respect - issued a homophobic leaflet in Birmingham, whilst calling for a Respect vote. Under pressure it then withdrew the leaflet. Respect's own position is (to quote again) to support "the right to self-determination for individual in relation to their... sexual choices," and it is significant that the Birmingham-based PJP was forced to remove the leaflet: it could be cited as an example of Respect's positive influence. Equally, it could be pointed out that Birmingham Respect was the only political organisation to turn out in numbers in support of the Gay Pride event in that city.

Nick Cohen thus claims that an allegedly "institutionally homophobic" organisation that permits known Holocuast deniers to hold leadership positions is more "respectable" - "whatever you think of their politics" - than an organisation actively campaigning against homophobia and racism. It is not beyond Cohen's wit as a journalist, one would hope, to notice that UKIP is vast distance from any variant of left politics, but Cohen scraped out and spent his last dregs of left credibility some time ago. He is reduced, in the final paragrpah of his miserable article, to leaning on the tiny, if grotesque (and grotesquely misnamed) "Alliance for Workers Liberty" for support. That, I suppose, just about sums his current position up: from biting critiques of New Labour's rightward drive to a slide into the gutter politics of Islamaphobia. A sad end.