UKIP, the UK Independence Party, is changing. As it grows in profile and popularity, it is revealing an ugly side. Perhaps that ugliness was hidden, perhaps it is new, but it is on show for the first time.
Debates in the past with such UKIP gentlemen as Nigel Farage and Gerard Batten revealed a party concerned about British sovereignty and British decline that saw in the institutions of the EU the cause of our troubles. Reclaim our day-to-day freedom to make our own decisions, they said, and we could start to put things right.
Of course, this website disagrees profoundly with their understanding of international interdependence and how to deal with the problems it causes, but at least it is something we can talk about. But that’s not the tone of UKIP these days.
A debate yesterday with one of its leading candidates for the European elections next May centred not on the European Union as such but on the foreigners who have come to Britain as a result. What was formerly a non-racist, non-sectarian constitutional project is now dropping the nons.
Why should British people have to wait in queues in hospitals behind eastern Europeans, I was asked, when they need cancer treatment?
The short answer is that hospitals are worth queueing in precisely because there are eastern Europeans working there. The front page of the Times this morning tells me that there are more than 1,400 Romanian nurses registered to work in the UK at the moment, for example. To cut off immigration is to deprive our health service, and our economy more generally, of the skills it needs.
The longer answer is to ask why eastern Europeans – paying their taxes, don’t forget – are less worthy of medical care, are less worthy of cancer treatment, are less worthy of being kept alive. What words should we use to describe that kind of attitude?