YI Members Contest Pre-Conceptions at “Keep Notts UKIP-free” Event
It recently came to the attention of YI members in Nottingham that there was to be a “Keep Notts UKIP Free” event at the University of Nottingham. Naturally we decided to attend and hoped to hear why they felt that way, and perhaps even challenge their misconceptions. Our seven members diligently accepted leaflets from Left Unity, the Socialist Worker and other similar groups before the event began and listened silently whilst the two speakers, Ruth Smeeth from Hope Not Hate (and Labour candidate for Stoke on Trent) and Shreya Paudel, the NUS International Students Officer spoke.
After the chair had opened by calling UKIP “idiots “and “serious racists”, the speakers made the expected arguments. They said that UKIP are racist/ sexist/ homophobic because a council candidate posted something unsavory on Twitter, that UKIP want to abolish the NHS or do away with maternity rights and strangely that UKIP “don’t stand for black or brown people” as Shreya Paudel said. This is not only wrong but makes a mockery of the fact that his organization are meant to be politically neutral. He then proceeded to liken UKIP to Nazis and state that he wants the party “kicked away”. We remained silent throughout, tweeting what was said.
Next up was Ruth Smeeth from Hope Not Hate. She was of the opinion that UKIP cannot run an election campaign, conveniently ignoring UKIP’s EU elections victory, which had a far from incompetent campaign. Smeeth also conveniently ignored the numerous ex-BNP members in her own party when speaking of an ex National Front member who was once in UKIP. We remained incognito once more.
After the two speakers had finished, the floor were invited to share their own thoughts. At this point we ‘came clean’ as UKIP members with Brett Rickles and I speaking for a few minutes each. We were subject to interruptions and heckling which we had not given to any other speaker, and a few people even started calling for us to be removed from the room. In spite of this, we did get some of our points across and challenged some of the comments that had gone before. A handful of people came and spoke to us after the event. They may not have been converted, but were certainly interested in YI and said that they did not know that UKIP had many young supporters.
So, the message to YI members reading this is to not be put off by the negativity of an event. If UKIP are being discussed it is worth going, even if they resort to lies and abuse. If the two sides in this debate continue to ignore one another, relations will never be amicable, and that is not beneficial to either side. Attend, speak, challenge their views and be polite. At the very least they will be impressed by the fact that you turned up to listen to them.