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UKIP Were Jeered by an Angry Mob in Brighton Yesterday

Apparently they "don't allow immigrants in" to their meet-ups.

UKIP members outside the Ralli Memorial Hall in Denmark Villas, Hove

UKIP have experienced a surge in popularity recently. But as so often in life, love and hate are arranging themselves either side of the same thin line. As some sections of the electorate appear to be warming to their cause, they're rapidly gaining pariah status among those who believe that they’re basically the EDL in sheep farmers' clothing – unreformed racist loons who would be out there on the streets, necking seven lagers and attacking Muslims if it weren't for their age and CAMRA memberships.


Which is why trouble now seems to follow UKIP wherever they go. Friday marks the first anniversary of Nigel Farage being barricaded into a pub in Scotland, and earlier this month he was egged in Nottingham by a man who, shockingly, explained that he “doesn’t agree with UKIP policies”. Yesterday, UKIP MEP Gerard Batten – a man who has called for Muslims to sign a "code of conduct" – had a brick thrown through the windows of his house.

So perhaps it’s unsurprising that Farage's team in Brighton and Hove were kind of on edge before their public meeting last night. They'd heard that a mob of local anti-fascists, anarchists and left-wingers were going to show up to piss all over their party. MEP candidate Janice Atkinson, in particular, was worried about being called a fascist: “We are asking police to act under the Public Order Act. If we are having pensioners turning up and being called racist Nazi sluts, little old ladies who themselves or their parents probably fought in the war – that’s a hate crime, it’s inciting the public to violence.”

I went to Brighton to see if anybody really would get called a “Nazi slut” or at least pelted with an egg – and, if so, whether anybody would get arrested for it. In the end that didn't really happen. But there was a whole lot of shouting, smoking and standing around.

I struck up conversation with a friendly UKIP supporter named Jamie, who was more than happy to chat about his love for the party. He complained that our "system' was in a "sad state of affairs". He stressed that he did not have a problem with immigrants per se, but felt that the main parties had nothing to offer him any more. UKIP are selling English jobs for English people, and Jamie is buying it.


On the other side of the coin were Alex and Arianna, who were refused entry to the meeting – despite it being billed as public – after UKIP branch secretary Linda Reid told them bluntly that "we don't allow immigrants in". I asked Alex whether she felt that her nose ring and bandana might've let her down, but came to the conclusion that people who look like This Is England extras probably aren't quite as reviled as Italians like Arianna. It seemed that Linda – or "the stern woman with the racist face" – had slipped up, but in truth it's the kind of brash, cartoonish move that detracts from just how scary some of UKIP's policies actually are.

But seeing the motley crew huddled outside, being berated by Spanish squatters, stripped away much of their jokey facade. They were hard-faced and media-wary. A bunch of defensive misfits that had an inherent fear of the press, which in itself is scary as it belies a greater feeling that they do not wish to be monitored, or checked, or questioned in any way. They are tough, more pugilistic than a political party should ever be. A great troupe of monkeys, obviously uncomfortable in their suits and shiny shoes. The woman who refused to speak to me also looked like she wanted to attack me.

On the way to the protest, I had a pleasant chat with my cabbie, who was curious where I was going. We also spoke about his plans to sit in the garden drinking red wine on his day off, and the merits of being from Brighton (like we both are). I observed that lots of cab drivers I'd encountered around the city seemed to be Brighton born and bred, which he found hilarious, saying: "Well no, no. Not those, um… Foreigners, you know, ones with brown skin. What do you call them?"


A UKIP member gives us the once over

"Mixed race?"

"Yeah! Mixed race. Thank god you're around to tell me, love."

He reminded me of Jamie – well meaning and sweet, but unsure of himself. Through tapping into a collective fear, felt not only by the "working class" but also by young people terrified out of their minds about the mess into which they are being catapulted, UKIP are being given a growing platform from which to voice their most insidious views. Fear and disillusionment are the fuel that keeps their increasingly bright flame burning.