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05/12/2016

Song lauding UKIP withdrawn after race row

UK & Europe

Song lauding UKIP withdrawn after race row

Nigel Farage [Chatham House/Flickr].jpg

The performer of a song promoting the anti-EU UK Independence Party before next year’s election in Britain said on Wednesday (22 October) he was withdrawing the track from sale after being accused of racism.

UKIP wants to sharply curb immigration and the song, “UKIP Calypso”, includes a line about “illegal immigrants in every town”. Mike Read, the former BBC Radio 1 DJ who wrote the track, performed it with a mock Caribbean accent.

Party leader Nigel Farage, who was praised in the song, had urged supporters to propel it to the top of the music charts, where it had already reached number 21 by mid-week.

But on Wednesday, after a backlash on social media and from UKIP’s political rivals, Read said he had asked his record company to withdraw the track immediately. The Red Cross also turned down UKIP’s offer of any profits to help treat the Ebola outbreak in west Africa.

“I’m so sorry that the song unintentionally caused offence. That was never my intention and I apologise unreservedly if anyone has taken offence,” said Read, who said he had not intended the song to be racist and was not racist himself.

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But David Lammy, an opposition Labour lawmaker, said the song was “everything we’ve come to expect from a party whose politics is based firmly on prejudice, resentment and fear-mongering.”

UKIP, which wants Britain to leave the European Union, won European elections in Britain in May, has poached two lawmakers from Cameron’s Conservatives, and has boosted its support in opinion polls to record levels before May’s national election.

Prime Minister David Cameron once derided UKIP as “closet racists”, a charge the party strongly denies. It has expelled members in the past for making racist statements and is increasingly viewed as mainstream after it won its first elected seat in parliament this month.

However, the track generated uncomfortable publicity for the party before a 20 November by-election for a parliamentary seat in southern England, which it is also hoping to win.

UKIP blamed elements of the media for what it called the “harsh” way Read and his song had been treated.

“We thought it was just a bit of fun, as did thousands of people, evidenced by how well it has been selling,” a UKIP spokeswoman said.

“Were it not for the synthetic outrage, the song would have generated a lot of money for charity, as profits were to be split with the Red Cross for their Ebola Outreach programme. It’s a pity those so concerned with political correctness have trodden all over this.”

UKIP said it would now give all the profits from the song to the Red Cross to make sure the charity did not lose out. However, the British Red Cross said it would not accept the money, saying such a donation could imperil its neutrality.

“In addition, the Red Cross has a proud history of helping refugees and asylum seekers who are negatively referred to in the lyrics (of the song),” it said in a statement.

UKIP’s alliance in the European Parliament this week with a far-right Polish party, whose leader, MEP Robert Iwaszkiewicz, has been called a racist Holocaust denier, has also drawn criticism.

“What really worries me about this is that there is not more of a row about these things that we see coming out of UKIP,” Chuka Umunna, another Labour lawmaker, told London’s LBC radio on Wednesday.

“They are now, arguably, one of the main parties in our country and I think a lot of this stuff is vile, it’s absolutely vile and it is not in keeping with our British values.”

Background

The anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) emerged as the first British party represented in the European Parliament after the EU elections in May 2014.

The Conservatives, the party currently in a governing coalition with the Liberal Democrats, were pushed into third place for the first time in Britain's history.

UKIP later won its first elected seat in the British parliament on 9 October 2014, by a huge margin.

Support for UKIP hit a record high of 25% in an opinion poll held days after it won its first elected seat the British parliament.

Timeline

  • May 2015: National elections to be held in the UK
  • 2017: Likely date for Britain to hold a referendum on whether to stay or leave the EU