Anne Marie Waters is to stand as a UKIP candidate in Basildon. Neither she nor her new party are exactly favourites of mine – although both perhaps come in for a certain amount of misplaced, or disproportionate, abuse. I was inclined to agree with Andy Newman’s criticism of a video AMW had made (which no longer seems to be available) but it would take too long to catalogue the very many problems with Newman’s wider analysis of secular activism.
And I do in fact share many of Anne Marie Waters’ concerns – I am sure we have signed a few of the same petitions supporting secular causes, and, as far as I remember, I didn’t find much to disagree with in what she said on The Big Questions recently. But at the same time I do share the concerns other secularists (most conspicuously her former One Law for All colleague Maryam Namazie) have expressed about some of AMW’s statements and contacts. For example – and I’m aware this won’t be seen as a problem by some readers – she is an enthusiastic supporter of fellow UKIPer Pat Condell. I also thought her decision to publish in Dispatch International was seriously misjudged. However, while I disagree with the direction she has taken, I don’t place her in the same category as, say, Robert Spencer, let alone Pamela Geller. She supports Quilliam – that’s a strong indication that she is driven by sincere concerns about women’s rights, and is willing to recognize Muslim allies.
But her secular, feminist ideals don’t seem terribly well served by UKIP, a point which Alex Gabriel explores in this very interesting post. Here are a couple of the arguments he advances:
In 2012 David Coburn, spokesperson for the party’s National Executive Committee, described government same-sex marriage support as ‘an aggressive attack on people of faith, and an act of intolerance in itself’. In 2013, all but one of UKIP’s MEPs voted to halt progress on a motion in the European Parliament for increased provision of reproductive rights and women’s sexual health information.
If she’d jumped ship a year ago, I’d also have been pointing out the huge mismatch between her leftist stance (as a former Labour Party activist) and the policies of UKIP. There’s still a mismatch, but it’s rather less egregious now, as the party has moved (a bit) further to the left. They’ve abandoned their flat tax rate policy, for example.
However their attitude to workers is still pretty dubious, particularly women workers. Surely AMW doesn’t agree with Farage that women should effectively choose between ambition and motherhood? And Roger Helmer is another prominent UKIPer with dodgy views on a range of issues, including rape and homosexuality.
It’s not always easy to work out what UKIP’s official policies are at present, but their business spokesperson would seem to support slashing the rights of workers. Some claims about UKIP’s policies seem untrue. For example I have seen several people asserting that they intend to legalise rape within marriage when I assume that this is an exaggeration, based on the abhorrent views of a major donor.
Here is AMW’s own account of why she joined UKIP. She seems to share the party’s unappealing preoccupation with borders and immigration, and also singles out their emphasis on free speech.
Of the major parties that exist in British politics today, there is only one – one – which is genuinely committed to preserving freedom of speech. That party is UKIP. It is the only party with the courage to denounce the dishonesty and hypocrisy of ‘politically correct’ and disingenuous political speech, and to understand its dangers.
UKIP’s commitment to free speech is not unqualified. And it’s one thing to feel that people should be able to vent their prejudiced or offensive views freely, and another to implicitly endorse such bigotry.