Recent events in Rochester have seen the masks slip from both UKIP and the Labour Party. Regarding UKIP, it seems that Mark Reckless was genuinely caught off guard when he made his gaffe suggesting that East European migrants could be offered an 'amnesty period' if we leave the EU, which carried the implication that repatriation of people already in the UK was being considered by UKIP. Later Mr Farage claimed that Mr Reckless was tired and misunderstood the question as being about illegal immigrants rather than legal migrant workers. I fully accept that a gaffe is a gaffe and that anyone can make them. The real story for me was the response I witnessed on media websites and social networking sites from people claiming to be UKIP supporters. Masses of comments along the lines of, 'who cares if they want to deport them, I'm still voting UKIP', and 'send them back' and so forth.
I'm not suggesting for one moment that all UKIP voters support the forced repatriation of people who have lived here for years, worked hard and paid taxes. However UKIP has clearly failed to make its position clear enough on this issue to avoid attracting supporters who think that the forced deportation of law-abiding people with jobs, houses and partners in the UK is an acceptable policy.
Regarding Labour, well I'm not in the least bit surprised by Emily Thornberry's tweet. Arguably the hapless Mr Miliband's decision to sack her simply garnered more media attention to the matter than it would otherwise have got and ensured that this was the story on the day after the election rather than the Conservatives losing a seat. However that said, the issue has highlighted once again the huge gulf between those running the Labour Party and their grass roots voters. Here again is the picture which caused all the fuss:
The problem is that the Labour Party is increasingly perceived as being run by people who are either middle-class champagne 'Hampstead left' socialists, Tony Blair type liberals or people who have distanced themselves from their working class backgrounds to the extent of self-hatred. It adds to the sense created by Gordon Brown's 'bigoted woman' gaffe that Labour leaders think that any sign of patriotism is racist and that working class people need to be 'educated' in the right way of thinking rather than listened to.
What both of the above problems indicate is that UKIP cannot be relied on to address legitimate concerns about immigration levels without appealing to extreme right wing people with dangerous ideas. Labour meanwhile cannot be trusted not to talk down their noses at the public and treat every sign of patriotism as vulgar or racist.