WHILE Labour remain ferociously divided between Corbyn’s throwback leadership and the faux Toryism of Blair’s third way, and the Conservatives fret as ever over Europe, it appears that Islam is set to become the defining crossroads for the UK Independence Party as it struggles to replace retired skipper Nigel Farage.
UKIP leadership hopeful Lisa Duffy has drawn the battle lines with her call for a total ban on Muslim women wearing the veil in public, Islamic faith schools, and Sharia courts.
The Cambridgeshire councillor, who is backed by suspended former UKIP deputy chairman Suzanne Evans, has put herself forward as the ‘common-sense’ candidate and described the veil as “a symbol of aggressive separatism that can only foster extremism… forced on women by men who view them as their property.”
Portraying the proposed policy as an integration issue, Duffy pledged that the ban would be limited to the public sphere, an eleventh commandment instructing people to ‘show their faces’ when out and about.
“On our public transport networks, in public buildings, banks, stores and shopping precincts – all those places where teenagers are told to take their hoodies down and where motorcyclists are expected to remove their helmets – it is only reasonable to expect everyone to show their faces,” she said.
“Again, it is about making sure there is one law for all, rather than making an exception for a community because we are frightened of causing offence. There is no offence to be taken if all are treated equally.”
Describing herself as a “white, Christian woman”, Duffy went on to argue that there was no reason she should enjoy greater civil liberties than Muslim women, calling for a “positive vision for British Islam where girls can grow up with equal rights to men and be given the rights of self-determination the rest of us take for granted.”
There are six candidates for the UKIP leadership, with no clear favourite following the collapse of Suzanne Evans’ and Stephen Woolfe’s candidacies, and the winner due to be announced at the party conference on September 15.
One rival has already made clear his opposition to Duffy’s proposals. Bill Etheridge, an MEP booted out of the Tories after posing with golliwog dolls on Facebook, claims it would be “small minded” to chase the “bigot vote”.
Clearly not one to shy away from hypocrisy, Etheridge has himself previously called for a ban on the burqa and praised Hitler for ‘achieving a great deal’, while urging UKIP to ‘cement libertarianism into our DNA’.
Intra-party politics have rapidly degenerated after Farage skipped off into the sunset having ‘done his bit’ in tipping Britain into Brexit. Elements associated with Nigel’s long-term rival, Douglas Carswell, who became the party’s only MP after defecting from the Tories, have been accused of launching a coup over the National Executive Committee (NEC).
Farage favourite and former frontrunner Steven Woolfe was ruled ineligible to stand after missing the deadline by 17 minutes courtesy of an apparent computer meltdown, sparking the resignation of three party members in disgust over the decision.
In a joint statement they accused the NEC of putting “personal ambitions, loyalties and jealousies at the heart of their decision making.
“We have witnessed an escalating megalomania that is detrimental to the functioning of the party. It has now reached the stage where the party’s national executive has essentially usurped full governance of the party and is collectively in pursuit of oligarchy, self-promotion and cronyism.”
With none of the key players in the party’s internecine warfare actually competing in the leadership race, and the candidates themselves essentially pawns in a proxy war of donors, egos , ideologues and politicians, the odds of the party remaining united after September 15 appear extremely low.