UKIP promotes ‘burka ban’ in desperate scramble for relevancy

David Lawrence - 23 04 17

In an increasingly desperate bid for publicity and further drive to the right, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall announced today that banning the burka is to be a central policy of the party’s manifesto ahead of the 8 June General Election.

Nuttall appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show this morning to state that his party would ban full veils worn by some Muslim women, as wearing the burka or niqab in public was (in his words) a “security threat” and a “barrier” to integration. According to Nuttall, such a ban could be enforced by fining women who break it.

“We need to ensure that these people are fully integrated into British society,” Nuttall told Marr. “You can’t do that if you’re hidden behind a veil.”

The policy, alongside a ban on Sharia law, is to be part of UKIP’s “integration agenda”, set to launch tomorrow. A ‘Sharia ban’ apes that being pushed by many counter-jihadist ideologues in the USA.

UKIP’s deputy leader, Peter Whittle, defended the proposed ban on LBC Radio this morning, stating that “the idea that [women] choose to wear it I think is a fallacious one”.

“There comes a point where you have to sort of draw a line, and say that these are our values, in a country like Britain or France for that matter, we communicate by looking at each other’s faces,” said Whittle.


Ever since UKIP achieved its founding objective –  for the UK to leave the European Union –  last June, the party has found itself mired in crisis. The abdication of leader and talisman Nigel Farage soon after the referendum result has left a void at the centre of the party which Nuttall – who missed an “open goal” with his failure at the February 2017 Stoke by-election – has proved unable to fill.

UKIP is much diminished after almost a year of vicious infighting and has haemorrhaged donors, leading figures and members since June 2016. Whilst the party has succeeded in shifting the focus of British politics to the right, the apparent adoption of many of UKIP’s policies by Theresa May’s Conservative government appears to have left the party without purpose.

Even before Mrs May called the General Election pollsters were predicting UKIP could lose as many as 100 of the 146 council seats being contested. The looming General Election has greatly exacerbated this strain. Recent opinion polls have suggested UKIP has lost a third of its voters since last June. UKIP’s crisis threatens to become an existential one.


In an attempt to salvage his party, Nuttall appears to be returning to the territory he knows best: nativist and anti-Islam policy and rhetoric.

During his tenure at UKIP Nuttall has established himself as one of the party’s most hardline voices with a multitude of crude Islamophobic statements. One revealing example is a 2015 article penned by Nuttall for ladmag The Midweek Sport, during which he wrote of a Muslim plot to “conquer” Europe:

“We are importing Muslims into Europe in Biblical proportions and if demographics are anything to go by, in some European countries they will either be the majority or close to it by the end of the 21st century. We only have to listen to the chilling words of Sheikh Muhammad Ayed to understand how dangerous this is. He recently said in a speech at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem that Muslim immigrants should breed with the Europeans to “conquer their countries”. And we are encouraging this through our bleeding liberal hearts.”

Nuttall’s bile

Nuttall also attracted criticism for an October 2015 speech made in the European Parliament during which he labelled the response of the EU to the refugee crisis “freedom of movement of Jihad.”

In light of such views it is unsurprising that banning the burka is a policy long backed by Nuttall, who in 2016 refuted Amnesty International’s claim that wearing a burka is a human right, stating the veil is “just a piece of material”, and that “no one should receive special treatment simply because we are scared of offending any minority”.

Since the General Election of 2015 UKIP has faced an internal struggle over messaging around immigration and Islam. However, the party is now free of the moderating influence of the libertarian MP Douglas Carswell, who quit the party in March after a number of explosive conflicts with party hardliners. While Nuttall was on good terms with Carswell, his exit allows Nuttall to return to his comfort zone, and to push UKIP into ever more dangerous, discriminatory terrain.


Nuttall’s attempts to salvage the party by framing it in opposition to Islam seems likely to end in failure. Issues around Islam have faded from public focus in an election utterly dominated by Brexit. Such ugly policies are unlikely to gain traction in the Tory heartlands where UKIP were once strong, and may contribute to UKIP losing the former Conservative voters the party had attracted through its Euroscepticism.

This fact has not been lost even on UKIP’s hardline allies. Andy Wigmore, spin doctor of the toxic anti-immigration Leave.EU campaign and sidekick to Clacton Parliamentary candidate Arron Banks, slammed the policy on twitter, writing:

“Bad timing –  this election not about banning the fucking burkha know [sic] one gives a toss even in north of England issue much more complicated”.  Banks is expected to announce on Wednesday whether he will be standing under a UKIP banner in Clacton, making Wigmore’s criticisms all the more pertinent.

“I don’t think that anybody left in UKIP after today can still claim they are simply there for Brexit”, a former advisor to the party told HOPE not hate. “If they were really focused on the legitimate post-Article 50 process they would have offered a plan first and foremost. They have now concluded their degeneration into the new BNP”.

UKIP has repeatedly denied accusations of Islamophobia. However, in the face of electoral oblivion, Nuttall appears to be indulging his discriminatory tendencies. The depths to which UKIP are willing to plumb in order to maintain relevancy will become clear in the coming weeks, but it may cause lasting damage to the already bruised party.

Writing on Twitter, Brendan Cox, the activist and husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, suggested the recent moves had more to do with UKIP’s poll numbers.

Brendan Cox unimpressed with UKIP’s move


Stay informed

Sign up for emails from HOPE not hate to make sure you stay up to date with the latest news, and to receive simple actions you can take to help spread HOPE.


We couldn't do it without our supporters

Fund research, counter hate and support and grow inclusive communities by donating to HOPE not hate today

I am looking for...


Useful links

Close Search X
Donate to HOPE not hate