Many people to whom UKIP appeals are drawn from the Tory base ("a swelling coalition of small businessmen, lone traders and hyper-Atlanticist cowboy capitalists", as Richard Seymour aptly put it). There are even some in UKIP who might have more in common with Old Labour, or who might even be called of the left, as this brilliant piece of writing by James Meek about Grimsby shows. Some of its concerns resonate with ordinary working class people left out by the turbulence of global capitalism.
And yet, somehow UKIP can't stop getting tangled up with the far right. Whether it's chatting on Twitter with Holocaust denying Hitler fans, posting racist cartoons on Facebook, winning the endorsement of Nick Griffin, commenting on Jews' hooked noses, or linking up with fruitcakish European parties, well, UKIP keeps on getting embarrassingly right-wing. This series of tweets gives about a dozen examples of UKIP straying close to fascist territory.
Unfortunately, the candidate UKIP has chosen for Lewisham East* is kind of in this category.
Her name is Anne-Marie Waters. I first noticed her in mid-2013 when she tried to get selected as a Labour Party candidate in Brighton (although she had earlier tried to get selected in Swindon South). Andy Newman of Socialist Unity had attacked her then, and my instinct was to defend her. Newman objected to her strident secularism, arguing that she promoted Islamophobia. At the time, although there were examples of some unsavoury memes in her narrative, I felt Newman's evidence was pretty thin. Waters was associated with One Law For All, a campaign against Sharia law that I strongly support, led mainly by ex-Muslim women. OL4A have a very clear policy that the counter-Jihadi right is their enemy not their potential ally.
However, around this time, Waters seemed to start moving further to the right, away from a secularist campaign against Islamism towards a blanket loathing of Muslims. Worryingly, she started associating more and more with far right activists around the English Defence League and its founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. Around the time Yaxley-Lennon left the EDL, Waters left Labour (oddly, she made the announcement on a far right Scandinavian website).
Before long, she had joined UKIP. It took a while before her associates in OL4A distanced themselves from her, but eventually, as her association with EDL became more and more blatant, they did so quite unambiguously, using the words "racist hate politics".
For a while it seemed as if she would be selected as UKIP parliamentary candidate in Billericay. To court the swivel-eyed Essex men that would be UKIP's base there, she widened her animosity from Muslims to Travellers.
Hilary Aked of SpinWatch wrote a profile of her for IRR in January. I think that sometimes SpinWatch, in describing a well-funded "neoconervative" counter-Jihadi conspiracy around people like Waters, can stretch their web a little too thinly to mean much. But Aked's core allegation, of Waters' links with the far right, is strong and damning, and it is important to ask where Waters gets her funding from. I hope neither you nor Aked mind if I quote at length:
In June 2014, Waters shared a platform in Copenhagen with Lars Hedegaard, the man behind the anti-Islam organisation the International Free Press Society. A video of the event- the launch of a Swedish edition of Hedegaard’s book Muhammad’s Girls: Violence, Murder and Rape in the House of Islam - shows her sitting next to the Dane, who was convicted of hate speech in 2011 after stating that ‘Muslims rape their children’, though he successfully appealed this conviction, on ‘free speech’ grounds, the following year. Chairing the event was Ingrid Carlqvist, a key member of the Swedish counterjihad network. Also on the panel was psychologist Nicolai Sennels of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, a prolific purveyor of Islamophobia dressed up as science. The video was produced by Dispatch International (DI), a mouthpiece for the counterjihad movement – for which Waters has written extensively – founded by Hedegaard and Carlqvist.
In her speech, Waters linked Islam to child abuse, saying (16:08) ‘it’s all linked to Islam’, which she characterised as a dangerous ‘ideology’ being ‘appeased’, adding (17:45): ‘it is exactly the same appeasement that is allowing young girls to be raped in Britain, it’s got nothing to do with race, it’s got to do with the fact that we will not confront the misogyny at the very, very heart of this religion’.
Waters also seems to have another far-right admirer, of more significance in the UK context. Alan Ayling (aka Alan Lake) helped set up, fund and strategise for the EDL, as an investigation by The Sunday Times revealed. A millionaire evangelical Christian, Ayling’s links with the counterjihad movement led Scotland Yard to interview him after Anders Behring Breivik’s 2011 massacre in Norway.
In a series of videos taken in October 2014 at Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park, which show Waters and others delivering diatribes against Islam, Ayling (wearing a black jacket and black t-shirt with yellow writing) can be seen in the group that appears to be supporting her between 1:08 and 1:19 in this video and from 4.40 in this clip.Around this time, Waters seemed to fail in her bid to stand in Basildon and Billericay (a UKIP target seat), and got the consolation prize of multicultural Lewisham East.
Ayling may have showed up uninvited or coincidentally. Though Waters’ various online links to the EDL have been documented, there is no definitive evidence of any offline connection. Ayling, in fact, is believed to have parted ways with the EDL, though his views have not changed. He now runs the website ‘Four Freedoms’ and has links to the far-right Sweden Democrats party. Waters did not respond to repeated requests to clarify her relationship with Ayling or to comment on other matters raised in this article.
The Mirror filmed her and another UKIP candidate speaking at a far right rally; they describe her as spouting anti-Muslim bigotry: “a lot of people need to be deported”, she said, and “many mosques need to be closed down”. And after the election, she is launching a right-wing "thinktank" with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.
South London Anti-Fascists have called for a picket of the hustings where she will appear tonight. Although, as I said at the start of this post, I don't think UKIP is a fascist party (and, in fact, although very hard right, nor is Waters), I agree that Anne Marie Waters should not be welcomed in Lewisham East.
*Note: Lewisham East is about as safe a Labour seat as it gets, so the question there is who will come second. UKIP did come second in the 2014 council elections in a lot of outer South East London, including one ward in Lewisham East, so some people have suggested UKIP could be the contender there. However, as Clare points out, across the constituency they came sixth in the vote share, with their 8% of votes. So, they don't constitute an electoral threat here.
Previous posts: #GE2015 - Lewisham West's anti-Muslim bigot; Are UKIP a threat in London?; Weighing into the Tommy Robinson debate.
Topics: EDL, Islam, Lewisham. Elections 2015.