The Stigma Politics of British Nationalism
“KEEP HIV POSITIVE MIGRANTS OUT OF BRITAIN, SAYS FARAGE”. That is the headline that screeched across Friday’s edition of The Guardian. Mr Farage made his remarks in an interview with Newsweek Europe when asked what sort of people should be allowed to migrate to the UK. He said: “People who do not have HIV, to be frank. That’s a good start. And people with a skill.”
Many people have rightly condemned these remarks. As well as branding the remarks outrageous, medieval and barrel scraping, Mr Farage has also been branded ignorant on the issue of HIV in the modern world. Whilst at best this may be the case I, for one, am not wholly convinced. Nigel Farage is a dangerous man and those of us who oppose his politics must smarten up to this sooner rather than later.
Farage’s circle of scapegoats seems to be ever widening. It has to be in order for his party to succeed. At first it was all about bashing bureaucrats in Brussels; then immigrants who came here to seek a new life and new opportunities. UKIP then realised it needed a wider platform than just Euro/immigrant bashing, so it decided to take aim at those who dare to use the welfare state – largely those with a disability, are in low paid work or live in poverty. See where this is heading?
Now Mr Farage seems intent on resurrecting an old stigma. Wishing to exclude migrants who are HIV positive, Nigel would put the UK in the same category as Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Libya. By contrast the USA ended its travel ban for HIV people in 2010, bringing to an end 22 years of policy that was rooted in fear, suspicion and ignorance rather than fact.
This latest outburst tells me all I need to know about UKIP’s intention to help fight HIV and AIDS across the world. They won’t. UKIP would rather stop tackling the disease with other countries around the world and instead pretend that it doesn’t exist – at least in Britain anyway. This is despite the UN previously stating that such a draconian measure would have no impact on the epidemic. What Farage is trying to sell here is a lie and a dangerous one at that.
What Farage has failed to mention is how people live with HIV in the modern age. We now know more about the disease than ever before, meaning that drugs are widely available to those diagnosed with HIV so that they can live an otherwise normal and healthy life. A virus that previously sentenced millions to death is now being contained, meaning that people can still live a life with their loved ones, be mothers, uncles, brothers and friends. No longer do we incubate people and manage their death. Instead we treat people medically and empower them to overcome the stigma that is, albeit slowly, dying off. People with HIV are working and living amongst us. Nigel Farage knows this.
So why, then, has he chosen to say these things now? This is perhaps the most sinister part of the whole episode. These comments come on the same day that the UK Government announced screening at airports to protect the British public from Ebola. At a time when people are concerned about a virus that is hitting the headlines with its claimant count going up, Mr Farage has chosen to resurrect the mass-panic from the 1980s over HIV, despite the virus being completely different. Forget the facts. Forget science. UKIP’s circle of scapegoats must keep on widening.
This is one of the nastiest and most sinister things that I have known in politics. Not content with bashing innocent citizens for all manner of reasons, Nigel Farage wants to take us back three decades. He and his party want to put HIV positive people back in to the shadows of the 1980s.
Those of us on the left must wise up to the creature that is taking votes from across the political divide. There is a vacuum of despair in English politics that UKIP is filling with bigotry, hatred and division. We in Scotland cannot ignore this. Let these comments be another siren, warning us of the direction that UKIP is taking us. We have seen this kind of politics before. We have seen where it can head. Do we really want to look back in twenty years’ time and kick ourselves for having not noticed what was going on? The response from the Tories has been to try and accommodate UKIP. This has turned out to be a disaster. Let’s beat them and ensure that progress wins the day.