Trigger warning for rape in this article.
Dear Nigel Farage,
I can’t stop looking at the photo above – women in Afghanistan queuing to vote in the first democratic transfer of power the country has ever seen. A tremendous occasion by all accounts. Voter turnout in the Afghan election was about that of the 2012 American presidential election which saw Barack Obama re-elected. I think both me and you are hoping for a similar turnout in the May 22nd elections, but I fear we may be disappointed.
I wanted to let you know that I won’t be voting for you. I don’t suppose it takes a genius to work that one out – I’ll be voting Labour in the European election, I’ll be voting for Labour’s candidate in my home ward, Dena Rafati, and I’ll be knocking on doors challenging your party with my ward colleague, Bill Stevens, in our own seat in Devonport.I’m a paid-up member of the Labour Party and a socialist, so this probably wouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone.
Worryingly, though, some of my friends have expressed an interest in voting for the UK Independence Party. Even more worryingly, a couple of them are women – and, not just as a feminist but as a woman, this terrifies me. You see, Nigel, your party really does have an issue with women (as well as lots of other groups in society which I could mention like gay people or immigrants, but I won’t) and that really gives me an issue. I believe in the power of democracy, but the thought your party being elected onto my council, or even worse into our Parliament, makes me feel sick.
Because whilst I believe in democracy, I also believe that people should know exactly what they are voting for. A vote for UKIP isn’t just an anti-politics vote. It isn’t just an anti-immigration vote. It isn’t just an anti-EU vote. It is anti-women. You’ve done very well to get this far making people believe that withdrawing from Europe and getting rid of Britain’s immigrants is pretty much all you stand for – but that’s dangerous politics, Nigel.
I want to urge every woman not to vote for you, and for your party, at every available opportunity. This boils mostly down to the fact that your party is fundamentally racist and homophobic, but also because I don’t want you and your party to undo all the steps taken towards gender equality:
One of your biggest donors believes that women cannot be raped by their husbands: This made me feel physically sick. Demetri Marchessini, the 6th biggest individual donor to your party, said on television that “If you make love on Friday and make love Sunday, you can’t say Saturday is rape”. Incredibly damaging to the women who are raped by their husbands and partners every day, incredibly ignorant of the fact that 85% of rapists are known to their victims, a high percentage of these within relationships. You shouldn’t be accepting money from this man. If The Labour Party willingly took donations from someone who felt this way about women, I would surrender my membership. It is filthy money. Sickeningly, I came across this by the Green Parliamentary Candidate in Maidstone and the Weald, which shows you yourself voted against a motion combating violence against women which included, amongst other, vital steps to tackle violence against women, a clause to “recognise sexual violence within marriage as a crime and to make rape within marriage a criminal offence”. Why would you vote against this? What is wrong with you?
One of your then-MEPs thinks that domestic violence is “very unusual across the board”: Conveniently ignoring the horrific fact that two women die every week as a result of violence from their partner, word-vomiter Godfrey Bloom, who has since had your whip (thankfully) withdrawn, reckons the good people of Yorkshire share his “common sense” views on this issue. Not the people I’ve spoken to – they are utterly horrified that someone like this is supposedly representing their interests – and you should be too.
The same MEP thinks it’s acceptable to call women sluts: He really was a magnificent find for you, wasn’t he? I’ve seen a lot of (wrong) people defend this as a hilariously-funny-but-totally-fell-flat-on-its-face joke. I would ask you if you would accept the same degree of language, but used against men, from another politician in the limelight – but words like “slut” and “slag” are seemingly reserved only for women. Lucky us, eh?
Oh, and the same MEP thinks feminists are “shrill, bored, middle class women of a certain physical genre”. Less shrill and more shouty, I’m a fat, working class feminist who could never be bored because parties like yours give me plenty of opportunities to bash my head against a brick wall.
Another of your MEPs think women can’t have both ambition and a baby: It just gets better and better, doesn’t it, Nigel? This time it’s Stuart Agnew, with his analysis that “…for various reasons they don’t have the ambition to go right to the top because something gets in the way. It’s called a baby.” Do you know who agrees with him? Your Treasurer, Stuart Wheeler – reckons boardrooms are “too competitive” for us, and bases his analysis on the fact that women come “absolutely nowhere” in chess, bridge and poker. Tell that to Victoria Coren Mitchell.
Oh, and sorry to keep bringing him up, but Godfrey Bloom is the gift that just keeps on giving. Back in 2004, he reckoned that “If you want to have a baby, you hand in your resignation and free up a job for another young lady.” But then, what do you expect from someone who was put onto the European Parliament’s women’s rights and gender equality committee to, I kid you not, REPRESENT MEN’S RIGHTS.
Oh, and do you know who else agrees with that? You. You think that I’d be worth less to an employer than a man if I had a baby. I’m with Harriet Harman on this one – “there is not a single business or public service in this country which would still have the lights on if women weren’t there at work.” Women are unrepresented in politics, a tragedy considering we make up more than 50% of the population – and women shouldn’t be excluded from leadership roles for having kids. After all, we could be carrying the next Godfrey Bloom, and nobody wants the world to be deprived of that, do they?
You want to scrap paid maternity leave: Joining Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, Lesotho and the USA as countries without paid maternity leave, your party wants to add barriers for women to work – although by the looks of it, that is exactly what you are after. And while you’re tearing into the finances of working mothers and families, you’re also going to scrap Statutory Maternity Pay, to be replaced with a stay at home allowance of just £64 a week, and giving employers the power to decide whether or not to allow a woman maternity leave. Nice touch, Nigel, nice touch.
You aren’t bothered about equal pay for men and women: It should just go without saying that if I do the same job as a man, I should get the same wage as a man, but with women earning 84p for every £1 earned by a man, there’s still a lot to do. Ever-ignorant of the gender pay gap, however, is you and your delegation of UKIP MEPs. There seemed to be a weird concoction of abstentions, againsts and just not bothering to turn up from your MEPs on a vote regarding equal pay. Where were you, Nigel “Absent” Farage? Simply too busy to turn up to work that day?
Now here’s the thing, Nigel. I’d love to ignore you, your party and all the stupid and often downright offensive things that they say, but apparently that’s not an option. Your party is routinely outpolling the Liberal Democrats, looks set to do well in the European elections and is taking votes from other parties left, right and centre – which is what makes this so much worse. Views like this about women would be bad enough from a party which isn’t heading for much, if any, electoral success, like TUSC. But it looks like you might actually do quite well – which makes me really concerned about the future for women, should you have any significant success on May 22nd.
If Ed Miliband, David Cameron or Nick Clegg made comments in the same regard that you do, they would – quite rightly – not be tolerated. If high-profile members, or worse, elected representatives, of the Labour Party, Conservative Party or Liberal Democrats made comments similar to those made by your Treasurers, MEPs and councillors, they would not be tolerated. Indeed, I’d be the first to call out and demand the removal of any elected representatives of the Labour Party who were rape apologists or sexist in the way so many of yours are.
You seem to get away with it because you’ve tried to market yourself as a working class old boy, who doesn’t really mean any harm, you’re just ‘avin a larf! But you are the leader of an increasingly high profile political party, one which could – although I hope you don’t – make significant gains in the upcoming elections. It’s about time you called your party into order.
When people tell me they are considering voting UKIP, they often, in the same breath, don’t realise that you plan to charge people to see their GP, or take away their postal vote. But voting for your party would be particularly damaging for women. Naturally, I hope many women can be persuaded to vote Labour – a party which is going to scrap the bedroom tax, freeze energy bills until 2017 and provide 25 hours free childcare for 3&4 year olds with working parents, all measures which residents in the ward I represent are crying out for. But frankly, Nigel, when it comes to the thought of UKIP being in any position of power at a local or national level, I don’t really mind if people vote Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Green – I just hope people see through the jolly boy act and recognise that your party is a lot more dangerous than it first seems.
With love (or not) from a working-class, socialist feminist.