Ukip held a carnival in my hometown, and I found myself caught up in it. They’d enticed us to the Whitgift Centre with talk of a steel band, their large number of local BME candidates and a chance to see Nigel Farage.
After more accusations of racism, picking Croydon did make sense for the party. It is London’s most populous borough and the largest town in Europe. It can confidently describe itself as one of the ‘melting pots’ politicians love: 2011 Census data shows White British people make up less than 50 per cent of the population, with 18 different ethnic groups living in the borough.
Ukip’s local candidates include Nigerian immigrant Ancellam Nnoram (who hilariously changed his name by deed poll to ‘Ace’ just before the elections) and ex-boxing champion Winston McKenzie, who was born in Jamaica.
It wasn’t clear, though, how the steel band would help Nigel Farage recover from his comments about Romanians, unless this West Indian music has a wider following in Romania than we’ve realised. Either way, the band, Endurance Steel, didn’t endure the event for very long at all – they hadn’t been told they were being booked for a Ukip rally – and most of the noise came from McKenzie and protesters thronging around the ‘carnival’.
McKenzie was surrounded by burly men in leathers as he lambasted through a microphone everything that was wrong with Britain and how Ukip would give a voice to the ‘everyday man and woman’. But it was hard to tell whether anyone else could hear, given the amount of noise from the crowd. A group of Eastern European protesters were waving signs reading ‘Nazi scum’ and producing colourful language. Members of the public shouted down the Ukip candidate. A few pockets of earnest student types talked among themselves about policy.
Around the edges, Ukip supporters, clearly picked for looking innocuous, approached onlookers. Elderly women with sweet smiles and kind-looking gentlemen doled out campaign literature and purple balloons.
But where was Nigel? After an hour of the political carnival, word got out that he wasn’t coming. He had ‘turned around’, having ‘feared for his safety’. Then McKenzie dismissed the town as a ‘dump’. Perhaps Croydon wasn’t the perfect location for a fightback after all.