UKIP’s youth wing Young Independence (YI) has been criticised on Twitter by Suzanne Evans, UKIP’s Parliamentary spokesperson, for allowing a “far right lynch mob” to control its annual conference in Manchester this weekend.
The controversial guest speakers and demagogic language permeating the YI conference have clearly angered Evans, who tweeted that she was “very disappointed” with the event. The unrepentant organisers struck back at Evans, who is a moderate within the party, labelling her comments “slurs”.
Guest speaker at the conference was Tobias Andersson, Chairman of the Sweden Democrats’ youth group the ‘Young Swedes’. The extreme-right Sweden Democrats (SD) was founded by a former member of Hitler’s SS and had to ban members from wearing Nazi uniforms to their meetings in 1996.
During his speech – a video of which can be found on the YI facebook page – Andersson referenced Sweden’s Viking heritage before saying: “I’m not here to steal your belongings, occupy your houses or attack your women. I suppose you have enough foreigners doing that already”. This comment was met with laughter and a loud round of applause.
Andersson went on to claim that a “cemetery of other cultures” was responsible for turning Sweden into the “rape capital of the world”. He received a standing ovation for his speech.
Also speaking at the event was UKIP leadership candidate Bill Etheridge MEP, who used the platform to call for “a ban on the burka” in public places. His support for this controversial policy was directly preceded by a reference to the Brussels bombing, warning that “civilised people are under attack” by “barbaric terrorist murdering scum” and that “we must not be stopped by political correctness by tackling [radical Islam] at its root”.
In other worrying statements Etheridge, who has recently advocated the return of the death penalty and a complete ban on halal and kosher meat, claimed that his UKIP is “not the party of compromise” but “the party of radical change”. He then called on UKIP to pursue policy “without any concerns whatsoever about backlash” or “moral outrage”.
UKIP is facing a profound identity crisis following its success in the EU Referendum and desperately needs to settle on a direction that will redefine the party. That the unapologetic populism of Andersson and Etheridge was welcomed so warmly at the YI conference exposes some worrying currents within the Young Independence movement.
If the future of UKIP is indeed to be found in its young members, then the party could be heading in an altogether darker direction than moderates – such as Suzanne Evans – would like.