Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Racism Wraps Main Parties Up in Knots

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Racism Wraps Main Parties Up in Knots

Article excerpt

IN politics, people matter. One high-profile scandal or tragedy can tip the balance far more than, say, a carefully honed conference speech or a sparkling performance at prime minister's questions. Politicians don't like to admit this - don't like to be hostages to a fortune they can neither control nor predict - but they know it is true.

Take the Rotherham couple whose foster-children were removed because they were members of UKIP. The exact facts of the case remain unclear; what is certain is that, as well as being a personal tragedy for the foster-parents, it has been a major propaganda coup for the party.

We know that the children's birthparents were eastern European migrants. We know that they were removed by social workers who accused the foster-parents of belonging to a 'racist party'. We know that the couple are devastated, and say they want the children back.

In the firestorm that has followed, it's important to remember this: the principle that certain extremist views should bar you from fostering or adopting isn't actually unreasonable. There are certain beliefs that most of us consider well beyond the political pale. Do people who hold those views have a right to foster vulnerable children in the care of the state? I'd say not.

The question a lot of parents are asking in the light of the Rotherham case is this: "Why should the state be allowed to take my children away because of the views I have?" But that's not actually the point at issue. These are foster-children; youngsters for whom the state must act as guardian and protector. A better question, then, would be this: "Would I want my children to be raised by a couple who believed...?" The principle isn't the problem here; the problem is that UKIP, whatever you think of their policies, are not a racist party.

'If the isn't you call party Mainstream politicians on all sides have been lining up to attack the decision to take the children away.

Michael Gove, the Conservative education secretary, called it 'abitrary, ideological and indefensible'.

Ed Miliband was slightly more circumspect - his party, after all, runs Rotherham council - but was still adamant that membership of UKIP should be no bar to fostering. …

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