You’re not welcome here – that was is the message to Ukip from a newly-formed coalition. Last night, around 40 members of various political parties and concerned residents met to discuss ways they could fight what they describe as a ‘racist’ party. Three police officers manned the doors of the meeting in Southsea.
In May, Ukip won six seats on Portsmouth City Council, including that of the long-standing Fratton councillor Mike Hancock. And its leader Nigel Farage said in The News his party was hoping to clinch the Portsmouth South seat at next year’s general election.
Issues including recession, austerity, a lack of social housing and poverty were given as potential reasons for the rise in support for the party. Speakers said they believe Ukip and its members across the country are blaming people’s concerns around issues such as strains on the NHS, housing and schools on immigrants.
Jon Woods, chairman of Portsmouth Trades’ Council, was one of the speakers. He said: “People can unite around the need to stand up to Ukip. Farage is a con artist. We’re legitimising them through parties working with them on Portsmouth City Council.”
Zuber Hatia, a prominent figure in Portsmouth’s Muslim community and a community activist, said he and mosques in the city had been targeted by racists in the past. “We’ve seen the mosques targeted by the English Defence League, the British National Party and Britain First,” he said.
“What Ukip try to project to ordinary people is they are not racist. Ukip are liars. We need people to come together who have an anti-Ukip voice and challenge them. We will carry this momentum over the coming weeks and months and hopefully we can develop a coalition to stand up against them.”
Labour’s Portsmouth South candidate Sue Castillon spoke of her concern about the growing support for Ukip. She said: ‘I know there are ethnic minority women in this city who fear walking outside their front doors because of racists.’
Simon Magorian, who arranged the meeting at Friendship House in Elm Grove, said: “We have to take them head-on. We feel quite confident we can do something positive in the next six months, before the general election.”
Former city council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson was at the meeting. He said: “This May’s elections were frightening. I’m really concerned. I go and knock on doors every week and people are showing support for Ukip and I think their strength is growing. I think we should form a group as large as possible. What Ukip support is so bad.”
After last night’s meeting the group decided to form a committee which will decide on how best to tackle Ukip in the run up to the general election.