A millionaire peer was elected leader of the UK Independence Party yesterday after putting “the growing threat of Islamism” and curbing immigration at the heart of his campaign. Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who defected from the Conservatives two years ago, comfortably beat four rivals to assume command of the anti-European Union party.
Lord Pearson, one of two Ukip peers, has protested that the “political class” is complacent about Islamism and claimed that some of “our people” were “strangers in our own land”. The 67-year-old former insurance broker invited the right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders in February to screen a controversial film about radical Islam. He has called for a zero net increase in immigration, arguing that the issue was the main concern for many voters.
Pearson has an admirer in Damian Thompson, who writes: “You may think that Ukip’s new focus on the Islamification of parts of Britain is a dangerous strategy. And so it would be, if the party was in other hands. But Lord Pearson is still essentially a libertarian Tory: he would never stoop to sending out dog whistles to wavering BNP racists. His campaign against uncontrolled immigration and Sharia will be rooted in a defence of liberal democracy of the sort that other parties are too gutless to make.”