UKIP leader says he’ll reassess call for veil ban

The Guardian has an interview with UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage. He was asked about UKIP’s current policy of imposing a “burqa ban”, which Farage himself has previously defended.

Q: You have talked about Ukip being a libertarian party. In your book, writing about when you joined the party, you say: “I was a libertarian to my fingertips and would have welcomed the chance to fight for the nation’s cross-dressers, swingers, naturists, prostitutes, adult nappy-wearers, consensual cannibals and the like.”

A: That’s Ukip, isn’t it. We have all sorts of people in our party. We’ve not no prejudice against any of them. And we want the state to butt out.

Q: Well, why are you in favour of banning the burqa then? [In its manifesto at the last election (pdf), Ukip said it would “tackle extremist Islam by banning the burqa or veiled niqab in public buildings and certain private buildings”.]

A: Well, I’m not really in favour of banning the burqa. I’m not.

Q: You’re on record as saying …

A: On record as saying that if you can’t wear a motorcycle helmet in NatWest or a balaclava on the London Underground, then the law should be applied to everyone equally. But have I ever said we should ban people walking down the streets from wearing religious dress or ceremonial dress? Absolutely not.

Q: But would you legislate on the burqa?

A: This is something that to some extent I’ve inherited. We are going through a major policy review at the moment. I do think everybody being equal before the law is important. But is it the sort of thing we should be legislating for? I’m dubious about that. When you become the leader of a political party, you inherit an awful lot. You can’t change it all at the stroke of a pen or overnight.

Q: But at the time of the last election you were defending that position in interviews.

A: I was defending it in exactly the terms I’ve given: NatWest bank, the London Underground, but not walking down the street.

Q: But in NatWest bank they don’t let people in in a motorcycle helmet because it might be an armed robber. Armed robbers tend to be male.

A: Listen, I’m not looking to pick a fight with any ethnic minority in this country at all. Absolutely not.

Q: So is that a policy that you will be happy to ditch?

A: It’s a policy I’m going to look at.