"...incessant anti-Islam invective has made our party look and sound like the spiritual heirs to the Jew-baiters of the 1930s..." Seamus Martin
Seamus Martin, who was expected to be announced as the prospective UKIP candidate for Salford and Eccles, has withdrawn from standing for the party at the forthcoming General Election. Below we print an exclusive statement as to the reasons why he won't be standing...
"Like many others in UKIP I am deeply dismayed at the party's so-called Integration Agenda and am even more appalled at what was said by our official spokespersons at their press conference. To my mind, these policies could be more accurately described as an alienation agenda aimed at deliberately demonising one specific community.
Despite unconvincing assurances to the contrary, it is, I fear, exactly as LeaveEU founder and leading UKIP donor, Arron Banks, described it - nothing short of a 'war on the Muslim religion'.
I pay tribute to Mr. Banks and Bill Etheridge MEP for speaking out on this issue and especially to UKIP MEP James Carver for the courageous leadership he has shown in resigning in protest as our Foreign and Commonwealth spokesman.
I too feel I must make a stand. I do not wish to have my good name sullied by association with this odious agenda and the unremittingly hostile attitudes underlying it.
While the Integration Agenda remains official policy and those behind it retain senior roles in our party, I cannot in good conscience stand for election under the UKIP banner at present.
So with a heavy heart, and with apologies to those of my neighbours in Salford and Eccles who ordinarily would want to vote UKIP for positive and decent reasons, I am withdrawing as a UKIP prospective parliamentary candidate at the 2017 General Election. And I encourage other UKIP candidates who share these concerns to consider their own positions.
I view the call for a moratorium on Muslim state schools as ignorant and unacceptable - either we have no state-sector faith schools at all or else each community has as many as it needs commensurate with its share of the school-age population. And I consider the proposed ban on Islamic religious law and the tribunals which administer it as particularly egregious.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. And as a committed libertarian I believe that as long as you can finance your own lifestyle and you cause no harm to others, then the state should leave people in peace, as individuals and voluntary groupings of individuals such as faith communities, to live your life the way you want to, no matter how weird and perhaps not so wonderful your personal choices and lifestyle may appear to others.
Where will all this end? Are we also going to ban Jewish Beth Din courts or the General Synod of the Church of England? Will we be closing down the Catholic Church until they ordain women priests? That is the ridiculous yet logical conclusion.
In short, political parties should stay out of the theological, moral and internal governance affairs of religious organisations. People can be as prejudiced at they like in their personal capacity, however lamentable that may be, but no political party, especially not a libertarian party like UKIP, has any business putting forward religious bigotry as official policy.
I am aghast at this new direction of travel by UKIP, or should I say by a small clique of hardliners who have come to the fore since Nigel Farage stood down as our leader.
I have been told by more than one member of our ruling body, the UKIP National Executive Committee which is elected by party members, that the Integration Agenda was not even discussed in advance never mind ratified by the NEC. And it is clear from James Carver's resignation that there was minimal, if any, consultation even with our MEPs let alone with approved and vetted parliamentary candidates like myself or the wider party membership.
I am confident that the reason for this lack of consultation on the Integration Agenda is that those behind it know only too well that had we been aware of it in advance, we would have shot it down in flames before it ever saw the light of day. For, in the first UKIP leadership election of 2016 one candidate did indeed run on an overtly anti-Muslim platform which also included a ban on Muslim state schools and religious courts, and three-quarters of our party membership promptly voted for other candidates!
This vile agenda was sneaked through without the knowledge or consent of UKIP party members – rank and file and governing body alike. We were presented with a fait accompli. Those responsible should now reflect on the untold damage they have caused to UKIP at this crucial moment in the history of both our party and country. In these tumultuous times, just when Britain needs UKIP to provide visionary leadership more than ever, they have lost the plot and let the country down.
It beggars belief that with all that is going on in Britain and the wider world at present, our UKIP general election campaign has been launched with this offensive and divisive not to mention probably electorally disastrous Muslim-bashing agenda at the forefront.
Across the political spectrum the vast majority of British voters are good people who stand up for decency and fairness and consign boorish bullies to electoral oblivion, and rightly so. We in UKIP are, can be and should be among the good guys.
We like to proclaim ourselves as the party of common sense. Let us also always be the party of common decency - a party that listens, that shows respect to others and seeks to understand where they are coming from, a party that recognises that just because some people are different, it does not follow that they are inherently disloyal or dangerous.
At this general election there are so many genuinely radical, innovative and positive policies we in UKIP could have led with. For example, off the top of my head, Universal Basic Income, Direct Democracy - Regular referendums on key issues, a drastic reduction in the number of MPs - 200 for England down from 533, half of MPs to be women, proportional representation and constitutional reform, explicitly defining UKIP as a pro-peace party that will stand up to the regime-change warmongers in Westminster and Washington D.C .
Ideas like these could have energised the British people, shown that UKIP is much more than a one-trick Brexit pony, and enthused people to come out and vote for us in unprecedented numbers. But instead, to quote Arron Banks, we are now heading in 'entirely the wrong direction'.
We cannot un-break the rotten egg that is the Integration Agenda, and now, no matter how excellent, whatever policies UKIP does unveil during the rest of this general election campaign, they will be irretrievably tainted by its stench.
Sadly, a malign, reactionary and authoritarian element within UKIP has been permitted to take centre stage - people who have allowed new life to be breathed into the old lie that UKIP is 'the BNP in blazers'; people who have now lent legitimacy to everything that groups like Hope Not Hate have ever accused us of; people who through their incessant anti-Islam invective has made our party look and sound like the spiritual heirs to the Jew-baiters of the 1930s. Different era, different target, but same ethos. What a travesty!
UKIP is a libertarian party. It says so in our constitution. Nigel Farage deliberately put that wording in to make it explicitly clear for all time who we are and what we stand for.
I woke up on Monday morning a proud member of libertarian UKIP. I went to bed that night horrified that our party has been hijacked by hardliners. I am a libertarian. I want our party back."
Main photo shows Seamus Martin with Nigel Farage at the Stoke by-election campaigning on behalf of UKIP leader Paul Nuttall.