The UK Independence Party is set to head in a fresh direction, fighting radical Islam, with the election today of a replacement for Nigel Farage as its national leader. The two favourites to take over from Mr Farage are committed to adding the battle against Islamic fundamentalism to the party’s main goal of withdrawing Britain from the European Union.
Mr Farage resisted strong grassroots pressure during his three-year leadership to broaden UKIP’s focus to include actively campaigning against Islamism and immigration. But both Lord Pearson of Rannoch and the London MEP Gerard Batten – the two front-runners in a field of five candidates – say that they are determined to target Islamic fundamentalism.
Lord Pearson invited the anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders to the House of Lords in February only for Jacqui Smith, then the Home Secretary, to issue a banning order so that Mr Wilders was turned away at Heathrow. The Dutchman travelled to Britain in October after overturning the ban.
Lord Pearson’s own outspoken views about Islam were recorded in Washington DC last month. Asked how much time Britain had before losing control of its cultural identity he said: “What is going to decide the answer to that is the birthrate. The fact that Muslims are breeding ten times faster than us. I do not know at what point they reach such a number that we are no longer able to resist the rest of their demands … but if we do not do something now within the next year or two we have in effect lost.”
Mr Batten, 55, has also invited Mr Wilders to speaking engagements and has called the Dutch politician “a brave man trying to defend western civilisation”. This year, writing in the magazine Freedom Today, Mr Batten addressed the notion of the confrontation of Islamism and the West. “It is a clash between civilisation and barbarism. It is a clash between everything that has made the modern world what it is and an ideology that wants to enslave us to a belief system that belongs in seventh-century Arabia and which was primitive and backward even then.”