Ukip want to be presented as the freedom-loving party. They try desperately to pretend, for it is not true, to be "libertarian". But when it comes to Ukippers themselves and how they deal with others personal lives, you truly come to see the "real" Ukip. And the real Ukip has a major issue with LGBT people and their freedom.
Any reader of this blog will know I occasionally mention their odd candidates and their even odder views on homosexuality. There was Mike Mendoza who believed 1) gay people don't like football, 2) people who don't like football are more likely to be paedophiles and then 3) put those two thoughts into one paragraph. There was David Nixon whose leaflet was used to "smear" Ukip. Winston McKenzie said same-sex couples adopting was akin to child abuse, ironically not long after a council had tried to remove kids from a Ukip supporting family! And then there was Julia Gasper who was suspended from her position in the party many, many months after she first aired her dislike for LGBT folk.
When you follow those stories through you find Ukip, as a party, really doesn't know how to handle these people. The current example is a case in point. David Silvester, an ex-Tory Ukip councillor in Hendon, wrote a letter to his local paper criticising David Cameron and same-sex marriage and, in the strange style we've come to expect from US based evangelicals, blamed the recent flooding around the country on the passing of the same-sex marriage bill. A small Twitterstorm broke out and gradually the story found its way on to large news service's headlines.
Nigel Farage and the party spokesperson defended his right to express his religious beliefs, even if unorthodox. This would be more acceptable if Ukip hadn't sacked Olly Neville over his support of same-sex marriage! The concept of liberty is an important one, but if it doesn't apply to all then it is not liberty.
Today David Silvester, being admirably if catastrophically consistent, did an interview with BBC Oxford radio where he called homosexuality a disease. The story continued to spread and on a day when Ukip should've been shouting from the rooftops after a fantastic opinion poll (for them if not for those of us who believe weather and climate are based on a little more than who has sex with who) they were instead being made to look terribly stupid.
Realising the game was up, Ukip reversed course and suspended him this afternoon. Unfortunately for them not only does this mean they'll have to weasel their way out of yesterday's statements (blaming it, I suspect, on Silvester not following party procedure or some such thing) but they will also have to deal with the social media fall out of their supporters getting very cross over the suspension and saying even more ridiculous things.
The problem for Ukip is that, to the vast majority of sensible people (even those who oppose much of the LGBT rights agenda), their candidates are often seen as being a bit out of touch and very offensive. But if they sack them or punish them in anyway they risk alienating their core support who quite obviously agree with them!
This is evident in Ukip's very poorly articulated policy on same-sex marriage. It wants to be all things to all people, but manages only to be an absolute mess. See here and here.
They are stuck between a rock and a hard place and unfortunately the rock keeps bashing against them. Just see this latest story reporting a Ukipper's dislike of "gays, Catholics and Communists" in Glasgow.
They've hitched their tent on religious freedom. There is no dishonour in that. But they forgot to set their own beliefs clearly enough to avoid being tarnished by every nasty comment uttered by one of their members. This was a rookie error, and I wonder just how many other Ukip policies are as ill-thought out and ill-considered as this.
Worryingly nearly 2 people in every 10 currently state they'll vote for them. Then again far more believe in ghosts and UFOs in this country so perhaps that sort of number was inevitable.