The UKIP leadership race has taken a rather dark and unexpected turn over the last twenty-four hours. UKIP Councillor and leadership hopeful Lisa Duffy has said that she wants to see a partial ban on Islamic full-face veils in shopping centres, public buildings and on public transport. Replacing Nigel Farage was already going to be difficult, but with policy ideas like this floating around, I can only see the party rapidly losing support.
At the time of writing Lisa Duffy has said she did not want a general law banning the veil, but according to her, there are some places it should not be allowed. I listened intently yesterday as she outlined her idea on LBC Radio. Duffy seemingly wants to ban the item on the grounds of fairness, equality and security.
To a certain extent, she may have made a reasonable point. It is true that were you to enter a bank or a petrol station wearing a helmet you would be asked to remove it in order to be served, so it does seem fair for people to be asked to show their faces in public situations.
I struggle with her argument, however, when she proposes that the face veil should be banned in public buildings and shopping centres. She attempted to justify this idea by claiming that hoodies were not allowed to be worn in such places, but this is not the case. Having spent nine years working in the security industry, and still knowing many people in the business, I know that customers are never asked to remove a hoodie. I don’t know where Duffy is getting this belief from.
Furthermore, it seems unlikely that this policy could be effectively enforced. Police numbers are on the decline and what with the rising numbers of hate crimes in Britain, they already have enough to deal with. Seriously, are we going to assume that a piece of clothing is an indication of criminal intent? What happened to the assuming innocence before guilt?
It isn’t just the crash helmet, hoodie or face veil that helps to conceal someone’s identity; the baseball cap is another item of clothing that conceals a person’s face. Having worked in a CCTV control room I know it is impossible to get a clear picture of a suspect wearing such an item. So, are we going to ban the baseball cap as well?
The Britain of 2016 should be a tolerant and open one, a country which respects different cultures and the protects the right of its citizens to choose what they were in public spaces such as shopping centres. The only way to gauge accurately if Duffy’s policy is popular will be to watch the result of the UKIP leadership contest. Will their members and supporters be drawn to this policy, and vote for it?
A party that is looking to increase its support and ultimately win seats in Westminster needs to radically rethink this idea. Instead, they should advocate that faces must be shown in a court of law. As clarity is a vital part of our justice system, this is the sort of idea the British public would be more inclined to support.
Whether banning the veil is going to be popular amongst UKIP members and supporters is yet to be seen. Ultimately, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, as a Lisa Duffy victory would confirm that there is a popular appetite for such a policy. Hopefully enough members will reject the proposal and elect a different candidate. I urge UKIP’s membership to consider very carefully which direction they want the third largest party in British politics to take, for if they go Duffy’s way I can only see one outcome: the end of UKIP. To me, this would be a great shame, as the party has done a sterling job in shaking up British politics.
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