Ukip fostering row: Who’s fit to be a parent?
If members of mainstream parties should not be barred from fostering, asks Eddie Ford, what about us extremists?
Last week’s headlines were dominated by the furore over a Rotherham couple who had their foster children removed from their care after the council was “tipped off” about their membership of the United Kingdom Independence Party. They had been approved foster parents for seven years and had been caring for three young children.
Rotherham council was worried, so it seems, that since the children were “not indigenous white British” (rather from an eastern European “migrant background”) the couple would not make appropriate foster parents, given Ukip’s stance on immigration. Telling their story to The Daily Telegraph, the couple quote a social worker saying Ukip “does not like European people” and “wants them all out of the country to be returned to their own countries” - hence the assertion that they would not have been the “right cultural match” for the children. Furthermore, another social worker, they say, claimed Ukip has “racist policies” - the implication being, presumably, that the couple must hold racist views themselves. Seeing how the council has to consider the “needs of the children longer term”, the couple were told, it had no choice but to take the children away from them.
The couple went on to tell the Telegraph that they had been “stigmatised and slandered”, denying they were racists. In fact, “we were actively encouraging these children to speak their own language” and “enjoyed singing one of their folk songs in their native language” - and, having been told the religious denomination of the children, “we took steps to ensure that a school of their denomination was found”. Unsurprisingly, the couple have called on the council to make a “public apology” and “clear their record” as foster parents.
Apparently, the siblings were subsequently split up - the boy placed with one family, while the two girls, one of whom is a baby, were sent to another. These families, it is reported, are “white British” and we can only assume that - unlike the couple - they can meet the ‘cultural needs’ of the children. They might even be members or supporters of ‘respectable’ organisations like the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats or the Conservative Party, which doubtlessly would be a great source of comfort to the children.
The first thing that has to said is a lot of hot air and righteous fury has been generated by this matter. Another precautionary note to strike is that the ‘scandal’ has been generously milked by the Telegraph and other rightwing newspaper such as The Sun, which, of course, have their own reactionary axes to grind - the inequities of ‘loony left’ councils, ‘political correctness’, social worker ‘do-gooders’, and so on.
But at the end of the day we in the CPGB have no more idea than anyone else as to what Rotherham council’s case notes say. The social workers concerned may have access to information that we simply do not have. In other words, we are ignorant of the facts. When a senior councillor at the Labour-run Rotherham council warned about people “wading in to pass judgement” on the row without “any real knowledge” of the case, they might possibly have a point.
Nevertheless Rotherham was hardly going out of its way to dispute the parents’ version of events. Joyce Thacker, the council’s £130,000-a-year strategic director of children and young people’s services, told the BBC’s Today programme that she had come to the decision to remove the children after a “lot of soul-searching”, but what the listeners had to understand was she had been “criticised before for not making sure” that the cultural and ethnic needs of non-indigenous children were being met. The council had to be seen to be trying to cater for those needs of the children under their care in order to avoid the possibility of censure. For instance, she explained, if the Ukip “party mantra” is for “ending the active promotion of multiculturalism” (to use her own words), then she has to “think about that”.
Similarly, the leader of Rotherham council, Roger Stone, was at pains to emphasise that this remains a “very complex case involving legal advice” - not least the “particular features” of the children’s background and an “external agency” responsible for providing the foster carers concerned. Naturally, the council is now working hard to “establish the facts” and “make sure all the correct procedures were carried out” before the decision to remove the children was made.
However, a council spokesperson said “issues” had been raised regarding the “long-term suitability” of the Rotherham couple fostering “these particular children”. Because of their Ukip membership? Absolutely not, they insisted - being a member of Ukip “should not bar someone from fostering” and the couple would be allowed to foster other children in the future.
Anyhow, specifics aside for now, the Weekly Worker is entitled to speak about the general questions and issues thrown up by the Rotherham row - which for us are relatively simple. There is no inherent reason why Ukip members cannot make good and effective foster parents. To say anything else would be absurd, if not inhuman. In terms of principle, people should be judged purely on their ability to look after kids and cater for their needs (and that would certainly involve encouraging them to speak the language of their parents and understand their culture - otherwise how could they communicate with and relate to their mother, father, aunts, grandparents, etc?). It is perfectly possible that a Ukip member could do that, whilst a Labour Party member could not. This should be obvious.
After all, people are funny and having truly dreadful politics does not necessarily make them truly dreadful people. Have you read the Labour manifesto recently? Thanks to the narrow, class-based ‘education’ system and the regressive mass media, people inevitably have all manner of irrational ideas. Sometimes next to madness, as far as communists are concerned - the recent Church of England synod debate and vote over women bishops amply confirms that. When it comes to thinking or dealing with people you do not personally know or events beyond your immediate environment, there is a tendency to make sweeping prejudicial judgements - they are not like us. Scroungers. Lazy.
However, it can be a very different story indeed if you are talking about the person next door or someone you regularly drink with down the pub - which is not to say, of course, that you automatically love them. But most people get on with most people most of the time. Therefore people who utter racist nonsense can have black friends and happily eat an Indian takeaway. We all know that.
The question does not end there though. Given that we all live in a thoroughly alienated, perverted and distorted society, none of us - sadly - are fully human. No exceptions. Therefore in that sense none of us are fit to be parents - whether ‘naturally’ or by fostering/adoption.
Yet we would fight tooth and nail against any legislation or decree, or even the merest suggestion, to the effect that only those who have passed some sort of test will be allowed to have children or become parents. The fact that you are gay, straight, Tory, Labour, Liberal, Socialist Workers Party, CPGB, etc in and of itself means you are no more or less likely to be a loving parent than anyone else. Society may be fucked-up, but despite that we can still manage to express our humanity by helping to bring up the next generation. Just as importantly, people’s ideas change - even if they are members of the British National Party or Ukip. Politics is not fate.
Logically, this can only mean that we should - and this is not something I say very often - agree with education secretary Michael Gove (himself adopted), when he said the decision to remove the Rotherham children was “arbitrary, ideological and indefensible” - if, that is, it was taken purely on the basis of Ukip membership and not for some other reason that we do not yet know about. But Gove also said that any council or agency which decides that support for a “mainstream” party disbars an individual from looking after children in care would be “sending a dreadful signal that will only decrease the number of loving homes available to children in need”. It obviously would. But what about non-“mainstream” parties?
Predictably, but interestingly nevertheless, Gove ducked a direct question from a BBC presenter who asked whether a BNP couple could also make “acceptable” foster parents. The hapless Gove, of course, had no choice but to huff and puff about the “unacceptability” of racism and suchlike. He fudged it. A dilemma raised by a letter to the Telegraph, which asks: “Would Joyce Thacker … take similar action to prevent children from being fostered by members of the SWP, which calls for revolution and supports law-breaking by its members?” (November 26).
The CPGB, on the other hand, has no problem in giving a straight answer. Unlike some on the left, we will not torture ourselves about the nature of the ‘Nazi’ BNP. What is sauce for the goose is surely sauce for the gander. We can think of no earthly reason why BNP members should automatically be ruled out as potential foster parents - officially ‘no-platformed’, so to speak. But, of course, their attitudes and sensibilities would, naturally, have to be taken into account. It would be inhuman to hand over kids from a ‘non-indigenous’ or migrant background to people who think that they and their parents should be repatriated or treated as second-class citizens.
Actually, Ukip is fundamentally no different from the mainstream parties - it only differs by degree, not qualitatively. It currently has 12 MEPs, 31 councillors and three peers in the House of Lords (all Tory defectors). Ukip describes itself as a “libertarian, non-racist party seeking Britain’s withdrawal from the EU”. No wonder party leader Nigel Farage is “very angry” and “very upset” at the suggestion that Ukip is against immigration - let alone David Cameron’s famous 2006 LBC comment that the organisation is a “bunch of fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists mostly”. Replying, Farage indignantly declared on the Today show that he believes in “controlled immigration” - yes, just like Tories, Liberal Democrats or Labour. And, of course, there are no “loonies” or “fruitcakes” in any of those parties - god forbid.
While it goes without saying that Ukip is more extreme than the Tories or Labour, ultimately it shares the national chauvinism of the mainstream parties.