The day I got caught up in a UKIP ‘mini-carnival’


By - Tuesday 20th May, 2014

Jonny Rose got caught up in the frivolity and absurdity of Croydon’s most bizarre political event this year


A brilliant contrast of signage. Photo by Jonny Rose. Used with permission.

Despite UKIP’s achieving near-U2 levels of celebrity of late, the first I’d heard that Nigel Farage and his motley entourage were due to be in my hometown of Croydon was early this morning.

Ostensibly a mini-carnival for the public’s enjoyment and to raise awareness of UKIP’s policies, the event was also intended to serve as a PR counter to recent accusations of racism.

UKIP *heart* BMEs

To further compound UKIP’s newfound affinity for first- and second-generation migrants of every hue, they had drafted in the talents of local steel band ‘Endurance Steel’. (I don’t know many Romanians who are proficient in the Caribbean art of steel drumming – but hey)

To choose Croydon for such a show of goodwill/cringeworthy aboutface makes perfect sense:

Croydon – which is London’s most populous borough and the largest town in Europe –  can lay claim to being one of those very areas that are the proverbial ‘melting pots’ that politicians love to cite. Census data from 2011 shows that white brits now make up less than 50% of Croydon and a total of 18 ethnic categories make up the town’s population.

UKIP is also fielding a large number of BME candidates in the borough including Nigerian immigrant Ancellam Nnoram (hilariously, he changed his name by deed poll to “Ace” just before the elections) and ex-boxing champion and serial candidate, Winston MacKenzie, who was born in Jamaica.

With the backdrop of the ‘racism’ maelstrom created by Farage’s recent comments, and the incongruous promise of steel bands, this was a mini-carnival that could not be missed.

The carnival that never was

I arrived on the scene in front of Croydon’s Whitgift Centre to find a group of no more than a hundred or so media types, UKIP minders, screeching anti-fascists, and bemused members of the general public.

Curiously, there was no music to speak of (it would later transpire that Endurance Steel had not been told that they had been commissioned to play for a UKIP rally), yet that didn’t mean there was no noise at all. In the thick of the throng was Winston McKenzie (surrounded by burly men in leathers) on the microphone lambasting all that was wrong with Britain and how UKIP would give a voice to the “everyday man and woman”.

The cream of British journalism had turned up to capture this: Michael Crick (who is more diminutive than the TV would have you believe) was walking around with an inordinate amount of self-importance

It was hard to tell whether McKenzie’s message was resonating or not over the noise of the resistance. A group of Eastern European protesters came armed with signs (“Nazi scum”) and colourful language, members of the public were also shouting down McKenzie and pockets of earnest student-types were engaging in policy discussion amongst themselves.

On the peripheries were UKIP helpers who I suspect were purposely chosen for how innocuous they looked. Elderly women with sweet smiles and languid gentleman approached onlookers asking whether we would be voting (my response that I intended to ‘spoil’ my ballot with a Bible verse was met with varying degrees of chagrin) and offering us campaign literature and a purple balloon.

It was a testament to Nigel’s pulling-power that the cream of British journalism had turned up to capture this: Michael Crick (who is more diminutive than the TV would have you believe) was walking around with an inordinate amount of self-importance, Dan Hodges kept a safe distance at the back and Quentin Letts looked terrified at having to engage with real-live Croydonians (we’re not quite as docile as we look in encyclopaedias).

Farage bottles it. Again.

An hour into this political circus – with the crowd becoming increasingly impatient – word began to trickle through that Nigel would not be attending the Croydon mini-carnival. He had “turned around” having “feared for his safety”.

Alas, the media – and the public – would have to leave with their lust for more Farage-related carnage unsatiated.

Still, as the #UKIPcarnival hashtag is showing this afternoon, Endurance Steel has now become the percussive equivalent of ‘Fight The Power’-era Public Enemy, so it’s not all bad.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Anne Giles

    The whole event was absolutely hilarious! Or should I say non-event? I hope that band will get paid though.

  • David Callam

    Winston is a nuisance, a fantasist who has joined many political parties. He should be treated as such. It is unfortunate that his antics yesterday were recorded by the BBC and broadcast across Greater London.
    He is right about Croydon being unsafe and dump – roll on the Hammerson and Westfield remodelling of the town centre.

    • Anne Giles

      I have never felt unsafe in Croydon, whether shopping in the Whitgift Centre, going to the Grants Vue or David Lean cinemas, attending meetings at Bernard Weatherill House or the Town Hall, going to Matthews Yard (just off Surrey Street), or any of the great restaurants we have. I would never think of such an interesting place as a dump.

      • David Callam

        Anne, I think you’re seeing the town through rose tinted spectacles, or possibly a true blue pre-election Tory haze.

        • Anne Giles

          No point in replying to you. I might as well be banging my head against a brick wall and I really haven’t got the time.

          • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

            @annegiles:disqus @davidcallam:disqus I see you two are conspiring to provide us all with some post-event entertainment. Much appreciated! ;)

          • Guest

            @davidcallam:disqus

          • Anne Giles

            We couldn’t possibly let you down, Jonny!

        • pelirrojo

          I’ve lived in Croydon for about two years. Before that I lived in central London, in the borough of Camden, for about fifteen years.

          Croydon feels far safer than St Pancras, I can tell you. Moreover, crime statistics show that Croydon is much safer than its residents perceive it to be.

          Which makes one wonder why people insist that it is a dangerous place, when clearly it is not.

          it’s all in the subjective perception.

          • David Callam

            I can’t comment on St Pancras, though it had a dreadful reputation prior to the recent regeneration.
            For me, Croydon, particularly after dark, is a place to avoid!

          • pelirrojo

            I ride my bicycle around central Croydon and some of the town’s roughest areas late at night very regularly and I have seen literally nothing to suggest that anyone would need to avoid being on the streets after dark. What are you referring to?

          • David Callam

            Intriguing! You choose to ride around ” some of the town’s roughest areas”. I wonder where precisely you mean.
            Are you unaware of the general level of violence that persists in Croydon?
            Have you not heard the constant demands of responsible people in public life for an additional police presence in central Croydon?
            Do you not know of the excellent work being done by the charity Lives Not Knives to persuade young people locally not to carry weapons?

          • Stephen Giles

            Generally speaking, most violence in Croydon originates from you persistent whingers, and those with “obsessive politics disorder” – they know who they are!!!

          • David Callam

            You again Mr Giles. Did you train to be rude, or does it come naturally.
            And still you refuse to be specific in your allegations.

          • Anne Giles

            He is not being rude, actually. He is merely pointing out what life was like during the “mods and rockers” period. They carried knuckle dusters and other weapons.

          • pelirrojo

            Quite.

          • pelirrojo

            I ride my bicycle around rough parts of Croydon late at night. What about this causes you to wonder?

            Secondly, yes of course I have noted that there is constant hoo-ha in the media about violent crime in Croydon and the problem of youth violence. Clearly it exists. But how does this imply or suggest that Croydon is not a safe place?

            All it shows is that certain types of people and those who represent them are paranoid about a violence problem which is far less serious than you or they would like to believe and which does not even affect you or them directly.

            Your lack of perspective is the most interesting thing about your series of posts.

          • Stephen Giles

            You see, people like Mr Callum just sit behind the safety of a computer screen, and pontificate!!!!!

          • David Callam

            And Mr Giles is a caped crusader, rescuing idiot cyclists from rough parts of town late at night!

          • David Callam

            Are you perhaps a serving police officer? I only ask because your attitude is similar to the PR drivel published by the Met, which pats us all on the head and says fear of crime is worse than crime itself. That’s fine providing you believe the Net’s figures.
            You admit there are problems, but you think the rest of us are making an unnecessary fuss.
            So be it: I hope you never have cause to regret your actions.

          • pelirrojo

            And your ideas about the level of threat from violent crime in Croydon come from where, exactly?

            I notice that you are essentially suggesting that anybody who disagrees with your personal viewpoint, formed as it is from a very narrow perspective, is part of a conspiracy to mislead the public, while your personal view represents the absolute truth and reality of the matter.

            Very interesting.

          • David Callam

            This is becoming tedious. You admit there is a problem with violence in the borough, but you choose to ignore it. End of conversation, I think.
            On yer bike

          • pelirrojo

            Yes, you are becoming tedious. This is common among those who are unable to communicate effectively because it is difficult or impossible for them to understand what others are trying to say to them.

            Interestingly, it is a trait more common among men which often emerges during middle-age as they fail to adapt to changes in society. Middle-aged men often become stubbornly unwilling to entertain anyone else’s point of view and this leads them to believe that their own opinions are facts and that anybody who disagrees with them is either crazy or part of a conspiracy of lies to mask the truth inherent in their world view. Evidence so far presented suggests that you are in this boat.

            Just to be clear: There is no more a problem with violence in the Borough of Croydon than in any other London Borough or indeed any other part of England or any other part of the UK. Of course there is violence in society and nobody is claiming there isn’t.

            I spend a fair amount of time cycling through Croydon at night and I can tell you that violent incidents are indeed rare and generally contained within a very small subset of the population.

            Feel free to believe that you are personally at risk. Lock your doors and windows and make sure you are home before sundown. Nobody cares.

          • David Callam

            Rude, condescending and full of psychobabble.

          • pelirrojo

            Say what you like, but at least it is an accurate appraisal.