People who defend themselves by saying “My words were taken out of context” sometimes have a good point. It is possible to misrepresent someone, either deliberately or accidentally, by quoting their words out of context. However, a UKIP candidate in Portsmouth has stretched this defence to breaking point. He has also attempted some creative redefinitions of common English words.
Douglas Denny is a member of UKIP’s National Executive Committee and a candidate for Portsmouth City Council in next month’s local elections. He was involved in a discussion on a UKIP members’ online forum, apparently about whether or not it is right to describe gay and bisexual people as “sodomites”. It says something about UKIP that this discussion was even happening.
In the course of this online discussion, Denny reportedly described same-gender sexual acts as “disgusting” and wrote:
“What irritates me is the way they and their leftie, neo-Commie followers seem to want to force the rest of us to consider them as normal. I just wish they would keep their homosexual nature and practices to themselves and stop trying to ram it down my throat telling me they are ‘normal’ when they are not.”
When the comments were published by the Sunday Mirror, Denny did not deny using these words. Instead he claimed they were taken “out of context”. I’ve tried thinking about how these words could possibly be used in a context that is not homophobic, but I’ve so far failed to think of one. Please feel free to offer suggestions.
But you can’t accuse Denny of giving up easily. He’s tried to justify his words by saying that by “normal” he simply meant “in the majority”.
Now I realise that not everyone uses words in the same way and that one word can carry several shades of meaning. Nonetheless, some shared understanding of a word’s meaning is necessary for us to use language effectively. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone who thinks “normal” means simply “in the majority”. By this definition any minority could be declared “abnormal”. To be normal is to conform to a norm, an acceptable standard, not simply the most common form of something.
To be fair to Douglas Denny, he told The News (a local paper in Portsmouth), “I believe homosexuals have a perfect right to live their lives and wander around like everyone else and do not deserve any discrimination because of their sexuality.”
You might have expected Douglas Denny to leave it there and to try to move in on, but in the same interview he decided to add, “I wish that they wouldn’t try to keep ramming it down my throat that they are normal in their sexual practices.”
Stuart Potter, chairman of Portsmouth UKIP, decided to back Denny, insisting “He isn’t a homophobe”.
All this comes shortly after Nigel Farage promised to remove people with “extremist” views from being UKIP candidates. He made the promise after David Silvester, a UKIP councillor in Oxfordshire, argued that the recent floods were a result of God’s judgement on same-sex marriage.
Denny’s comments are a reminder that Farage has failed to remove candidates who express these sort of views. Some UKIP members have started a petition calling for Denny’s removal. This is not something that I support – because it implies the problem is simply about an individual. So many examples have been reported of homophobic and racist comments by UKIP members that it is clear that such views are very common in the party.
This is not a surprise. This is a party so right-wing that they believe the Tories’ vicious cuts have not gone far enough, that climate change is not real and that UK military spending (already the sixth highest in the world) should be increased by 40 percent. They also want to withdraw from the UN Convention on Refugees and the European Court of Human Rights – currently backed by every country in Europe except Belarus. They are more than a group of clowns banging on about Brussels or a convenient way of registering discontent with mainstream parties.
However much Farage tries to remove embarrassing candidates he cannot get away from the reality that UKIP is a far-right party with a nasty agenda rooted in prejudice. It’s not Douglas Denny that’s the problem; it’s UKIP.