The UK Independence Party last night denied attempting to stir up racial tension after calling for tighter controls on immigration in the wake of an armed siege in Norwich.
Anti-fascist campaigners accused Ukip of racism, claiming it had attempted to make political capital out of the incident in which six people, including five Eastern Europeans, were arrested but released without charge.
Armed police were called to a house in Gertrude Road at 4.30am on Wednesday after neighbours heard “gunshots”. The siege ended eight hours later. Four men and two women were arrested, but were later released following what police described as a “meticulous” search of the property.
That news was reported in yesterday's EDP and elsewhere, but later Ukip issued a press release, describing how Glenn Tingle, its parliamentary candidate for Norwich North, had collected signatures from local people calling for the eviction of the Eastern Europeans “allegedly involved in the gun play”.
Mr Tingle said: “We really cannot have this lawlessness in our society. It is a symptom of the failure of national politicians to face up to the immigration issue.”
Stuart Agnew, Ukip's newly-elected MP for the Eastern region, said: “If the police have found guns here in the possession of people from EU countries there could well be many more.
“The great difficulty for our police is that they just don't know who has arrived here and what 'form' they have. As the economic situation in many EU countries continues to weaken, the temptation for their criminal classes to take advantage of our open borders policy will be hard to resist.”
Michael Walker of anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate said: “Ukip claim not to be racist but their feeble attempts at linking immigration to a local story demonstrates they are just a middle-class racist party and that on the ground there's no difference between the BNP and Ukip except the suits that they wear.
“Norwich is a multi-cultural community and the last thing it needs is people bringing racist sentiment and trying to make party political advantage from a non-existent situation.
“The fact that no weapons were found and that nobody was charged with anything only demonstrates that it's Ukip that shoots from the hip and that they should get their facts straight before trying to create racial tension.”
Mr Tingle, who grew up in Gertrude Road and whose mother still lives there, denied accusations of racism. He said there had been a number of previous incidents of anti-social behaviour involving residents of the house, and that he had collected signatures on behalf of neighbours too scared to act themselves.
“It's not a case of who it is; it's what they are doing. If they had been white British I would still have done it,” he said.
“A lot of people are saying 'we wouldn't have this trouble if we didn't have so many immigrants'.
Asked if he agreed, he said: “In some ways I do. If people come to this country they should all be treated equally.”
Mr Agnew also denied accusations of racism, and said he was relieved to hear that no weapons had been found.
“It appears our press release went out a little bit too late,” he said. But he stood by its comments, adding: “In London Bulgarians and Romanians are starting to accumulate in numbers and forming gangs and we don't want to see that happening in Norwich.”
by JON WELCH
Last updated: 20/06/2009 06:04:00