UKIP’s gaffe-prone Scottish operation blundered on today as the party were evicted from a Tesco cafe in Glasgow’s east end while trying to hold a press conference there. With their lead Scottish Euro Election candidate David Coburn having spent the last few days tweeting about how popular he is in the area, it’s probably safe to assume this wasn’t what he had in mind when he called the event. Coburn, the party’s “Nigel of the North” and the man hoping to be UKIP’s first Scottish MEP, reliably informed his twitter followers that UKIP have gained so much ground in Shettleston – where he’s originally from – that he was “mobbed and cheered” on his return there on Monday, presumably as hundreds of locals poured out of their houses to shower their new saviour with carnations or something…. As the party enters its final day of campaigning before the election, today was supposed to be along those lines – a slightly premature victory rally in front of the nation’s media.
Alas, it wasn’t quite to be. With the details of their meeting leaking on Reddit the night before, by the time I showed up just before its scheduled 10am start time, all 10 of them – ie. most of their Scottish membership – has been chucked out of the store and were engaging in scrappy arguments with half a dozen protesters who’d come along to question them. Given that a couple of weeks ago UKIP spectacularly failed to organise a coherent press conference in an er, conference centre in Edinburgh (piss ups and breweries spring to mind), becoming a laughing stock for the entire Scottish press corps in the process, it’s unclear why they suddenly thought that having one inside Tesco would be a good idea. Nonetheless, the media seem to have taken a hint from Edinburgh’s farcical Farage stunt and collectively forgot to show up today, save for a sole Morning Star reporter and a BBC crew who made a fleeting appearance.
While it wasn’t quite on the same level as yesterday’s Croydon shambles, where UKIP’s bid to hold a multicultural “we’re definitely not racist” carnival ended up being mobbed by protesters and the samba band they’d hired walking out on them, today’s bumbling operation was a fitting final call for the party’s Scottish election campaign, which has been riven by internal fall outs. As we’ve reported previously, at one stage almost all of their Scottish candidates dropped out in protest at Coburn being parachuted in from London, where he lives and works, to stand here. This makes Coburn’s whole “local man for local people” schtick in Shettleston even more hilarious, although he is currently claiming to be living in Edinburgh, where he moved to a whole one month ago.
With nothing better to do today, the assembled UKIP minions decided to start arguing with those who’d come along to protest, giving them the opportunity to show their disdain for swear words (“you’re really diminishing your own arguments”) and justify their wacky proposals for flat taxation (“it’s just a flat tax not a poll tax”) and scrapping maternity leave, with some homophobia thrown in for good measure too! However, when a BBC crew showed up they took to desperately offering a “rational debate” elsewhere in the carpark to allow Coburn’s interview to continue to peace. An enticing prospect.
This whole drama was unfolding in front of an increasingly agitated Tesco store manager who had long since called the polis, who eventually intervened to chuck everyone out of the car park and move them to a pavement 50 feet away. The whole thing was over and done with in half an hour – no samba band, ad vans, joyous crowds or even much media attention – just ten Ukippers trotting out the party line that they’re not racist ’cause some of their best friends are from ethnic minorities. One even showed me her driving license to prove she has a Spanish surname – multicultural or what? With that they sauntered back to their BMW 4X4s (how can they be racist if they have a German car, bet you didn’t think of that huh???) looking like a really shit version of Reservoir Dogs, and drove off in search of cheering crowds elsewhere. I think they may be looking for some time.