A refreshing note of dissent in UKIP on Farage’s HIV comments

One of the most awful moments of the 2015 election campaign was when Nigel Farage mentioned “foreigners” and HIV treatment in one of the TV debates.

UKIP’s only MP is Douglas Carswell. His father, Wilson Carswell, was one of the first doctors to identify HIV/Aids in Uganda in the 1980s.

So, one expected Douglas Carswell to have some views on Farage’s revolting HIV comments.

We’ve had to wait until the election was over to hear them, but those views now us. The Guardian reports:

The Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, got the tone of his comments “wrong on so many levels” when he spoke about wanting to ban foreigners with HIV from Britain, Douglas Carswell, the party’s only MP, has said.

Farage brought up the idea of stopping immigrants with life-threatening illnesses, including HIV, from entering the country during the first leaders’ television debate during the general election campaign. It later emerged this was part of a deliberate “shock and awe” strategy.

At the time, Carswell avoided backing Farage and criticised a reporter for “putting a slightly slanted question that will mean I have to answer it in a way that means I’m at odds with my party leader”.

“I’m not going to play that game,” he told the Telegraph. “I think it’s personally reasonable to want our national health service to be a national health service and not an international health service.”

However, Carswell has now revealed the extent of his unease about the remarks, telling BBC Radio 5 programme Pienaar’s Politics: “I think some of the tone we deployed, for example, the comments about HIV, were plain wrong. Wrong on so many levels. Not just wrong because they were electorally unhelpful, but wrong because they were wrong.”

He warned against framing the debate as “mean-spirited” as it could put off many potential Ukip voters who appreciate the fact that Britain is a generous place.

“Yes, there is a really important case to be made about restricting people’s right to come here and take advantage of our health service … but there is also something fundamentally generous about this country and I think we should always remember that.”

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is currently taking a break from his role as one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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22 Comments

  • Simon Gilbert 31st May '15 - 7:24pm

    The attitude is important when assessing political parties. Some of their views on sovreignty and the role of the overarching state are reasonable on paper. However until they rid themselves of leaders and messages designed to appeal to Xenophobes there is no point giving them any attention.

  • Why did Carswell join UKIP? He doesnt seem to agree much with Nigel Farage.

  • I don’t understand the problem with Farage pointing out that 10, 100, 1000,or 10,000, none British people are being treated for HIV if it is true. Why would we keep it secret? I don’t know how many people is too many but what is wrong with knowing how many people we are paying for and treating so we can all make our own minds up. How many people is too much? What if it was 500,000? Is that too much?

    I remember a few years ago there was an Alzheimer’s drug that cost £2.50 a day which the NHS said they would not pay for. Would it not be reasonable to ask why an elderly relative could not get this drug but there was millions of pounds available to treat people (with HIV or any other illness) from abroad?

  • Carswell is making sure that the escape pod is ready and available for his return to the other Conservative Party.

    Just like Groucho Marx, Carsŵell has deeply held principles and beliefs – but if people don’t like them he is prepared to change them.

  • I’m always surprised that Douglas Carswell is still in UKIP. I can understand why he didn’t find the Conservatives a good place to be. Who would. But we should listen to the reasons why his constituency is UKIP and ….. well, there is another time for completing that.

  • I’ve done a quick search for Liberal Democrat policy on healthcare for overseas visitors, but there isn’t any immediately accessible info. I can find ‘coalition’ policy, but I’m struggling to find any policy which is pure Lib Dem?
    So, what is the Liberal Democrat policy on how the NHS should treat, and fund overseas visitors?

  • I take it that the Lib Dem position is that any of the 7 billion around the world who want free treatment for any illness should fly in to the UK.

  • Just so we can assist a valid cross comparison of Liberal Democrat policy on healthcare ‘tourism’ with UKIP policy. This is the UKIP policy :

    [ UKIP will insist migrants and visitors who come to Britain have approved medical insurance. Only those who have the permanent right to remain in Britain and who have paid UK taxes for at least five years will be granted an NHS number and be eligible for the full services offered by the NHS. Urgent medical treatment will still be given to those who need it, but non-urgent treatment will be charged for. ]

    So, don’t be shy,…could you please reveal the Lib Dem policy on how to handle healthcare tourism within the NHS?

  • Malcolm Todd 1st Jun '15 - 2:53pm

    “Only those who have the permanent right to remain in Britain and who have paid UK taxes for at least five years will be granted an NHS number and be eligible for the full services offered by the NHS. ”

    Will that apply also to the many migrant workers the NHS depends on to stay afloat? Will they be refused “non-urgent” treatment after four years of providing and facilitating treatment, urgent or otherwise, of their UK-born masters?

  • Thanks for the reply Malcolm
    Let’s first put up (in the thread), the Liberal Democrat policy on how to handle healthcare tourism within the NHS,… please ? Then we can both compare the two policies, and any anomalies they each might have. I’ll be more than willing to discuss the fine workings of each other’s policy on this issue?
    Up to now, the only LibDem policy I can see in this thread is to ‘throw brick bats at everyone else’s policy, but put our own heads in the sand’. That’s not policy,… that looks more like ‘fudge’?

  • Gwyn Griffiths 1st Jun '15 - 5:13pm

    I do not find discussing the issue of “health tourism” offensive.

    What offended me about Farage’s comments was:

    a) that the figures he quoted were incorrect, erring – surprise, surprise – on the high side
    b) the dog whistle element of alighting on HIV as the object of his particular attention.

    On Carswell, the more I learn about him the more I feel he is, at heart, a liberal; albeit in the Jeremy Browne mould (which, for some posters on here, places him well outside the Lib Dem mainstream 🙂 ).

  • “Up to now, the only LibDem policy I can see in this thread is to ‘throw brick bats at everyone else’s policy, but put our own heads in the sand’. That’s not policy,… that looks more like ‘fudge’?”

    No John, that’s totally par for the course for a party that aspires to merely be a party of protest…
    I think in the absence of an agreed LibDem policy, the position that david expressed is a fair representation of Libdem policy, given their commitment to open borders and unconstrained migration.

  • David Allen 1st Jun '15 - 5:51pm

    “could you please reveal the Lib Dem policy on how to handle healthcare tourism within the NHS?”

    Let me suggest the policy I would advocate. Investigate how much it is costing the NHS per year to treat foreigners who travel to Britain in order to get treatment from us for free. Investigate how much it would cost the NHS to prevent that happening by mounting comprehensive checks on all patients. If this latter cost clearly exceeds what might conceivably be saved by making all the checks, then don’t make the checks. Save money by doing nothing about a non-problem.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Jun '15 - 6:01pm

    Douglas Carswell has said that he will vote with the Conservatives some of the time, depending on the issue.

    If Douglas Carswell falls out with UKIP , so what?

    He can become an independent and continue to serve the interests of his constituents in Clacton until 2020.

    While Nigel Farage can choose to campaign on some issues and ignore others, an MP needs to vote on the issues that come up, or explain to his constituents, local press and local opponents why he is abstaining.

  • Well, what I find astounding is that a bunch of articulate folk that constantly refrain with the mantra :
    “We must work harder to get the liberal message out there..!!!!! ”,
    Are the same folk that become utterly silent, when you ask about specifics and detail. Time to confess? If you simply don’t have a policy on how to handle healthcare tourism within the NHS, why not just hold up your hands and say,.. sorry,.. we haven’t thought it through,.. and we haven’t got a clue?
    Your jibes at the Farage / Carswell relationship is all mighty good fun,.. but having no alternate solution to the serious issue at hand, makes your party look like verbal ‘snipers’, and frankly, ..rather pointless.

  • Philip Rolle 1st Jun '15 - 8:03pm

    Would the Lib Dems accept Carswell if he asked to join?

  • @Philip Rolle why not? It would be illiberal not too.

  • Philip Rolle 1st Jun '15 - 9:07pm

    Well, as someone fairly near to Carswell on the political spectrum, I somehow doubt that he would be acceptable. Hasn’t the party got rather illiberal of late? For example, Euroscepticism is regarded as Europhobia in this parish. And as for controlled immigration? The words xenophobia and racism are often not far away.

    Just sayin…

  • Matt (Bristol) 1st Jun '15 - 9:25pm

    As far as I can work out, throughout the time he has been within Toryism and then within UKIPism, Carswell has consistently been a member of a fictional party that exists only in his own head – in much the same way that Northern Irish Republicans are ‘citizens’ of a 36-county republic that only exists in their heads but they are fighting to create. There is no reason to believe that whatever his current party leader says he should do or what policy is will immediately affect this, as he will listen to the voices in his head and do what they tell him anyway; the fact that this is actually how his current party leader seems to make up party policy in any case, is just one of life’s little ironies. It’s a marriage made in heaven (or Essex).

    As to NHS tourism, I think as far as I understand it, the LibDem policy on health tourism is that the situation has been exaggerated for political effect and it is not as significant as it is claimed to be, in part because (in Farage’s misrepresentation of the issue) it is based on abused statistics that are not intended to be a measure of ‘health tourism’ but of where NHS patients were born which would make Boris Johnson a ‘health tourist’.

    What is UKIP’s policy on a more significant issue … like devolution, by the way? Does it have one? What powers does it think local authorities should have? Is this the same policy it had 5 years ago, and if not why?

  • Malcolm Todd 1st Jun '15 - 9:59pm

    John Dunn

    Sorry, we just don’t share your obsession with non-issues like this that are in effect a form of push-polling. There really is nothing to see here, and those of us concerned with the real world have indeed moved on. (Personal traits will determine which of us merely roll our eyes and chuckle at being called pointless ” verbal ‘snipers’” by a Kipper, and which of us actually get wound up about it.)

  • Gordon Lishman 2nd Jun '15 - 10:53am

    The Guardian’s FOI request on health tourism showed that it costs other EU countries 5 times as much to provide healthcare for UK citizens as it costs the NHS to care for citizens from other EU countries. This is not surprising – UK residents in other EU countries tend to be older and in less good health than migrants who come to the UK to work.

    The deal agreed with the big pharmaceutical companies means that it is cheaper to get antiretroviral treatment in most less-developed countries than the cost of travelling to the UK, never mind stay here.

    What is the evidence that the NHS is a major victim of “health tourism”?

    Roland avers that LibDem policy on immigration is “commitment to open borders and unconstrained migration”. This is untrue.

    TCO is also wrong: it is entirely reasonable for the Party to confine its membership to people who share our basic values and philosophy. We are happy to campaign with others on specific issues where we agree. And, we should do a lot more of it.

  • As Gordon says —

    “…it is entirely reasonable for the Party to confine its membership to people who share our basic values and philosophy. We are happy to campaign with others on specific issues where we agree. And, we should do a lot more of it.”

    His words should be printed on the membership card.

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