While the New York Times (and other media outlets) allow inflammatory race-baiters like Al Sharpton to get away with spouting about racial justice, and global warming activists like Al Gore can fly around the world with impunity before returning to one of their massive, energy-sucking estates, the paper reliably plays the hypocrisy card against right-of-center politicians who fail to adhere to moral "values," whether they've actually claimed them or not.
Thursday's example issued from the paper's London bureau chief Steven Erlanger, making a mountain out of a ho-hum political embarrassment for the right-wing U.K. Independence Party, whose increasing popularity in Great Britain among people worried about the acculturation of new immigrants is beginning to translate into seats in Parliament: "British Party That Stresses Values Faces a Sex Scandal."
The U.K. Independence Party has positioned itself as the defender of traditional British habits and values. Appropriately, perhaps, it now finds itself in the middle of its first sex scandal.
Complications abound, but the essence is simple: A senior party official, Roger Bird, has been accused of sexually harassing a woman who sought to be a parliamentary candidate -- putting pressure on her to sleep with him to get ahead in the party, which is better known as UKIP.
Sex scandals are a long political tradition in Britain, but UKIP is wooing voters who believe that the old politics have led Britain into both the European Union and an economic dead end, with British identity under threat from uncontrolled immigration from poorer states in the bloc.
The woman, Natasha Bolter, 39, seemed a great prize for the party -- female, young, of mixed race and a defector from the Labour Party. She was a visible riposte to the notion that UKIP is made up of disgruntled older white men from the shires who are afraid of immigrants.
That's a "notion" eagerly spread by the liberal press both in the UK and America. UKIP is chiefly a populist party opposed to the European Union and against mass immigration. Erlanger's framing of the sex harassment charges as backfiring on a straight-laced, moralistic "back to basics" UKIP party would have been complicated by mentioning the party's libertarian streak on smoking and gay rights. (In addition, the British press has recently unearthed some serious credibility problems regarding Bolter's academic and professional credentials.)
The party promptly suspended Mr. Bird this week pending an investigation by an outside firm, saying that it “will not tolerate impropriety of any kind amongst its staff.”
Mr. Bird, a former Conservative Party city councilor who joined UKIP in 2009, said he was wrongly accused. “I have done nothing wrong. I am a single man, she is also single, we are both single people who conducted a consensual relationship outside the office,” he said. “I’m very sorry that a story like this should have arisen because it detracts from our central messages.”
That, of course, is the problem, because the scandal seems to underscore UKIP’s image as frivolous, just as the party and its leader, Nigel Farage, have won their first two seats in Parliament and appear to be on course to do well in May elections.
Mr. Farage himself was mocked last week after he blamed immigration for his failure to show up to a political meeting in Port Talbot, Wales. “It took me six hours and 15 minutes in the car,” he later said. “That has nothing to do with professionalism. What it does have to do with is a country in which the population is going through the roof, chiefly because of open-door immigration, and the fact the M4 is not as navigable as it used to be.”
Erlanger ended by quoting a Labour politician: "...through the laughter at his silly comments you can hear UKIP’s dog-whistle politics of division.”
Erlanger's snide tone reminds one of how the U.S. media became suddenly interested in British electoral politics only after the Conservative Party was embroiled in supposedly hypocritical sex scandals on the eve of elections in 1997.