Three young children, who are European migrants, were on Saturday thrust into the centre of Britain’s politically-driven “culture wars’’ after a Labour-controlled council took them away from their foster parents accusing them of belonging to a “racist’’ party — the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) — which actively opposes multiculturalism and immigration.
It is not known how the children, thought to be from Eastern Europe, came to Britain.
The move by the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council in South Yorkshire provoked widespread criticism, including from the Labour Party, whose leader Ed Miliband said that the membership of a political party should not become the basis for determining someone’s suitability for caring for children.
The Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove, who himself was brought up by foster parents, called the decision “arbitrary, ideological and indefensible.”
It was a “wrong decision” made “in the wrong way for the wrong reasons,” he said.
“If we say you cannot foster children because you're a member of a mainstream political party, or because you have views on multiculturalism then that's utterly wrong,” he told the BBC.
The foster parents in question — a British couple who did not want to be identified — said they were left feeling “stigmatised and slandered”. They had been caring for children for seven years and had an “exemplary’’ record, they added.
The wife said she was “dumbfounded” when questioned by two social workers about her and her husband’s political affiliation.
“What has UKIP got to do with having the children removed,” she asked them and was reportedly told that the party had “racist policies.”
“The implication was that we were racist. [The social worker] said UKIP does not like European people and wants them all out of the country to be returned to their own countries,” she told The Daily Telegraph.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage said he was “very upset and very angry.”
Even as the Council launched an investigation, its Strategic Director of Children and Young People's Services, Joyce Thacker, defended the decision, saying she had to take the “cultural and ethnic” needs of the children into consideration while putting them into care. “If the party mantra is, for example, ending the active promotion of multiculturalism I have to think about that ... I have to think of their longer-term needs,” she said.