Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdon Independence Party

 

The political Party making the most noise and getting, as a result, disproportionate media coverage in Britain today is, of course,  the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

UKIP is phenomenon largely unheard of in Britain – a Far Right party which actually wins elections. Notably the last elections to the European Parliament where they finished ahead of all the other British parties. My contention that UKIP is a “Far Right” party has to be seen in a British context. The space they occupy was traditionally taken by the Conservative Party’s Right Wing, and to a significant extent still is. This group only had power only once in modern times – under Margaret Thatcher – and even she did not shift Britain dramatically to the Right. Out of office and in her declining years she had UKIP tendencies but in office she was much more centrist. And much less Europhobic.

UKIP is not a Fascist outfit, that’s not what the new phenomenon of a democratic British “Far Right” is. It is in part a breakaway from the Conservatives and in part a “respectable” or at least politically credible home for previous British National Party (BNP) supporters. Let’s be clear about this – there was nothing decent nor respectable about the BNP, nor is there, in a different way, about UKIP. In the past people with Faragist views were at home, reluctantly, with the Tories. They were uncomfortable sometimes and the party leadership didn’t like them. But they stayed loyal Conservative voters because with the space to the right of the party being occupied by the likes of the racist and sometimes Fascist BNP (and its predecessors) there was nowhere else to go. The phenomenon of a party’s supporters and activists being more extreme than its leadership is familiar and not confined to the Right. And it can work the other way as well – the brief flowering of the SDP was a response to the perception that the Labour Party under Michael Foot was too Left Wing. Farage’s successful pitch is to offer a home to Tories who see their Party as too centrist. The fact that especially in power, which brings with it the responsibility to be pragmatic, they always have been doesn’t matter.

In addition to the disenchanted middle-class Conservatives, who are their core supporters and from which group Farage and many of their other leaders come, and the racists who previously voted BNP, UKIP is building support from working-class voters. Some of these are Alf Garnett types . This is what Alf said about the “Common Market” predecessor of the European Union:

 “Old Enoch’s against it, in’t ‘e, eh? He don’t want no more bloody foreigners over here. We got enough bloody foreigners here as it is. Bloody country’s swarming with Eities and Krauts and Froggies and Spagnollies and Brussel Sprouts. All coming over here and taking our jobs off of us, aren’t they?”

In essence Alf’s xenophobic rant is pure working-class UKIP. In the past these votes would have gone to the Tories. Alf Garnett was a Conservative voter. But now the twin positions of UKIP, as summed up for us by Alf, are anti-Europe and anti-foreigner. He refers to Italians, Germans, French, Spaniards and Belgians. For Nigel Farage its Romanians, Poles and other migrants from East Europe. Times change, the prejudice remains the same.

I said that there is nothing “decent or respectable” about UKIP and what I mean by this is not that they make overtly racist declarations (our Laws dont permit that anyway) but that they appeal, as Alf Garnett once did, to prejudice. Esentially they are appealing to people who don’t like they way that some of Britain’s cities have become in part British Asian in culture. This multiculturalism is a fact and there is nothing that UKIP or anyone else can do about it. Immigration does not add in any significant way to our multicultural status quo, except on the margins. And all the evidence is that when measured accurately immigration is substantially economically positive for Britain. Similalry Britain benefits to such an extent from its membership of the European Union that no rational man would argue for withdrawal from that Union. But that doesnt stop Farage and Co any more than Alf Garnett could have once be persuaded.

 

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