Funny old game politics. In Britain at the moment we have a multitude of problems. Our economy is static. Our public services are declining and will decline further as budget cuts take effect. Our budget deficit, despite the cuts, is rising – as is unemployment. We have restructured our employment away from solid, stable, full-time jobs, protected by a minimum wage, towards lighter-regulated and often part-time jobs which are cheaper for employers. We have a ticking time-bomb of an ageing population, living longer but with much less certainty as to how their old age will be funded.  At the other end of the age range we have school-leavers without jobs but who cannot afford the further education that might make them employable. Our city centres are all-too often at night the scene of drunkenness and disorder. We have the widest divisions in living memory between the “haves” and the “have-nots” – and the variation in affluence between the more prosperous South (especially London ) and the rest of the country is large and widening. We have an education policy which seeks to create a small number (relatively) of elite State schools whilst ignoring the all too many “bog-standard” Comprehensives. We have a bombardment of advertising from huge gambling companies that dangle the prospect of casino winnings at gullible punters who all too often can’t really afford to lose. There is a palpable sense of unease and a search for scapegoats.

The scapegoats of choice are not employers many of whom increasingly see labour as just another factor of production to be hired and fired at will. They are not parents who are so busy, often, working to make ends meet that they cannot devote enough time to ensuing their children are a credit too them. The are not the over-burdened and often underpaid public servants whose hands are tied by funding shortages. No – the scapegoats are the bureaucrats of the European Union and immigrants, often from Eastern Europe, who “take our jobs” or “come to sponge off welfare and the Health Service”. Elements of the Right Wing press, like the Daily Express and the Daily Mail, stir up this prejudice with absurd stories and mendacious headlines.

There are aspects of our status within the EU that are less than optimal no doubt. And in some cases citizens of EU States are getting jobs which would otherwise go to British citizens. But in truth these are fringe concerns compared with our seemingly endemic failure to get growth in the economy, principles in our corporate governance, to control our national debt, manage our budget and create a more civilised society

The scapegoats are the principle targets of the “UK Independence Party” (UKIP) whose appeal is to those who (a) Feel something must be done (b) Seek to find someone to blame. Because Gordon Brown’s Labour government was seen by these people to have failed Labour for them is not an option (and the Labour leader Ed Miliband has failed to impress). Because the LibDems are in the Coalition they can’t be relied upon either. And the Conservatives are beyond the pale because of their economic failures and (cue blame culture gut response) their continued kow-towing to Brussels and inability to control immigration. Remember these are perceptions, and the truth is different. But perceptions ARE reality because people believe them to be true. Enter UKIP leader Mr Farage (pictured).   He doesn’t ask you to understand complex subjects and he’s no policy wonk. He doesn’t ask you to be balanced in your political judgement. Or fair. Or even well-informed. He just wants you to believe that all of our malaise can be reduced to the simplest of policy proposals, and he knows that these proposals will hit the spot of your prejudice and your search for the guilty. The EU is to blame? Lets get out. Immigrants are taking our jobs? Stop them coming. And so on. That politics is complex and that it is the art of the possible? Well that doesn’t worry our Nigel.  UKIP is a protest movement masquerading as a political party. It is the ultimate “none of the above” option. It is not an ideology and it is not a serious option. It’s proposals are uncosted and the dreadful implications attached to its mainstream positions have been inadequately challenged by the main parties. UKIP will fade away sooner rather than later. In the meantime it can do untold damage to our political system and the core principles we hold dear.

Whilst UKIP is at the wilder fringes of reason the Right Wing of the Conservative party is not far removed. Quite why at a time of maximum difficulty for their Prime Minister they would seek to challenge him and destabilise an already shaky party you would need deep psychiatric analysis to find out. These “Eurosceptics”, emboldened by the rise of UKIP, see a real possibility to make progresswith their inward-looking and unashamedly nationalist agenda. This is not a small awkward pressure group in the Party. They probably count a majority of Members of Parliament as adherents to their cause- and quite a few Cabinet Ministers as well. But the paradox of their actions in calling for an early referendum on the UK’s EU membership is that the route they are taking will almost certainly ensure that such a referendum won’t happen. The two main opposition parties (Labour and the LibDems) are against a referendum. UKIP is of course for – but despite their strength in the opinion polls they have little or no chance of getting even one Member of Parliamentat the next General Election.

There are four possible outcomes to General Election due in 2015. (1) Tory overall majority (2) Tory/LibDem Coalition (3) Labour/LibDem Coalition (4) Labour overall majority. Of these only (1) could conceivably deliver an EU referendum. But the Conservatives have little chance of securing an overall majority – not because their EU Referendum call does not have popular appeal but because it is not by any means the most serious of issues that the public is worried about. I listed some of theses issues in the first paragraph of this piece. These are the problems on which voters will be voting. And it is the Coalition’s pretty poor record, and the Prime Minister’s personal failings, that will almost certainly guarantee that we won’t have the Conservatives governing on their own (or at all) after 2015. So all the sound and fury over an EU referendum is much ado about nothing. And demeaning to our political system and our standing in the world.

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