This Other England: The Inevitable UKIP Post

I haven’t written about UKIP before, even though they represent currents of thought I have been writing about for years, because, well, they’ve got no MPs, no councils and represent no real chance of forming a government. A couple of things made me look up. First was this piece by George Eaton. In it Eaton summarises opinion polls: ‘The Conservatives are four points behind on 25 per cent, UKIP are on a remarkable 23 per cent and the Lib Dems are on 14 per cent’.

Whoah. Fucking hell. 23 per cent? And, like, 117 council seats?

UKIP have been around for years of course, but they used to be primarily an anti-EU party and did badly because they only appealed to a certain kind of EU nut. Now, Farage has realised that if he realigns UKIP into an anti immigration party he can appeal to a much larger proportion of nuts from across the political spectrum. UKIP’s local manifesto focuses almost entirely on immigration – despite the fact that immigration is something which local authorities can do little or nothing about. UKIP put a poster up in my old stomping ground of Levenshulme, saying ‘Stop open door EU immigration – enough’s enough.’ I support their right to free expression, UKIP should be able to advertise where it likes, but if you know the area, it’s a real slap in the face for Levenshulme’s Asians. Friends of mine from the locality petitioned ClearChannel. They were trolled on the internet and bullied by UKIP supporters. We’re not supposed to say that criticism of immigration is racist. But the BNP vote collapsed this week. Who could be taking all their support?

But UKIP are more than a far right party. Mainstream politicians have spent weeks grappling with the phenomenon. They set up focus groups of UKIP supporters to discover what exactly is peeling off mainstream support – sessions that, by all accounts, went like a junkercrat dinner party in late 1920s Berlin. The commentator Andrew Rawnsley has an anecdote that is worth thousands of words’ analysis:

One senior party strategist says he listened in some wonderment as his focus group of Ukip voters spent an entire 90-minute session wailing and gnashing their teeth about the state of Britain. Not a good word did they have to say about the country today. At the end of the session, he thanked them for their time, and said he had one more question. Was there anything about Britain that made them feel proud? There was a silence. Then one man leant forward and said: ‘The past.’ The rest of the group nodded in agreement.

Rawnsley goes on to say that ‘A Ukip vote is not mainly, if at all, about making a choice based on an assessment of policy.’ In the run up to the local elections spin doctors planted stories about the more deranged of UKIP’s candidate base. The public did not care. Mainstream politicians point out time and again that UKIP’s manifesto makes no sense. UKIP are offering free money for everyone and to clear the deficit. Any mainstream politician would be slaughtered for such unrealistic promises. The public do not care. Professional politicos need to realise that we are not dealing here with rational demands, it cannot be said enough: we are dealing with a miserable embittered shriek of self pity and unfocused rage. It’s not fair! Why doesn’t the world revolve around me? These are the questions that the nation wants answered.

Over at Telegraph Blogs, Dan Hodges writes that UKIP’s victory smashes the myth of a progressive majority in this country. He says, ‘Since 2010 Labour has moved Left, anticipating it would be inundated by people seeking sanctuary from the evils of austerity. They’re not coming. Those angered by the Coalition are knocking on Nigel Farage’s door, not Ed Miliband’s.’ In fact, there are plenty of progressives in this country. They’re just not in politics. As I’ve argued recently, British politics is not a place for reasonable people anymore. Smart progressives who want to make a difference don’t go into politics, they go into public policy or advocacy or journalism or law or the police or the Royal Marines. Because smart people are leaving politics, the field is left clear for maniacs, illiterates, thieves, neo-Nazis and toytown power merchants. This is particularly true at local level.

And it’s not true, by the way, that UKIP represent an ‘anti-politics party’. UKIP are more pro politics than anyone. They encourage huge unrealistic expectations of what politics can deliver. Vote for me and I’ll give you everything you want or need, your darkest fear, your fondest dream.

A point James Bloodworth makes is UKIP’s age profile. James points to a survey that claims UKIP’s support as 43% over 65 and just 8% from people under 35. James even says that ‘Such are the demographics of the Ukip vote that many who have supported them in this week’s local elections will actually be dead by the time the 2015 election comes around.’ Obsession with immigration, in my experience, chimes with that – it tends to be a consuming concern for people over forty. I’m not saying young people are not critical of mass immigration, but they do not obsess over it in the way of the old. Immigration is the fixation of the 1950s-1970s generation that had the world handed to them on a plate and never sacrificed anything and bankrupted the country and now have nothing to offer except self pity. ‘The world was a great place when I was young’ – that’s their battle cry. What they mean, of course, is: ‘The world was a great place because I was young.’

A significant minority of voters who hate everything about this country except the past. It’s a depressing vision – but one that we now have to confront. I used to think UKIP would tear the political right in two and the left would take advantage. That hasn’t happened. Labour’s performance in the locals was appalling compared to where they should be, while even the Cameron brand of liberal conservatism has almost completely vanished. Because the mainstream is scrambling to regain UKIP support, we could effectively be giving UKIP a rolling veto over mainstream policy. A nightmare Knesset scenario.

Government by local referenda. Will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights?


6 Responses to “This Other England: The Inevitable UKIP Post”

  1. JC Says:

    A brilliant and incisive commentary! I am glad someone has the balls to tell the truth! Journalists these days just ignore facts and report such drivel….

  2. asquith Says:

    I have arrived at the view that this may end up not being a good thing for UKIP, as if they were embarassed by their candidates they won’t know where to put themselves when they see how some of their councillors speak and behave in an official capacity. Lost amongst the details of policy-making, they’ll be ineffectual at best. The precedent is the defeat of the English Democrat mayor of Doncaster, as I can’t imagine many of this lot keeping their seats for long.

    And why exactly are they celebrating as though they’d won some kind of landslide victory in the first place? Call me old-fashioned but it looks to me like they were a huge way off being the first party!

    Did you see this?

  3. Paul Murdoch Says:

    A good piece.
    One other factor that you might have touched on is Disco Dave’s drive to lose the ‘nasty party’ tag. What I think Cameron underestimated was the proportion of Tories for whom the nasty label was never a problem; on the contrary, it is exactly this aspect of the party which always appealed to them.
    I must admit, I was confirmed in his view the other day on somewhat limited evidence. The guy whose loft conversion I was working on came up somewhat full of himself to inform me he’d just voted UKIP. When I asked why, he launched into a rant about “that mincing moisturised fuck” giving “poofdahs” human rights and “turning this country into a holiday camp for East European pikeys”.

    UKIP on that reckoning doesn’t represent a ‘new’ phenomenon, as such, more a clearer demarcation between instinctive Tories; distinguishing those who perceive a need to embrace modernity and those whose hopes reside with the large Hadron Collider and its potential in constructing a worm hole back to the 50s.

    Something of yours I read a few weeks back leads me to suppose you may have read this. But, anyway, here’s the last sentence from Richard Hofstader’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”

    “We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well”

    An excellent read, if you haven’t….

  4. Worth Reading 107: Qualifying benchmarks | What You Can Get Away With - Nick Barlow's blog Says:

    […] and to the benefit of yet another party with a managerialist and pro-capitalist ideology.” This Other England: The Inevitable UKIP Post – “A significant minority of voters who hate everything about this country except the […]

  5. Metatone Says:

    Hard to disagree about sanity overall, but surely worth noting that the spread of these elections was over small town, suburban and rural areas where UKIP has the most support. (And indeed for that matter, so do the Tories.)

    I think it’s also pertinent that for all that UKIPs economic policies are “pie in the sky”, they were selling hope – and that’s something the Labour party could usefully learn from. Somewhere down the line you need a vision of hope – the Tories have got “grim management of decline” sewn up, it seems to me…

  6. Kamo Says:

    I think this piece falls into the same lazy traps of much other analysis, because focusing on the underlying drivers of UKIP’s rise in popularity is uncomfortable for a liberal left/centrist intelligentsia.

    For decades the focus has been on accommodating difference under such monikers as diversity and multiculturalism, which left a large portion of the population believing that this accommodation was largely a one way street in favour of the newcomers, something which feels counterintuitive to them when what was here to start with was supposed to be attractive enough to get the newcomers here.

    The effective handing over of borders controls to a remote power based overseas, which by its constitution does not put Britain’s interests fist, appears to have produced perverse outcomes. Good (anecdotal) examples would be radical Islamist immigrants who we struggle to deport because the same rights they would deny others protect them, whilst the system they claim despise subsidises, nourishes and protects them. It feels counterintuitive and wrong.

    Subsidising the existence of a native low skilled lumpen-proletariat feels counterintuitive when we import low skilled labour to do the jobs the lumpen-proletariat believe beneath them. This is especially visceral where there is competition for resources, and just saying we’ll get “somebody else” to pay more money to accommodate this is not the answer they’re looking for.

    It’s easy to pedantically unpick the arguments of the UKIP supporters, but it’s much harder to deal with the reality of their experiences. I think many of UKIPs policies are dumb or absent altogether, but the problems driving their support are real and the mainstream British political elite doesn’t want to go there.

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