Bob's election priorities no.2: Contain the rise of UKIP
I guess in this post I only have four points I want to make.
1. UKIP is not the party of working people
It makes me infuriated that so many chattering class pundits trot out the line that UKIP is somehow speaking the voice of "the ordinary man" or the working class. This narrative has been boosted by Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford's concept of "the left behind", which found that the constituencies UKIP has polled well in are a little whiter, a little more working class and a lot older than the UK average, a fact that has been translated by the commentariat into the claim that UKIP appeals to working class people. In fact, Lord Ashcroft's polls are consistent in showing that UKIP's support is among C2 but not DE voters, and that it is unpopular among working class women and young working class people. Recent British Election Survey data finds it is a part of small businesses:
the working class basis of Ukip has been strongly overstated.The Party’s strongest supporters are often the self-employed and business owners... Even within the working class, Ukippers tend to be low level supervisors, and not the disadvantaged semi and unskilled workers often thought to provide the core of the Party’s support.And not surprisingly. UKIP was founded by Alan Sked, an Oxford graduate and (like Ralph Miliband) an LSE professor. Its leader Nigel Farage went to Dulwich College, one of the most elite private schools in England; his father was a Kent stockbroker and his career has been in banking. Its two MPs, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, went to private schools (Reckless to Marlborough, another of the most elite schools in the UK). Its main funder is investment banker Stuart Wheeler, who went to Eton and Oxford.
None of its policies are designed to benefit working people. It has flip-flopped on the NHS; it supports lower taxes for the rich; on education it favours grammar schools which by definition leave the majority of kids with second class schooling; it has no strategy for ensuring people in work get decent pay; it is aggressively opposed to trade unions.
2. UKIP is a one-trick pony
Although launched to combat the EU, most people in the UK don't really care that much about the EU. So UKIP realises that it reaches people if it talks about one single topic: immigration. As soon as asked to talk about any other topic, its spokespeople flounder about. Even if immigration is a topic many people care about, it's only one issue. I find it genuinely scary a party might have MPs who can hold the balance of power in a hung parliament voted for by people who don't actually know what its policy is on topics such as hospitals or housing.
3. UKIP is the truly nasty party
As I said before, it is absurd to call UKIP fascist (as ignorant liberals do). Certainly, its voters and supporters support it for all sorts of reasons; most of them are no more racist than the rest of us. But the sheer number of fascists who have endorsed UKIP, joined it, or stood for office under its banner is terrifying. To take just a few examples: Derek Wilkes, the Wigan candidate who is a fan of the fascist British First; Jack Sen, the candidate in West Lancashire who told a Jewish MP: “You’re about authentic Labour as Ed Miliband. Protect child benefits? If you had it your way you’d send the £ to Poland/ Israel.”; Christopher Gillibrand, the Welsh candidaite involved in a far right group which told Stephen Lawrence's mother to go home; Bill Walker, the Aldershot candidate who said that Nepali Gurkha servicemen are "parasites"; candidate John Leathley who fantasised on Facebook about Yasmin Alibhai-Brown getting raped; Robert Blay in Hampshire, who said he'd shoot his "not British enough" Asian Tory rival in the face; Janice Atkinson, the MEP who described a Thai constituent on television as a “ting tong”; or Anne Marie Waters, the Lewisham East candidate, who is starting an anti-Muslim group with the founder of the EDL.
What is worrying is that each time this happens, it doesn't seem to affect the UKIP polling rates. UKIP's existence makes unspeakable racism acceptable, and that makes politics in general nastier.
4. UKIP sets the agenda for the other parties
Nigel Farage's two big political heroes are Vladimir Putin, who represents the kind of macho authoritarian nationalism Farage also embodies, and David Owen. Farage once said:
"The SDP didn't last very long, but it won, because actually they finished up with Tony Blair who was an SDP Prime Minister. They fundamentally changed the entire Labour party. Foot and Benn and the hard left were all gone, and you got a new modernising labour party… so if ever there was a successful pressure group in British politics, it was the SDP."Just as New Labour (and Cameron's Tories) morphed their parties into versions of the SDP, the Tories (and Miliband's Labour) are keen to out-UKIP Farage's party. That's scary. And the smaller the UKIP vote is tomorrow, the less likely that is to happen.
UKIP's bigotry comes to Lewisham East.