Negative campaigning has always been part of politics. The "Vote for nurse for fear of something worse" syndrome. But only once before in British politics have we had a whole political party predicated on things they are against
. Yes that is UKIP, and it's happened before.
What UKIP is "For" can be summarised by saying that they are broadly "For" whatever the opposite is to the establishment view. Mark Reckless described this as "Radical" , but it is of course the opposite of that. It is "Reactionary".
So key to the UKIP proposition is the idea of LibLabCon - the conceit that the three established political parties are all the same. We, the party of the common man, agree with you that there should be a plague on all their houses. The nearest parallel to this in modern British history was Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. Here is what Mosley said in 1938:
"The Blackshirt is a revolutionary dedicated to the service of our country. We must always possess the character of the true revolutionary. It is not the character that you observe in the little men of the old parties, blown hither and thither by every gust of convenience opinion, elated by a little success, downcast by a little failure, gossiping and chattering about the prospects of the next five minutes, jostling for place, but not so forward in service. Without loyalty, endurance, or staying power, such a character is the hallmark of financial democratic politics. It is the opposite of national socialism."
The parallel with Farage is strong. The faux-patriotism ("service of our country"). The claim to be "revolutionary" - very close to Reckless's "Radical". The contempt for the establishment ("the little men of the old parties") and the charge that they blow with every wind. UKIP's origins were firmly in the Conservative Party and their leadership is being reinforced by Tory defectors like them. In 1939 Oswald Mosley said this about the Conservatives:
"Now I ask any Conservative, apart altogether from their present performances, how can you, believing in the principles which they proclaim, remain in that Party with such a record? What reason have you got for remaining in that Party, except that it may be unpleasant to leave that Party? Some of your friends may not like it, and for the first time in your life you may have to do something rough and hard, fight for other people and fight for England."
While Nigel Farage's rhetoric might be a bit different to Oswald Mosley's the message to the Conservatives is the same. If you have true conservative principles how can you stay in a party which has abandoned them?
Oswald Mosley also appealed to the common man. In particular on the subject of immigration. These are his words, also in 1939:
"...they are coming in themselves, thousands of them; thousands of them coming in, not only undermining our standard of life, not only debauching our commercial practices, not only swelling the practices of criminal lawyers, not only changing the commercial outlook and morality of the British to’ the detriment of our simple and honest people; not on IT, that, my friends; this policy of the open door, this universal entry of alien standards and alien life if permitted to continue, is going to change the whole character of English life and English people..."
Stronger than Farage, perhaps. But not by much! Mosley was grotesquely anti-Semitic but his arguments were not that far away from those of UKIP, although the target is different. Remember UKIP supporter Leo Mcainstry's recent explanation for UKIP's rise:
"An air of bewilderment and panic now grips the two main parties. But the explanation for Ukip's rise could hardly be simpler. It lies in the issue of immigration. Ukip has tapped into the growing despair of the public at the relentless transformation of our country."
The "relentless transformation" charge is broadly the same as Mosley's "change the whole character of English life". And who said this?
"Some may say, those who do not yet feel as we do, that the entry of 50,000, 100,000 or 200,000 more does not matter, that we can swallow them, we can assimilate them. I deny it."
It was Mosley actually but you see what I mean!
We know what Farage is against, as we knew what Mosley was against, and there are strong parallels. Essentially the pitch is inward looking. Mosley ranted against the "International Financial system" and wanted to rely on the Empire. Farage rails against the EU and wants to draw back behind British borders. Mosley wanted to erect barriers to immigration, so does Farage. Mosley wanted to put "Britain First" - Farage uses the same rhetoric. And both claimed to be the only true patriots. Above all Mosley challenged and condemned the existing political parties . There is, however, one crucial difference between Mosely in the late 1930s and UKIP today. Here is what Mosley said in 1939:
"Now let me ask anyone here, who thinks that we have been unfair when we have attacked the ownership and conduct of the Press of this country, on what grounds do they behave as they have behaved? Do they tell us any longer that there is no news value in British Union, that the people of Britain have no interest in British Union? If they say that, let them glance round this great hall to-night and say whether or not the British people are interested in British Union. And yet any little Labour politician who cannot fill a schoolroom, any little B.B.C. crooner who bores you on a Sunday evening, (Laughter) any of these little creatures who have been made by the Press of this country, when they fill their little schoolroom, they get a headline in the newspapers the next morning."
Mosley was complaining that the media was ignoring him. That he couldn't get coverage in the newspapers or on the radio for his "British Union" (of Fascists). Well this is hardly a complaint that Nigel Farage could make! Back in 1938/39 Mosley had crested a monster and it had, through word of mouth, gained support. He filled the "great hall" of Earls Court and could have done several times over. But there was little or no media coverage and as war approached the Fascists faded away. But had he had the oxygen of publicity for his nationalistic rhetoric, for his hate campaign against immigration and the international financial system and for his rants against the establishment and the main political parties who knows what might have happened?