Friday, May 03, 2013

The stench of UKIP will stay with us for a while.

Maybe it's human nature but we Brits often seek to find someone to blame when things go wrong. I don't know whether "Through no fault of mine..." translates into other languages but you certainly hear it often in Britain. The blame culture spreads by word of mouth, but especially when the tabloid press sees a target. So our concerns about our present economic malaise are directed not at the real causes (Financial institutions, greed and general macroeconomic mismanagement) but at villains it is easy to spit venom at. The European Union, say, or immigrant labour. 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 and to control our national debt or manage our budget.

The appeal of UKIP 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 is not an option (and 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 Mr Farage. 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 judgment. 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. It's basically the message he's heard for years in the saloon bars of pubs in leafy Kent, his home, that he's peddling.

UKIP is a protest movement pretty much against everything the political establishment holds dear. 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. And when UKIP is gone the stench it leaves behind will be with us fo quite a while.


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