Tuesday, May 27, 2014

You don't beat UKIP by agreeing with them


Between them Labour, the Conservatives, the LibDems and the Greens secured 64% of the UK-wide vote in the European elections. In other words the number of voters opposed to the UKIP message of prejudice and xenophobia far exceeded the 27.5% who bought it.

That UKIP topped the poll is scandalous and a condemnation of the failure of the major or respectable parties to present a universally attractive appeal. There are bigots out there for whom Mr Farage is some sort of saviour – and there are people for whom a fact-based pitch will fail. But UKIP is wrong on everything and can be shown to be so. Britain is far better as an active member of the European Union than we would be outside it. FACT. Immigration has been good for Britain both when measured empirically and when looked at from a social perspective. FACT. The main political parties are not led by self-interested, corrupt liars but by decent people who while they of course have personal ambition are mainly driven by honourable motives. FACT.

So what should the decent men and women of politics do to combat the UKIP threat? Well most importantly they should not try and adopt any of UKIP’s positions on anything. This is for two reasons. First UKIP is wrong. Secondly for one of the established Parties to lean in the UKIP direction would be counter-productive. It wouldn't gain any support back and it would to an extent legitimise UKIP’s position. Can you imagine Farage saying “Even David Cameron is now saying UKIP was right on….” !

So the right thing to do is to refute and challenge all of UKIP’s lies relentlessly. Marshall the facts and communicate well. Don't bash UKIP voters but UKIP’s leaders. Show them for the narrow, prejudiced, ignorant bigots they are. Not by insulting them personally but by revealing the extent of their lies. But that is not enough – grass roots action is necessary as well. The main parties must in their different ways convince their natural supporters that, as Tony Blair has put it:

 Britain's future lies in being "outward looking and open-minded", not "closed-minded, anti-EU and anti-immigrant".

"Attitudes that are closed-minded, anti-immigrant, anti-EU, 'stop the world I want to get off', those attitudes don't result in economic prosperity or power and influence in the world.

"There is a perfectly good, strong argument to be made - you have to go out and make it."

But that argument has to be made not (just) in the cerebral pages of “The Guardian” or “The Times” but by engaging directly with all of the people. It is not as big a task as it might seem. Lets say that around a quarter of the electorate is attracted by UKIP. Well you only need to recover half of those to reduce UKIPs influence and marginalise them as the extremists they are. 25% is approaching mainstream – 12% or less is on the fringe. We must drive UKIP back to the fringes from which they emerged. And we will only do this if we engage, speak in language that people understand and don't imply that we think UKIP voters are fools.


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