Sunday, June 08, 2014

How to combat Nigel Farage's Powellite raging against the dying of the White.

Aided by a compliant media much of the political noise over the past year or so has come from the mad insurgents of UKIP. Now before anyone accuses me of intemperate language let me stress that I use the adjective "mad" and the charge of insurgency advisedly. We are observing here a popular movement with an appeal to between a quarter and a third of the population - an appeal sufficient to win them the EU Parliament elections and potentially be major spoilers in next year's General Election. I do not charge the voters who have supported them with madness - but I do direct that charge at Nigel Farage and his co-conspirators.

History, particularly that of the Twentieth Century for which we have so much archive film, shows the power and the danger of the demagogue - and that is what Farage is. His oratory is effective in the same way that that of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco or even Oswald Mosley was effective. He appeals, as they did, to the basest emotions of his audience. That is the way it works with these men. Farage has no manifesto of substance and no coherent political ideology. Compared with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) - the last real challenge to the established order in British politics - he is shallow and single issue driven. That single issue is, of course, an obsessive opposition to multiculturalism and to anything that limits Britain's power (as he sees it) to govern ourselves. So the Anti EU stance (preceded of course by UKIP's anti Euro campaign) combined with an anti immigration polemic is what you get.

Farage rages and most of the time against the dying of the light. I am sure that many of the voters who support UKIP do so because they object to the way their environment has changed. I would like to quote anonymously here from a message to me from quite a well-known sportsman about his friend's mother's decision to vote UKIP in a Northern town. He also expresses his own opinions fairly emphatically: 

"My best friend from school's mother taught in local schools for 30 years and has just retired. She lived in a nice cul-de-sac in Blackburn. She is now the only person in that cul-de-sac who celebrates Christmas. She has been a Liberal Democrat voter for most of her life but has now changed completely. This is not cultural improvement. She no longer feels part of her own community. The other fact is that we are not in a a financial position as an economy to be able to allow non skilled or low skilled labour into the U K. We cannot afford the benefit system we have currently never mind letting new people in who can access NHS/Welfare etc. Maybe what is needed is a five year gap between moving here before being eligible for welfare...."

And so on ! This is essentially the sportsman feeding back to me the UKIP message. Nigel Farage told a story a short while ago about being on a train to London on which nobody was speaking English. He was mocked for making this remark but he knew exactly what he was doing ! This was a small rage against the dying of the "white". Against the change that means that whereas 50 years ago the 8:15 from Orpington was full of people just like Nigel it no longer is. The change that the quoted sportsman comments on in simple code "... the only person who celebrates Christmas" means, of course, the only white person of traditional British origins. The lady doesn't, not to put too fine a point on it, like living close to non-white British Asians with a different culture.

UKIP's voter support comes I think substantially from people like the lady in Blackburn. People of a certain age who feel uncomfortable with the changes that have happened and who seek scapegoats. But it is a rage "...against the dying of the light" in that multicultural change cannot be unwound.Nigel  Farage in power could do nothing about that cul-de-sac in Blackburn even if he wanted to - nothing, that is, unless he indulged in Nazi style ethnic cleansing ! 

Metropolitan liberals like me argue that multicultural Britain is a far better place than the mono cultural Britain we grew up in. I believe this emphatically and so, I am pleased to observe, do most young people who have never known a non-diverse Britain. But UKIP's appeal is not to me or to them. It is to those like the Blackburn schoolteacher and to a predominantly working class target group. In "Revolt on the Right" the authors show that those most likely to vote UKIP are angry old white men - older, less skilled, less educated working-class voters who have been “written out of the political debate”. This was the group, remember, who also supported Oswald Mosely and Enoch Powell whose messages were not dissimilar to that of Farage. 

In his infamous "Rivers of Blood" speech in 1968 Enoch Powell said this:

"We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre."
I suspect that the retired teacher in Blackburn and the "left behind" group identified in "Revolt on the Right" would say that Enoch was right. And I have little doubt that Nigel Farage would as well - although whether he would admit it directly is another matter! Farage rails against "immigration" because this is a coded way of railing against "multiculturalism". Immigration, in theory, is something that Britain can do something about - multiculturalism is a fait accompli. Enoch Powell predicted this:

"For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they [the British people] found themselves made strangers in their own country. They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition..."

Nearly fifty years on it is these fears that Farage and UKIP pander to. There is little or no difference between Powell and Farage in beliefs or rhetoric. Indeed Farage has said recently:

"I would never say that Powell was racist in any way at all. Had we listened to him, we would have much better race relations now than we have got," 

Powell was, of course, also a fervent anti-European. He said in 1971:

"The very use of the word ‘Europe’ in expressions like ‘European unity’, ‘going into Europe’, ‘Europe’s role in the world’ is a solecism which grates upon the ear..."

There is little doubt that Farage would agree with that as well! However the anti European Union message that launched UKIP  would be insufficient to sustain it without the anti-immigration message as well. Europe is low down the list of issues of concern of the population at large, but immigration is high up. So Farage finesses his opposition to the EU to opposition to immigration from EU countries - a movement of labour that membership of the Union encourages. If you oppose this immigration you have to oppose Britain's membership of the Union because the only way to stop it would be to withdraw.

If we believe that the message of UKIP is a deranged message we have to admit that there is method in Farage's madness. Nigel Farage is, give or take a detail or two, Enoch Powell's representative on Planet Earth today. He is an anachronism living in a time (or at least hankering after it) which is long gone. But as "Revolt on the Right" shows, and the UKIP electoral support proves, there is a strong minority in Britain that rejects the modern structure of our society and naively belives that Farage has a message that has practical options attached to it. But in truth the cul-de-sacs's in Blackburn are not going to change and multicultural Britain is here to stay -  much to our collective benefit many of us would say. Similarly the free movement of labour in Europe is unlikely to be significantly changed, although there may be some tinkering on the edges. It is, I suppose, possible that the political class may so mess things up that we find ourselves after a referendum withdrawing form the EU. But that is pretty unlikely as well. In the meantime Farage will carry on tilting at windmills and making us feel uncomfortable.

As with Enoch Powell Nigel Farage appeals to our basest fears and he simplifies unbelievably complex matters into banal slogans. The intellectual challenge to UKIP is robust and unchallengeable. But can those of us convinced of this translate this challenge into simple messages that combat UKIP's polemics? That's is much more difficult.





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