Sunday, September 28, 2014

If Cameron is Heath, and Farage is Enoch Powell - who will be the Conservatives new Margaret Thatcher?

"This is the first and last election at which the British people will be given the opportunity to decide whether their country is to remain a democratic nation, governed by the will of its own electorate expressed in its own Parliament, or whether it will become one province in a new European superstate under institutions which know nothing of the political rights and liberties that we have so long taken for granted"

This is not, as you might reasonably surmise, a preview of a speech next year by Nigel Farage, Douglas Carswell or Mark Reckless. Nor of someone from the Anti-Europe Right of the Conservative Party like Daniel Hannan. It is from a speech by Enoch Powell in 1974 - a "Forty Years On" moment which shows that there is nothing new about Europhobia on the Tory Right. Powell was still, just, a Conservative MP when he made that speech but he was in the process of abandoning the Party, encouraging the electorate to vote Labour and then later joining an overtly Nationalist political Party the Ulster Unionists. Deja Vu?

Douglas Carswell and now Mark Reckless are unashamedly Powellite. Their nationalist political philosophy is indistinguishable from Powell's and it was perhaps only a matter of time before they followed in Powell's footsteps and jumped ship. While UKIP does not, of course, call on voters to vote Labour (as Powell then did)  it knows that the larger the UKIP vote in 2015 the larger the Labour majority. The enemy, despite the protestations, is not Labour but a Conservative Party that, as they see it, has sold out on Europe and on immigration. Pure Enoch Powell of course. 

Nationalism is a powerful political force because tub-thumping and flag-waving is visible, simple and has an instant appeal. Margaret Thatcher used it to brilliant effect during the Falklands War and bolstered her then shaky political position as a consequence. Nigel Farage only needs to compare the merits of our Parliamentary democracy with the threat of an unelected "new European Superstate" to get the Union Flags waving enthusiastically in support

The three essential tenets of UKIP (Anti Europe, anti immigration and anti the political establishment) are like the legs of a three-legged stool - remove one and the stool falls over. And by joining the Party Carswell and Reckless clearly are happy to embrace all three. The Powellite comparison is also strong in respect of a contempt for the new political order. This is what Farage said back in 2008:

"You can agree or disagree with much of the Powell doctrine, but his belief in the state having less of a say over our lives, in us not having our laws made in Brussels and having sensible controls over our borders - whilst his language may seem out-of-date now, the principles remain good and true.

And here is what Mark a Reckless said yesterday:

"I remember the promises I made to my constituents in Rochester and Strood, and I intend to keep them. I promised we would cut immigration, cut the deficit so we could reduce taxes, decentralise power and promised we would have a more open and accountable politics. And above all, I promised we would get our country out of the European Union."

All politicians are products of their political time. Enoch Powell had by 1974, at the age of 62, not given up the hope of more political power and whilst his political positioning was from way out of "right field" he had spotted an exploitable niche in the British political status quo. Nigel Farage has identified that same niche and acknowledged that Powell's "principles" are the same as his. The 1970s were febrile political times and Powell exploited the same fears as Farage and Co. are exploiting now. Powell was never going to become Prime Minister as an Ulster Unionist - but arguably his articulation of strong nationalism shifted the political norms sufficiently to prepare the way for Margaret Thatcher. Nigel Farage is never going to take UKIP to any sort of meaningful position of power either - but perhaps his new Tory recruits like Carswell and Reckless hope that UKIP's shock tactics will change the Conservatives as arguably Powell did in the 1970s? 

So if Farage is Powell, challenging Cameron as Powell once challenged Heath, who will be the White Knight who will be a modern day Margaret Thatcher?  Is Boris Johnson subtly (for him) shifting to the Right to be the modern day saviour of the Conservative Party? Or is there some other figure with charisma and an authentic message on the Tory Right who can pick up the sword. There are many in the Party who must be hoping so! 


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