Saturday, November 01, 2014

Sarah Wollaston's "Vote Positive" message is the right one. Let's do it.

I think that this is an excellent Tweet from Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston. The call to us to "Vote positive" strikes a chord. UKIP is the most negative force in British politics in living memory. We all know what they are against - but what are they for? They are against Britain's membership of the European Union and want us to return to a world where economically and socially we stood alone. Anyone who has lived through the post war period in its entirety as I have (born 1946) knows that cooperation between the European Nations is the greatest achievement of these times. The idea of an armed conflict between countries within the EU is unthinkable. For my parents and grandparents that was not, of course, the case. With economic union comes peace and security.. Every Nation has retained its character and substantially its independence. But some pooling of sovereignty has been both practically advantageous and emotionally uniting. UKIP's vile and juvenile protest in the European Parliament when they turned their backs on the EU flag and anthem made me momentarily ashamed to be British, until I remembered that these bigots only represent a sad minority of us and most of us would not be so ignorant and offensive.
Sarah Wollaston
To be positive about Europe and to want to make its work can be seen in parallel to what most of us would wish about our diverse society. Contrary to what UKIP says multiculturalism was never a goal in Britain. We did not overtly decide to become a multi-racial society, it was a consequence of an open approach to migration over the years. I have written here about how I believe that UKIP and the people that support them use opposition to Immigration as a  surrogate for their opposition to multiculturalism. UKIP supporter Leo McKinstry's "Ukip has tapped into the growing despair of the public at the relentless transformation of our country." sums this up well. Current immigration does not "transform our country" at all - or very little. That transformation has already happened. The negative approach, UKIP's approach, is to scaremonger about current immigration with the hidden message that UKIP will do something about multiculturalism. This is one of UKIP's big lies (or "empty promises" as Ms Wollaston puts it). Short of ethnic cleaning and forced repatriation (even UKIP doesn't propose this) we are a multicultural society and we are going to stay that way. The positive response to this fact is to celebrate our diversity and where there are problems (which of course there are) to work hard to solve them. There is no turning back the clock. There may be a case for somewhat tighter immigration controls, but this is a largely technical matter and it is unlikely that if we introduced a tightened regime anyone would notice much. And it would certainly have no impact at all on the nature of our already transformed society.
UKIP's support among the young and the better-educated in Britain is negligible. These are the positive people Sarah Wollaston is reaching out to. But those that are voting UKIP should not be forgotten either. They are, perhaps, Chesterton's "...people of England, that never have spoken yet" and perhaps they have never spoken because our political class hasn't spoken to them. Well UKIP is - and they are listening. We need to engage with this group, up to 20% of the electorate, not by adopting UKIP's clothes but by making the positive case. For Europe, for multiculturalism, for controlled immigration. Let's counter UKIP's lies with our truths. Conservative, Labour, LibDem it doesn't matter. We'll differ on substance and detail. But we must all be positive to counter the doom and gloom.


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