Monday, December 22, 2014

The fetid tip of the rotten UKIP iceberg

If you reference the fact that a significant minority  of UKIP's voter support previously voted for the overtly racist British National Party some kippers will descend on you to, as they see it, put you right. "We are the only Party that does not allow previous BNP members to join" they will tell you. Aside from the fact that a once BNP member is hardly likely to want to join Lib, Lab, Con or Green this UKIP claim rather misses the point. It's not about membership but about voting - there is nothing UKIP can do about Nick Griffin, and others who agree with him, voting UKIP. And UKIP will take a vote from anyone whether they openly seek it or not, as will most parties, and although they don't focus on it much, as "Revolt on the Right" showed, there is cause and effect between the decline in the BNP vote and the rise of UKIP's - the latter has replaced the former as the repository of the vote of the Far Right. Let me stress I am not saying all UKIP supporters are racists nor that they embrace all the other non-race related policies of the BNP (although if you look at the BNP platform at the last election it is not that different from that of UKIP today).

This week, as seems to happen most weeks, the UKIP leadership has had to censure and this time expel a supporter for holding extreme views. A Thanet councillor, Rozanne Duncan, has been kicked out of the party for making "draw-dropping" remarks in a TV interview. She joins the likes of the deranged Godfrey Bloom in having views so extreme that they "damage UKIP's image". Possibly! I say that because there is a case to be made that Mr Farage and his crew don't  deep down mind the appearance above the surface of the unquestionably racist and Fruitcake element from time to time. It allows them to distance themselves and promote a quasi-respectable alternative, and it reminds voters of the broad political ground that they inhabit - the same broad ground that is home for the BNP and the English Democrats (EDP) and "Britain Right" as well. 

UKIP is an extreme Right party, at least in a British context. However if you talk to their supporters (I have!) you will find that many are well to the Right of the party leadership, or where (I should say) the party leadership claims to be. The UKIP voter, or prospective voter, is not a moderate on anything. Withdrawal from the EU immediately. Stop all immigration and deport some immigrants. Stop overseas Aid. Sell off the BBC. Bring back hanging. Privatise the NHS. And so on. They combine this lethal cocktail of scapegoat-seeking faux-libertarian and neo-liberal positions with flag-waving nationalism and a suspicion and, sometimes hatred, of things foreign and foreigners. And above all they will tell you that diversity has killed Britain "Parts of our cities aren't British any more" they'll tell you "most of them don't even celebrate Christmas". They will use selectively the horrors of the child abuse scandal in Rotherham, or the rise of home-produced Islamic terrorism, as evidence that multi-culturalism is evil. The indisputable fact that most immigrants and children of immigrants are hard-working, decent and law-abiding citizens doesn't cut any ice. 

The Duncans and the Blooms may be ostracised by Farage because he sees them as damaging UKIP's electoral prospects but in reality they have views much closer to UKIP's core support than he would dare to admit. They are the tip of the fetid iceberg that is the party's likely supporters in the ballot box. If you look through Farage's speeches and writings over the years you will find content not that different - even though his current positions are nominally more moderate. It may be the ambition of Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless to position UKIP as a new Conservative Party rather than the anti-establishment party that it currently is. Or to so threaten the Tories that they segue in that direction anyway. Perhaps they are playing a long term "Unite the Right" game? For now, however, UKIP is a breakaway pressure group masquerading as a legitimate political party and gathering its support in not insignificant numbers from the "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists" once accurately referred to by David Cameron.


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