Monday, 10 November 2014

Fuel on the Fire

by Jadon Buckeridge


As an introductory note: this goes some way to responding to Alex's article from last week, but I'm also outlining why I think the constant criticism and dismissal of UKIP as a political party is the very key to their success.

Nigel Farage campaigns for UKIP candidate
Mark Reckless in the Rochester by-election
(source: Daily Telegraph)
UKIP are like an exciting football team: you may not support them, but they're great fun to watch. I'm not, contrary to how it may seem, writing from a position of any real bias towards UKIP: I'd never vote for them in an election, and in reality, I strongly support the Conservatives in terms of party policy. However, UKIP aren't a joke; their policies don't amount to a 'shopping list', as Alex suggested; and what we are seeing is the rise of a genuine threat to the three-party system we've become so accustomed too.

I find it bemusing when people talk about UKIP as if their very existence is a curse. In reality, UKIP won't win the election. The very best they could hope for is a coalition, and judging by the legacy of the  Libdems, they wouldn't be making many changes. But this doesn't make their purpose in politics redundant. They have an uncanny ability to highlight the problems in our society, expose underlying issues that plague the political system, and turn the concerns of people into the concerns of the politicians. In recent years UKIP have also had the best track record for engaging young people in politics- a sector of society that previously abstained from making any real contribution to our democracy. Ultimately, UKIP are an ideal means of improving the level of democracy in our electoral system: UKIP's ability to engage with the disengaged means that a huge proportion of its supporters have never voted before in their lives. Democracy serves the purpose of finding the majority will of the people; the more people voting, the more effective our democracy can be.

Alex has highlighted an example of a popular UKIP policy on an issue which other political parties have ignored for generations- immigration. No one likes the subject because the rhetoric is seen as precariously close to racism, and it is avoided like the plague in a careful conformity to political correctness. Alex, as so many of UKIPs critics love to do, has made the implication that UKIP are somehow obsessed with immigration to a degree that doesn't reflect the concerns of the public. But we underestimate the prevalence of this issue in today's society. In May this year, YouGov reported that 57% of people in the UK placed immigration as one of their top 3 most important political issues. To emphasise the weight of importance here, the figure reported for concerns surrounding health in our nation was less than half that figure.

This begs the question: why are UKIP persistently branded as racists? The answer is simple. The accusation stems from ignorance - ignorance leading the unwary voter into the trap of common misconception. It may come as a shock, but UKIP aren't actually anti-immigration. When you scrutinise their policy, you find that, rather than implementing measures to heighten discrimination, they are actually fighting against it. As it stands, the gates of our kingdom are left wide open to any poorly-educated, barely-skilled European who jumps at the opportunity to leave sky-high domestic unemployment and take a slice of our prolific welfare cake. And yet, as a result, we are left with no room for a highly-skilled Indian engineer or a well-educated Chinese doctor, who doesn't benefit from a free movement deal within the EU. What UKIP suggest is a rational discrimination on the basis of talent. What we have now is an irrational, borderline-racist policy, which discriminates against everyone based on race unless they happen to be European.

I won't spend the whole of this article parading UKIP policy, but it's important to be aware of what they do stand for, before pulling three policies out of a hat and drawing lines through them as Alex did in his article. UKIP have popular policies on inheritance, popular policies on policing and popular polices on the devolution of power, but for some reason, those who don't like UKIP don't even bother looking at what they're up against.

Ed Miliband, in the last few days, has decided to mount an assault on UKIP's EU policy, highlighting the economic catastrophes that he predicts would occur following a possible exit from the EU. Most people will probably take any economic guidance from Miliband with a pinch of salt, but, regardless, there are plenty of arguments that suggest Britain would not lose out economically following a 'Brexit'. For a start, Britain is the biggest export market for the EU. The decision to leave doesn't have to end with a nasty divorce, trade deals abandoned, and all the rest of it; it's in the interests of both Britain and the EU to maintain the economic transparency between nations we have in the current arrangement.

Alex is right in saying UKIP are fond of the Norwegian arrangement, where we would abandon full EU membership but remain within the EEA. He's also right in saying this would do very little to stem the flow of immigration. But he's pulling the wool over your eyes regarding the economic consequences: UKIP still have a strong argument. The EEA guarantees us not only a place within the EU single market, but also expands our free trade deal to another three nations. In terms of decision making, Alex is right that we would sacrifice influence within Europe, but how much do we really have anyway? As it stands, tax payers in the UK are being penalised for a good economic performance. As the poorest nations in the EU are left drowning in the waters of their own failing economies, we are left to rescue them. Yet what we would gain in terms of decision making powers is highly attractive to any UK voter. We would retain all decision-making powers on domestic justice, home affairs, and foreign policy; we would be granted a seat at the World Trade Organisation (which we currently don't hold), creating opportunities for new bilateral trade deals world wide; and, on top of all this, our monetary contribution to the EU would be reduced by over 85%.
   
I was listening to Theresa May, the current Home Secretary, speak in Chichester last week, and was shocked that even the most senior politicians are still dismissing UKIP, and the issues they bring to the table. She was absolutely convinced, that, when it comes to the general election next year, people will spontaneously forget the concerns about immigration that have burnt in the forefront of their minds for over a year, and turn all their attention to the economy. 

It won't happen. 

The population is not educated in politics or economics. They don't care that George Osborne has achieved economic growth while the rest of the European economies teeter on the edge of further recession, because they don't understand. What they do understand, though, is that, as Alex pointed out, sixty thousand Europeans are claiming Jobseekers Allowance in the UK. They do understand that 80,000 jobs are advertised to European workers while the UK is still plagued by unemployment of the magnitude of almost 2 million. UKIP's success in the general election hangs in the balance: a balance of emotive versus rational politics. If the Conservatives connect with voters on the subject of the economy - educate them, and improve their understanding- the UKIP sheep might rejoin Cameron's  flock. But if they can't, if UKIP's policies are dismissed rather than discredited, people will vote with their hearts and their hearts will vote for UKIP.
    
UKIP have an ingenious media presence that attracts voters like bees around a honey pot: Labour are notoriously strong on the NHS, the Conservatives consistently take the lead on the economy, and yet, when they are stuck in a debate with UKIP politicians, all they manage to talk about is Europe and immigration. In political football, UKIP are always the home team.

Farage has somehow constructed a media landscape in which UKIP's weaknesses aren't even mentioned; it's as if they don't exist. My point here is that UKIP's opposition immediately give Farage the upper hand by fighting him on his favourite terrain. Alex has written 1,700 words designed to damage UKIP, but has only addressed the areas in which UKIP thrive. Whether he, or I for that matter, would agree or not, is irrelevant: UKIP;s growing support shows that they are very strong in all three areas he broached in the article. We need to stop blaming the media for pandering to UKIP; we need to stop claiming UKIP policy is noise and nothing else; and, finally, we need to highlight every other issue on which UKIP policies are either weak or, perhaps, just don't exist at all.

Take health, for example: a UKIP spokesperson suggested that people who don't require urgent treatment, should be able to pay a fee, and then queue jump. This goes against everything the NHS stands for, would almost certainly be abhorrent to almost all of UKIP's voter base, and yet has never received any genuine attention from UKIP opposition or media.
  
On a different note, 97% of scientists testify to the existence of global warming, but UKIP would disagree. The words of wisdom from the mouth of UKIP's education spokesmen, Derek Clarke, must have been severely influenced by the 3% of scientists who denied the existence of global warming. He said 'All teaching of global warming being caused in any way by carbon dioxide emissions must also be banned. It's just not happening.' Not only is their an overwhelming  presence of irrational thought amongst UKIP's personnel, but, under party policy, this type of ideological thinking would be ingrained into the minds of the nation;s children. Brainwashing has no place in our system of education.

UKIP have a particularly interesting economic policy too: written on pages torn straight from a Thatcherite/ Friedman textbook, their attitudes toward the nation's economy are the epitome of free market ideology. This creates a neat little paradox, given that most UKIP voters are generally financially restrained and relatively uneducated people to whom the idea of pure free market economics would be an absolute anathema. However, on a more serious note, it's an indicator of the level of mystery surrounding the party. Even the supporters don't know what they're supporting.

A final piece in the puzzle of UKIP policy that just doesn't fit the jigsaw is a point I raised earlier. UKIP and immigration are like cheese and biscuits - they always seem to go together - and yet this is one of the many policies which don't add up. How can Farage support membership of the EEA, a group which advocates free movement throughout the entire 30 member nations, and simultaneously oppose that very same free movement?
    
People need to stop biting chunks out of UKIP - it just makes the party more and more determined. Politicians need to stop firing media cheap shots at UKIP policy: dismissive bouts of heckling do nothing to educate the electorate about the flaws on the UKIP 'shopping list'; instead, they just erect a media pedestal on which Farage can preach. He conducts the slickest PR operation of any of our political parties: for him, any publicity seems to be good publicity.

50% of people know UKIP's policy on immigration; over half of the population know UKIP's policy on Europe; and yet no more than ten percent of the population know the details of any UKIP policy on any other issue. Why? It's simple. UKIP are weak in every other area of politics: Farage plays the party's strengths, but it's our job to look for the weaknesses.

What's really required to beat back the UKIP offensive is genuine scrutiny; we should demand explanations on every policy they put forward, not just dismiss them. Eventually, when the curtain of double standards is pulled back, everyone will realise that, when numbers go into the UKIP political calculator, they rarely ever add up.


15 comments:

  1. You seem to forget that a UKIP council candidate once told Lenny Henry to "emigrate to a black country". UKIP may not be a wholly racist party but there is no way they are fighting against discrimination as you put it.

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    1. I haven't forgotten I can assure you. However, it's arguments like yours, in which, with an overriding narrow-mindedness, people brand political parties based on the actions of rare individuals within them (who inevitably are suspended thereafter), draw the entire political debate to a grinding halt.
      A labour councillor was recently suspended for making a homophobic slur; but this does not make the party a band of homophobes, nor are they accused of being so. A conservative councillor was recently suspended for posting comment on Facebook of anti-Islamic sentiment; but the party are not an anti-Islamic organization, nor are they accused of being so.
      If we branded every party based on the actions of the rebellious minority, there would be no party remaining who's moral integrity wasn't tarnished by a level of fundamentally unacceptable discrimination.
      Thankfully we don't - but it's a shame people kick this political football at UKIP without considering any further depth of argument.

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  2. A couple of points in reply:

    - You quote the YouGov poll which shows that concern about immigration is high but the main thrust of my article was that while many people are unhappy with their situation and think cutting immigration and leaving the EU would improve things, they are wrong.

    -The Ipsos-Mori Issues Index tracks voters concern about 5 issues: Immigration, Education, the Economy, NHS and Unemployment. Immigration was in last place until 2000 and is now 2nd to the Economy. The reason it wasn't really discussed before wasn't due to some 'political class' conspiracy, it wasn't amongst voters' top concerns.

    - I very carefully never suggested that either UKIP or their supporters are racist. I specifically said that UKIP voters have justifiable grievances that have to be addressed.

    - I didn't say that the UKIP agenda is a 'shopping list'. I talked about "the shopping list of grievances that usually get listed by UKIP supporters.' While I disagree with UKIP's policies on immigration and the EU, their other policies are too laughable to even dignify with an argument, as you kind of suggest yourself. By the way, read the issues page of the UKIP website. The first 2 issues listed? 1. EU Exit and 2. Controlling Immigration. It's not that opponents unfairly portray UKIP as being focussed on these issues. They do it themselves.

    - We are not 'rescuing failing economies' in the EU. That would be the Germans....for the very good reason that they have been the biggest beneficiaries of the Euro. The economic problems of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain do not come from EU membership, they come from poor economic management which was masked by the single currency. It is absolutely right that the beneficiaries of that system pick up the bill.

    - Having a seat on the WTO and negotiating new bilateral trade deals will only really benefit the UK if those deals are better than the ones the EU has with those countries. You boldly state that just having these new agreements would be better. I doubt it.

    Concern about immigration and opposition to the EU is driving support for UKIP. These concerns arise because of falling real living standards for many. Controlling immigration and pulling out of the EU would not materially address these concerns. It's a dead end.

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  3. I'll address your points one by one as you have done mine :

    you've misinterpreted my point supported by the YouGov poll: I'm not arguing with your suggestion that cuts to immigration and an EU exit are not the solution to people's problem; I would agree. My point was that the poll doesn't lie: immigration is a huge concern amongst the population, rightly or wrongly, and therefore the other parties should not sit back and watch UKIP take all the credit for addressing it.
    On your second point: you point out that in 2000 immigration played a far smaller part in politics. But that was 15 years ago: times have changed, immigration has changed, and people's concerns have also changed. My suggestion was that other parties were to slow to recognise this underlying concern, and now UKIP are reaping the benefits.
    You are right: you never suggested UKIP or their supporters were racist. But equally, I never suggested you had made this suggestion. I'm not sure what your getting at with this argument?
    I may have twisted your words for my benefit, however my entire article addresses how the use of derogatory rhetoric such as 'shopping list' in criticising UKIP and their voters actually increases their chances of success
    The Germans are helping rescue failing economies, but so are we. The whole reason why we are being forced to pay the £1.7 billion budget surcharge is because our economic performance in terms of growth has outdone what was expected in the European economy after the crash, leading to miscalculations of GNI. Meanwhile, other members of the EU are failing to meet their own budget targets.
    I'm having difficulty understanding your point about the WTO. Currently there is no bilateral trade deal between the EU and China (which is by far the biggest Asian economy ) and therefore my suggestion that we could negotiate better deals independently is not presumptuous; it is an inevitability.
    Finally you conclude that controlling immigration is a dead end. Would you not agree that if, for example, we could either allow free movement of 10,000 Europeans ( who would require no level of skill or education), or, allow the movement of 10,000 immigrants from worldwide destinations ( who would only be granted entry if their skills such that would considerably benefit our economy), it would be far more economically progressive to do the latter?

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  4. Since William hague ran a eurosceptic/hardline immigration election campaign (as a matter of fact immigration topped voters concerns in 2001), political parties have underestimated the political potency of immigration. It was ignored for years; the Tories were timid of raising it in fear of cementing the 'nasty party' image, Labour were still in awe of their new economic trick. As long as the economy was growing, they thought voters wouldn't care about immigration. As labour opened the doors to half of Europe, immigration cascaded out of control and hasn't been tamed. Numbers rose from 50,000 to multiple 100,000s.

    Despite the increasing concern of the electorate; who believed they were witnessing the culture that them and the generations before them cherished, the matter was kicked under the carpet. As UKIP rolled back the curtain, they revealed a politically neglected portion of the population that was capable of packing an electoral punch.

    Looking at the issue as a purely economical one does not help; these voters do not wake up in the morning and check the GDP figures! It is the personal anecdotes that drive these voters; the docker who sees so many immigrants who don't speak a word of English on the ferry from Calais, the teacher who works in a school where there are up to 20 languages present, the gynaecologist who had to treat a patient who didn't speak English, so get their son to translate in the appointment!

    The rise of UKIP has been for multiple reasons; but, Alex, nothing accentuates the main parties pitiful response to UKIP more than their knee-jerk shove a university-paper-in-your-face attitude to these voters. This hasn't, and will continue not to work.

    If they want to reach out to these voters it will take time. It will not happen overnight. They need to carefully repackage their policies to respond to their concerns, while not sacrificing what is best for the country.

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    1. Any rational voter would follow the changes in policies that concern them the most- these voters will respond to the changes above.

      However, the very image generated by UKIP and it's tavern-addicted (according to the media at least) leader will be much harder for the other main parties to either replicate (if Miliband can look that abhorrent eating a bacon sandwich....) or replace. The demographic of UKIP's newly found support come from those disgruntled with traditional politics- are these people rational or are they simply protesting? The UKIP parable (and it is just a parable, not a full movement) serves to teach Westminster a valuable lesson- it must represent all of the population- we know that this isn't true.

      Yet.

      OP

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  5. You'd never expect that, beneath an article that establishes why insulting UKIP and their voters leads to their further success, you'd find someone in opposition to UKIP still persisting to insult them.
    Firstly, I'd love to know how you'd define a political movement: UKIP have grown from the fringes of politics, to winning European Elections, and now to fighting for a place in government in the general election. If this is merely a parable, what is a movement?
    The Guardian, who typically are anti UKIP, reported this less than a month ago: 31% of people would vote UKIP if they thought the party could win in their constituency. You suggest UKIP voters lack rationality; yet when an individual brands 31% of a population as irrational, perhaps it is not the rationality of the accused, but the accuser, which should come into question.

    Once again, why no name?


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  6. Ohhh One Person. It is quite hard to fathom how ignorant you are if you think this whole thing will merely shrivel up before disappearing in a puff.

    It's not just the UK, where the main parties are beginning to flirt with less than 60% of the vote, but across Europe also. Marine le Pen went from 6% in the Euro Elections of 2009, to now being a front runner in their upcoming general election. The Danish People's Party (an anti-immigration anti-'establishment' party) is recorded on around 22%, only 2% behind the leading party, in their national polls. An Austrian poll found the Austrian Freedom Party (a far-right populist group) on 28% of the vote. Perhaps most shockingly, in Spain, a party setup only in January this year, is now topping the polls, currently beating the established parties by 1.5%.

    There is a recurring feeling popping up across Europe; the 'main' parties don't represent me. This isn't a country, this isn't whole populations by any means; this is small, but nonneligible, portions of populations who aren't feeling any economic recovery, think the current parties haven't done enough, or anything, to protect their culture, and are disgruntled enough to consider the alternatives.

    If the main parties use the same attitude to deflate the support of these populists parties that they used during the rise of these parties (the attitude which lead to the tactic of 'ignore and dismiss'), then UKIP and their European counterparts will continue to prosper.

    (P.S William DRY, that's D-R-Y! I foolishly entrusted Jadon Buckeradge with the job of uploading my comment, he then thought it would be funny to change my surname.)

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  7. I'd define a political movement as an action that leads to a lasting change in the political outlook such as New Labour. UKIP won't change a thing- it is merely an enigma of disgruntled voters. These large advances won't last once voters realise how inexperienced many of the representatives are-the Tory defections may be the exception. The lastest announcement of UKIP being open to supporting a Labour minority government would be a catastrophe in 2015, and would lead to novice MPs in Parliament. Ultimately, without a majority in the House of Commons, none of UKIP's objectives will be achieved. Once the irrational voters realise that the protest vote is an amateur vote, they will surely call for experienced politicians, thus returning to the old Westminster biased equilibrium. How could anyone support a vote that does nothing?

    You say that 31% of voters would vote UKIP if they thought that they would win. Were these people asked why? While these people may have perfectly rational reasons for voting this way, how could any rational voter vote for an inexperienced and politically incorrect party (eg the Lenny Henry incident)? The protest won't last. If you believe UKIP will have a real impact on politics beyond forcing Westminster to change their ways (albeit briefly), then I'd love to hear it.

    As for the anonymous nature of my comments, why do I have to be identified? Is the point of this blog not for the free expression of opinions among the community? I choose to be anonymous because I can- my identity would surely affect how people see my views.

    OP

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  8. If a political parable, as you put It, becomes a political movement when it leaves a lasting legacy in politics, consider this. Next year, if the Conservatives get into getting into government, which is perfectly foreseeable, they will hold a referendum on Europe. If you look at the YouGov polls, the average result when people were asked the In/out question on the Eu over the last two years is clearly in favour of the Out. But why have the conservatives offered this referendum? Their leader is a europhile himself after all. The answer is obvious - the conservatives have been forced into this promise by pressure from UKIP. Therefore it would be fair to say, that were we to leave the EU under the next government, we'd have UKIP to thank, or curse for it. If causing the breakup of a continent-wide economic and political union isn't leaving your mark on politics, god only knows what is.
    I'm astounded you are making the point about the public yearning for a return of the Westminster elite- the concept of people wanting to bring back the very same careerist political class the population has worked so hard to destroy is ludicrous. People are fed up with politicians: they don't trust them, they can't relate to them, and they want change.
    I'm puzzled by the penultimate paragraph you have written. In it you say ' these people may have perfectly rational reasons for voting [for UKIP ]'. In the same sentence you went on to say ' how could any rational voter vote for [UKIP ]'. It's an interesting paradox but I'm not sure it makes a great deal of sense.
    In terms of your point about 31% - no, I doubt those surveyed were asked why they had chosen UKIP. But this is not relevant. You don't turn up to the polls, cast your vote and feel obliged to attach a detailed justification. To be honest, I doubt Farage will have any qualms over why people voted for him, if he can get himself a position in government next year.
    Finally I have two questions. You persist in insinuating UKIP are racist. If this is the case, given other parties have all been damaged by slurs slipping from the mouths of unruly members (and I have given you examples of this), would you brand every party as politically incorrect and unelectable as a consequence? Secondly, you say you'd love to hear whether I believe UKIP could have a real impact on politics- I have outlined that I believe they could, accompanied by my reasoning, in the first paragraph of this comment. Do you dispute what I've written, and if you do, could you explain your thinking ?

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  9. If the message of the establishment could be embodied by 'one person', it might just be you.

    Firstly, the established parties and you both cannot accept that UKIP represent a political movement that has not just swept across the UK, but also across Europe. However, I should add, even this similarity is under threat; the established parties are increasingly wary of the UKIP threat - how can they not be when their own MPs are defecting, or once safe seats are only being won by the smallest of majorities? I fear you’ll keep your own outdated views until even only ‘one person’ has them left.

    Additionally, you believe that voters shouldn't choose inexperienced candidates. Even me, somebody who is fearful of the power that UKIP possess, is not expecting them to form part of a minority government. The bulk, if not all, of their MPs certainly won’t be entrusted with any important cabinet roles. Let’s not overestimate what the large majority of MPs do. Coupling this with the fact that experienced civil servants will be able to help them perform any of the tasks that they are set. Many UKIP potential MPs also have experience in other important political roles, whether it be at European or local level.

    Also, it’s awfully hypocritical to take the viewpoint you do when a large chunk of your own party came from the Social Democrats; an insurgency group that stood quite a few candidates who had not been MPs beforehand. If people did not vote for them back then, your own party would not be where it is today.

    WD (i hope you like my little parody of your signing off, i envied the aura that went with it so thought i would adopt it, hope you don't mind...Talking of initials, id be delighted to know yours, come on, give us a hint - dont be boring)

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  10. UKIP oppose the EEA and the so-called Norweigian Model. We want to be in something like the EFTA which Switzerland is in and is allowed to have controls on migration.

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  11. To be honest, this is akin to fighting a losing battle, but I remain of the opinion that UKIP will do nothing to change Westminster politics in the long term. The EU is a different question- I was only referencing domestic politics. Agree to disagree?

    46.

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  12. If you are of the opinion that an exit from the EU would have no effect on domestic politics, then I think it is best this debate comes to an end.

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