Why Nigel Farage Is Not The Problem
Nigel Farage’s anti-EU party has successfully built on its high scoring in local elections by doubling its seats in the European Parliament, but the far-right swing has built far more violently in other EU countries, especially in France and Greece.
Here the grinning ninny who employs his German wife and who can’t articulate any policies except a vague and random dislike for foreigners has been winning the hearts if not the minds of Britons living in the Dim Parts of the country. Even more hysterical articles will now be written about this perceived menace to our way of live. But is he really?
The UKIP party, rather like those special interest parties who appear at the very bottom of the ballot sheet representing Martians or dogs, sold itself as the common sense voice of the ordinary man in the street. But of course there IS no ordinary man – or woman – in the street. It’s a would-be politician (you can’t be a politician without policies) who says he knows what you think and is representing you.
Since the 1930s, British politics has essentially been a two-and-a-bit-party system, with Labour and Tories leading and the Lib-Dems, formerly the Liberals, lurking half-heartedly on the sidelines. Although there were always lunatic fringe also-rans representing the disgruntled underclass during economic downturns – I remember all too well the horror of the National Front beatings in the 1970s – Thatcherite policies destroyed them. But the same policies also had a more unexpected effect. They granted serious governing clout to the Square Mile’s financiers, so that now David (Eton Boyz) Cameron and Ed (The Wrong Trousers) Miliband are themselves sidelined and unlikely to win a majority at the next election.
Ukip was founded in 1993 as an obscure suburban anti-federalist pressure group of the kind Daily Mail readers get excited about. An apparently populist anti-Establishment party, it exploited public fretfulness about Europe and immigration, even though its voters had little direct experience of this perceived threat. In many places it was quite the reverse, as economic migrants filled the jobs no Britons wanted to do.
But this time, instead of hanging around in the wings with no hope of power, Ukip senses that a minority-vote government will need it as a coalition – even though we know how those turn out; just look at the disastrous collapse of the Lib-Dems.
And Ukip has no hope of gaining power in London, the nation’s soaraway stronghold of decision-making, so in many respects it’s already a spent force. No party has ever risen to power in the UK with just a single negative policy in its armoury. The leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, just lost his seat. Then why does Nigel always get such column inches?
Partly, he’s good entertainment value and his busy press office means that hacks don’t have to go out there looking for stories. Partly because it’s an instantly available hot-button issue. Partly because he’s deemed the acceptable face of racism by being ‘common sense’.
It goes without saying that his one idea makes no sense. Visit any poor English area and you quickly see that the problem is not ‘foreigners taking jobs’ but reduced government financial support for local infrastructure. His voters are the same ones that used to say same-sex marriage ‘damaged the institution of marriage’.
We’ve always loved the silly underdog, the Eddie the Eagle failure, the comedy-value twit, so long as they don’t turn into something nasty. Unfortunately for the dim, well-meaning Farage, behind him stand a handful of frightened, violent, stupid racists who can see the good old days of the NF returning, as they do all over the world, especially in France and Germany (the one below is at a rally in New Zealand). And with two such weak front-runners heading to the polls next year, there’s a danger that their time has come.
At any other time this would have been a summer story, a funny news footnote, a storm in a beermug. This time, thanks to a confluence of flaws in the democratic process coming together, and the stumbling inability of those in power to short-circuit this ludicrous little circus, it has the potential to be something slightly more.