(c) Huffington Post
I don’t know which news item today is more depressing. News that Glasgow School of Art’s A-listed and much-loved Mackintosh Building, designed by and named after the great Scottish artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, went up in flames yesterday. Or news that the right-wing, anti-EU and anti-immigrant United Kingdom Independence Party managed to win 155 seats in the English council elections two days ago, giving it a real chance of winning parliamentary seats at the next general election and making it officially, in the words of many political pundits, ‘the fourth force in British politics’.
I’ll talk about the second news story. What I found revealing about the UKIP phenomenon was a TV interview that appeared yesterday on youtube, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7lPcJ7uscs. The interview is with a guy called Darren, from Walsall in the West Midlands, and he explains to the interviewer why he’s just voted for UKIP. Well, he tries to explain. This is what he says:
“The reason why I voted for UKIP was cos, like, we’ve had Labour, we’ve had Conservative, we’ve had the Liberal Democrats. We want a new party, we want somebody who’s going to send a voice, especially in Europe, especially on immigration, especially round here cos we have different people coming in, taking our jobs and just working for the minimum wage. Okay, we’ve lived here nearly all our lives and we’ve (inaudible), we’ve had to step up the ladder and we’ve had to work, go to college, earn all our wages and everything else, and they just cut from underneath you, especially, like, the immigrants are coming in, like the Poles and the Ukraines and everything else from the new European countries who are coming in. Really, you want to get out of the EEC and fight for our own and be a better Great Britain again, like before it was, before it was, before it was everything else, cos Great Britain was all over the world then.”
I’m sure that Darren is a decent enough bloke but, once you’ve deciphered what he said, it seems a bit rich that he complains about immigrants ‘coming in’ and then concludes with a nod to the glory days of the British Empire, when ‘Great Britain was all over the world’ – i.e. going into other countries and presumably taking all their jobs. It’s also ironic that the interviewer (although you can’t see her in the interview-clip on youtube) is a young woman of Asian descent. Darren doesn’t say anything about this, but maybe he resents her sort coming in and taking all the TV interviewing jobs. Maybe he could have been a TV interviewer if British people had really ‘fought for our own.’
From the look and sound of him, Darren probably hasn’t had many educational or professional opportunities in life and he must be pretty near the bottom of the social pile. So it’s sad that he and many people like him feel compelled to vote UKIP when, plainly, UKIP is the sort of right-wing party that’d happily screw folk in their position big-time if they ever got to power. They might give Darren and his ilk someone to blame for their problems, and give them a sense that they’re showing a middle-finger to a callous, uncaring establishment. But UKIP aren’t on their side. No way are UKIP on their side.
I’ve been reading the party’s manifesto from the last general election and it doesn’t give the impression that by voting for them you’ll be sticking it to The Man. Quite the reverse. It kicks off by declaring that ‘Britain’s economy is being suffocated by high taxation, excessive EU regulation, overgenerous welfare and punitive bureaucracy.’ It proposes a flat tax of 31% for everyone earning above £11,500 a year, argues that ‘there is no alternative to major cuts in government spending’, envisages two million people being squeezed out of jobs in ‘Education, Health and Public Administration’ so that the public sector is scaled back to a 1997 level, and of course vows to ‘(s)crap up to 120,000 EU directives and regulations that impact on the UK economy,’ presumably including all the ones relating to working conditions, environmental standards and health and safety. (Amusingly, one of the few examples given of what they’d chop is this one: ‘In particular, UKIP would repeal the forthcoming AIFM Directive that threatens hedge funds in the City of London.’ Which is a good indication of whose side they’re on really.)
Yes, it sounds like the sort of scenario that Milton Friedman must have had wet dreams about. And in countries where such policies have been implemented – often totalitarian countries where the public can’t express opposition to them – the number of people living in poverty has usually skyrocketed.
At the same time, it’s a document suffused with Lewis Carroll-type absurdity. You’ll find all the usual guff you’d expect from UKIP – about banning schools from using ‘global warming propaganda such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth’, allowing teachers to ‘impose proper discipline on pupils’, safeguarding ‘British weights and measures (the pint, the mile, etc.) which have been undermined by the EU’, scrapping political correctness, abolishing the Human Rights Act, and so on and so forth – but look carefully and you’ll find a few pledges that are oddly at variance with the ‘cut, cut, cut’ mantra I’ve described in the previous paragraph. There’s talk of making sure the NHS can ‘continue to deliver care free at the point of delivery on the basis of need, not ability to pay,’ bringing back ‘free eye-tests and dental check-ups for all UK citizens’, bringing back student grants and spending a whopping ‘extra 40% on defence annually’. How on earth, one wonders, are they going to pay for these health, education and defence goodies when there’s so much economic pain and paring-to-the-bone going on elsewhere?
To be fair to UKIP’s pint-swilling, mule-faced leader Nigel Farage, he did admit back in January that he thought the 2010 manifesto was rubbish: “I didn’t read it. It was drivel… We have put that behind us and moved onto a professional footing.” Mind you, he did stick his name on it at the time. And I’ve had a look at a UKIP document that was circulated before the recent elections and they’re still banging on about reducing regulations on employers and implementing the sort of flat tax that’d bring relieved smiles to the faces of Gary Barlow and Jimmy Carr.
Meanwhile, one place in England where UKIP noticeably didn’t do well the other day was London. In an interview on BBC’s Radio 4, the party’s communities spokesperson Suzanne Evans gave this assessment of why UKIP failed to appeal to Londoners even as it was winning support from people elsewhere in England. “(W)e do have,” she said, “a more media-savvy, well-educated population in London.”
Too well-educated to vote for UKIP? Oops. Freudian slip.
(c) New Statesman