Monday, 6 May 2013
So, the United Kingdom Independence Party has won 147 seats on our county councils. I wonder what they're going to do? I've never served on a council, but I understand that the work, though important, is mostly tedious and time-consuming, and that flashes of political excitement are rare
These 147 proud bearers of the Ukip standard will soon find that their county councils do not have the power to withdraw from the European Union, or even call a referendum on it. I suppose they could, in a fit of pique, refuse to accept any of the EU's regional development funds. Nor have the county councils the power to to send immigrants "home." Indeed if they tried that in this area they would find that to the overwhelming majority of the people they appear to be unhappy about this is home, and they have thick Yorkshire accents to prove it. And the 147 can't even impose their regressive "flat rate" taxation ideas (shades of Mrs Thatcher and the Poll Tax?) as the only tax coucnils can vary, the council tax, is tiered.
A few years ago there was a similar wave of support for the British National Party (BNP) and a few, I think three, were elected to our council. They soon found that the council's responisilites had litttle to do with their prejucices and, I believe, made few contriutions, soon stopped attending their committees, and either failed to stand again or lost their seats.
With European elections due next year on a crude form of proportional representation I expect the surge of fascination with Ukip will last at least until then. As Daniel Trilling in the New Statesman puts it, their leader Nigel Farage brilliantly articulates their saloon-bar version of politics:
you can’t say what you think in your own country any more, grasping politicians bend over backwards for minorities but do little for the majority, taxpayers are being leeched off by benefit scroungers, and so on.
but on the ground his foot-soldiers will soon find that local politics are neither to their taste nor relevant to their cause, and will fade away as did their BNP predecessors.
That does not mean to say that Ukip will not have performed a useful function. There is a "clowns in British politics" syndrome and it is exmaplified by Prime Minister's Questions and similar parliamentary slapstick, which spills over into petty point scoring in the media. The way poicitics is at present conducted in the UK deservedly leaves a large number of people indiferent and nourishes the belief that the parties are "all the same", that none of them is to be trusted, nor is even capable of changing the way things are.
The remedy is not for the major parties to mimic Ukip but to engage in serious, honest and constructive debate. Ukip have made progress because neither the Conserviatives nor Labour have ever articulated the positve case for Europe. Rather both have fallen into the lazy but populist trap of using the EU as a conveninet whipping boy to blame for any unpopular measures or events.
The Ukip surge provides an excellent opportunity for Cameron and Miliband to join forces with Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats and, rather than trying to match Ukip's xenophobia, make the positive case for constructive engagement in the greatest political adventure of the last 60 years.
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UKIP policies do deserve the serious, honest and constructive debate that you are calling for. They appear to cover a much wider field than Europe and immigration. For example their policies on education and on energy are interesting and worth consideration. I'm not sure that you are right to compare UKIP with BNP; my guess is that UKIP is here to stay.ReplyDelete
I must look up their policies on education and energy: I hadn't realised they had any.Delete
As to their being here to stay, we shall see. As I'm sure you well know, we have had several similar surges in the past, mostly from the right. The British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, the League of Empire Loyalist (50s) the Referendum Party, British National Party and English Defence League have all caught the populist wind, whizzed briefly across the political skies and then faded away.
There have been less memorable attempts from the left, and the good old SWP still beavers away, optimistically expecting the revolution next week.
From the centre- left the SDP tried to "break the mould" in the 80s but soon found that building a political party from scratch was more difficult than they'd assumed and merged with the Liberals for the benefit of our organisation, so painstakingly built up over, at the time,thirty or more years.
I doubt if the Ukip "chancers" who, like the SDP in their time, firmly and honestly believe that the nation is just waiting for them to offer their services and will gratefully crown them with political glory, will prove more resilient, but I doubt it, even thoght the crude list system for the European elections gives them extra durability.
Professor Alan Sked describes, in the Guardian (29th may 2013) Ukip, the party he founded but left in 2017 as:
"a magnet for people whose vision of the future is the 1950s – a supposed golden age before the EEC, black people, Muslims and other immigrants, gays, lesbians and other products of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, desecrated this island Eden."
I think that says it all.