Tuesday, August 13, 2013

UKIP - Not Serious

While the immediate storm over Godfrey Bloom's 'bongo bongo land' may have disappeared from the front pages, the affair continues to reverberate. From my perspective - not aligned to UKIP but becoming sympathetic over the last few years - the effect has been pretty depressing. Like an awful lot of people in this country I've got little time for the three main parties - there's little to differentiate them and most political discourse runs on predictably tribal lines. I hate our political classes with a vengeance but at the same time I care passionately about politics and where the country is headed. So, in many respects I'm exactly the constituency that UKIP should be appealing to. And at times I've felt that perhaps UKIP was the way to go. Not just on the European Union, but also with respect to climate change, wind farms and a critique of the liberal mindset that predominates in our political and media masters. Even on the economy UKIP seems to be on the side of economic liberalism and free markets - though it has to be said it's often hard to figure out where UKIP stands because it rarely seems to talk about the economy in any substantive way. The bottom line is that on a wide range of issues UKIP seems to offer something that 's different to the main parties and appealing to a libertarian (note the small L).

The one sticking point has been race. Although I vehemently disagree with the ideology of multicuturalism (which elevates difference and segregation to the highest degree), I am an anti-racist and have got no time for racists, whether they are BNP, Islamist or BBC. In the past I've been Paki-bashed by Nazi skinheads, racially abused and suffered from racism and discrimination. That was a long time ago and thankfully my kids haven't had to suffer this kind of treatment. Although the left will never say so, we do live in a very different world to the days when the National Front was out on the streets and casual racism was everywhere. Nowadays things have gone the other way and it's the white working classes who suffer unfair treatment - they are the only people not allowed pride in their culture. Multiculturalism is triumphant and to real anti-racists this is a betrayal of the struggle againt racism.

You would think that this too would make me align to UKIP - and at times it has. But this latest affair from Godfrey Bloom makes me pull back for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I have to say that Bloom comes across as an ignorant bigot. He can spin it how he likes, makes half apologies or attempt to front it out, but he comes over as the sort of half-drunk bar-room racist that I would run a mile to avoid. While I don't want politicians to be all smarm and professional blandness, I do expect them to display some signs of intelligence. Ignorance is not attractive to the voter, any more than dishonesty or disdain for Joe Public. Now the fact is that there was a real point in what he was saying - the discussion on the aid budget is an important one which many people, me included, would agree with him. Listening to interviews with many of Bloom's constituents one is struck by the fact that so many people, of all races, were agreeing with him. But it was also striking how so many criticised him for his language and behaviour. So, the end result is that a point on which he has people agreeing with him has been drowned by the furore over his racist language.

Much worse than this however is the attitude of so many UKIP supporters and indeed the missing leadership from UKIP itself. There are plenty of comments of blogs and forums from UKIP supporters who seem to glory in Bloom's display of ignorance. Maybe it's that frisson of outright racism that they find appealing. Is this what UKIP really wants? To go after the BNP vote?

Let's be clear, if UKIP is a serious political party and not the vehicle of a handful of leaders safely esconced in Brussels, it needs to appeal to a wider range of the electorate. It needs to appeal across racial and class barriers, it needs to appeal to those who look for signs of intelligent policy as well as wanting to have a go at our ruling elites. And it won't do that with people like Godfrey Bloom slurring racist comments to the party faithful.

In the blogosphere I see people like Autonomous Mind and Richard North of EUReferendum having intelligent conversations and discussing policy options to a depth that I don't see from UKIP itself. If there's an issue related to some EU policy in the news, where do I go to gain an understanding of it? It's not to UKIP. So, while some are happy to snigger at the 'bongo bongo land' jibe, I suspect there are plenty more who've decided that perhaps the mass media are right after all and that UKIP is a xenophobic little hub of racists and embittered cranks.


Anonymous said...

Presumably you'd include UKIP's members like Winston Mackenzie, Priti Patel's father (a UKIP candidate) and Mike Zuckerman (a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews) in that definition?

The bongo bongo stuff is disposable humour just as referring to people from Ipswich as 'tractor boys' is not insulting.

There is nothing racist about wanting to control your country's borders or restrict foreign aid.

Contrarian said...

I didn't claim that the party is racist, and if you read the post again you'll see that I agree with the policy of cutting back foreign aid. My point is that Bloom doesn't come across as someone engaging in disposable humour at all. I've got less time for political correctness than I have for the ideology of multiculturalism, so I have no problem with humour or coarse language.

The point is that if you want to have more appeal than as a home for the protest vote or a more respectable version of the BNP then you've got to come across seriously and to a wider range of the electorate. Bloom's behaviour doesn't do that, it just conforms to an image the mass media are happy to propagate.

As a final aside, why assume that people like Winston Mackenzie, Sushil Patel and co are happy with Bloom's comments?

Anonymous said...

The funny thing is that, while you mark yourself as progressive contrarian, the essence of what you describe is conservatism. In an alternate world Conservatism would have followed it's raison d'ĂȘtre; it would be fighting and rail against many of the shibboleths of modernity; climate change, european integration and muticulturism for example. The problem is that a small c conservative movement ends up having fellow travellers who are niwits like the buffoon bloom. It's ever been so; for every Peel, Disraeli, Churchill and Thatcher there is a nutjob babbling on like Prince Phillip on crack. The point of leadership is to smack that kind of stuff down and speak with a louder more authorative voice. Sadly Farage is not that man.

Contrarian said...

I'd disagree that it's small c conservatism. My outlook is more libertarian - the conservative outlook is more statist and corporatist. But then that pretty much describes all the establishment political parties in the West - it's the same wine in different bottles.