So to the sound of applause civilisation treads one step further into the abyss and with each step the cheers ring louder. Well, not quite, but there was an undeniable feeling watching Nigel Farage’s most recent appearance on Question Time that, in their overenthusiasm for the UKIP leader’s disingenuous rhetoric, the audience were welcoming the would-be deliverer of their own demise with open, even affectionate arms. Compulsive viewing at best, repulsive at worst.
Farage and UKIP, the ‘non-racist’ party, are undoubtedly a testament to the times. For only in the midst of one of capitalism’s more developed crises can such parasitical politics flourish so effectively, and perhaps only in noble Britain, where a spade is never quite a spade, so self-deceptively.
For every action there is a reaction and the Farages and Burchills of this world have no doubt been emboldened by these hard times and the contraction of social norms that has followed. The boundaries between politics and hate are becoming increasingly blurred, redrawn even. It is not enough for the poor to lack in food, warmth and security, they must also, we are told, be deficient in spirit, enterprise, and ultimately, moral character. Even worse is reserved for immigrants and an assortment of underrepresented minorities.
If such political discrimination is the stick with which to divide and beat down the have-nots then nationalism, the great negation of social progress, is most certainly the carrot with which the far right in Britain has attempted to soften the blow and generate support. When it comes to vacuous nationalist sentiment, UKIP is its purveyor extraordinaire. Nationalism, exclusionary by definition xenophobic by extension, is once again, in the afterglow of the London Olympics, proving its suitability for such a purpose.
UKIP’s recent success — tempting as many as fifteen per cent of voters according to one recent opinion poll — however, is primarily a consequence of its role as the quintessential ‘protest vote’ for a disgruntled Middle England. And herein lies the problem. The politics of hate momentarily aside, UKIP, like many of its vulture brethren skulking in the political periphery, has opportunistically, yet efficiently concentrated on a small, select group of issues that really do matter and resonate extensively with the discontented public. British military intervention, the democratic deficit that runs to the heart of the European Union, and the moral bankruptcy of the political classes are, among many others, questions that should be central to mainstream political discussion but so often are not, or at best are woefully mishandled.
As Farage’s performance on Question Time underscored, UKIP, operating from the relative safety of the political margins, has out-manoeuvred the cumbersome dominant political parties and constructed a near-monopoly on public discontent surrounding this political neglect and malpractice. Being the outsider, it seems, has its benefits. UKIP’s support is not only growing but also expanding beyond its middle-class stronghold.
UKIP of course, is not the answer to these or any of the problems that plague our state and society. Unsurprisingly for such a reactionary creature, UKIP’s engagement with the above hardly progresses past cheap rhetoric and even cheaper political analysis. A perusal of UKIP’s manifesto reveals their tonic to be little more than a perverted reversion to the ‘good old days’ of the British Empire, complete with a partially reconstituted Commonwealth, a bloated military, and the re-institutionalisation of Victorian attitudes to taxation, poverty, and wider social relations.
Still, despite such incompetence and inconsistencies—most comically, plans to expand workfare, this from the party of laissez-faire capitalism—danger undoubtedly lurks, for if UKIP’s intentions are not coherently challenged and its true vision exposed by those in the spotlight claiming to represent a leftist or liberal political tradition, and so far they have not, then this collection of bigots is in danger not only of further expropriating public discontent but translating it into serious political capital.
We must remember and we must remind others that UKIP is nothing more than the semi-respectable face of hatred, the party of xenophobia, homophobia and just about every other phobia that feeds off challenges to a conception of Britain and a vision for its future that is corrosive, hateful, and ultimately, archaic. UKIP, a party that draws so much from the past, should play no part in our future.