May 15, 2013

A guide to the origins and beliefs of England’s party for closet racists. There seems to be no let-up in the the surge of popularity that has surrounded Nigel Farage and his boys in purple of late. Earlier this month the UK Independence Party, a party so right wing that even David Cameron described them […]

A guide to the origins and beliefs of England’s party for closet racists.

There seems to be no let-up in the the surge of popularity that has surrounded Nigel Farage and his boys in purple of late. Earlier this month the UK Independence Party, a party so right wing that even David Cameron described them as ‘A Bunch Of Fruitcakes, Loonies And Closet Racists’ forced the political establishment to pay them more serious attention when they won an impressive 25% of the popular vote at local elections, gaining 109 new seats, bringing their grand total to a figure of 117. Whilst this alone won’t turn back the ‘tide of immigration’ that has supposedly blighted the country in recent decades – a comment echoing UKIP’s local election manifesto – UKIP are now undeniably responsible for a significant amount of England’s wheelie bins.

It’s not only the humble, decent folk of the shires that are coming together to form a wave of purple either, a number of high-profile figures too have joined the tide, most recently: Des Lynam and his moustache. The heavy-weight sports presenter and former Countdown host has recently turned song writer, conjuring a new set of lyrics for Barbara Streisand’s classic ‘Send in the Clowns’ in a show of his endorsement of UKIP. So it’s established that UKIP are popular, but what is less clear is what they actually stand for beyond the abstract notion of Independence for the UK. I think it’s time that we take a close look at the history of the party, and at what the fuck they hope to achieve if they ever do get beyond the protest politics of the European Assembly and council elections and in to Westminster.

UKIP was founded in 1993 from the Ashes of the now defunct ‘Anti-Federalist League.’ Whilst sounding like a half rate Oi!-punk band the AFL were in fact a cross party organisation that sought to oppose Britain’s ratification of the ‘Maastricht Treaty’ – a treaty that established the European Union and ultimately led to the creation of the poor old Euro. Whilst the AFL’s efforts were ultimately in vain, anti-European sentiment remained high in certain sections of British society with UKIP coming to represent the unified political voice of our Euro-anxious. The Party first gained elected members in the 1999 European Parliamentary election when they gained 3 of the 84 seats that the UK had up for grabs. But it was not until those that followed in 2004 that UKIP were able to achieve a significant political breakthrough, this time winning 12 of the seats contested and finishing an overall third. Sadly for UKIP however, seats in the European Parliament don’t give the occupier any say over Britain’s actual membership of the EU. And besides that, being a member of the European Parliament strikes me as being a strange job for somebody who hates the EU. It’s akin to one of those fervently opposed to homosexuality, evangelical, ‘God hates fags’ Christian types deciding to take on a new career as a podium dancer in some enormous gay, German, industrial-techno night club.

Putting the aforementioned futility of the success in these elections aside, things really were going rather well for the fledgling movement. Later in 2004 UKIP were able to defeat the Conservative party in a bye-election held in Hartlepool (a town best known for its love of executing primates) that could potentially have seen them win a seat in parliament – unfortunately defeating the Conservatives only meant finishing in 3rd place, well behind Labour and the Liberal Democrats. This somewhat modest success was non-the-less enough to make then UKIP MEP and chat show host, Robert Kilroy Silk, call for the Tories to be ‘Killed off.’ Such strong words prompted many to speculate that it would only be a matter of time until Kilroy would seize the reigns of the party and lead it straight to Downing Street. After all, Arnold Schwarzenegger used his stardom to great effect in his campaign to be elected as governor of California only a year earlier – why couldn’t an aging day-time TV star do the same over here?. Kilroy seemed the perfect man for the job – here was a man who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, a man who was willing to commit career suicide for the sake of his views on immigration. A man who just months earlier, lost his slot on the BBC for a spate of racist remarks, most notably commented that “Arabs have never contributed to civilisation.” Sadly this marriage made in heaven would never come to fruition. The speculation surrounding Kilroy’s leadership potential understandably created tension with UKIP’s then actual leader, Roger Knapman, who Kilroy would go on to criticise live on breakfast television, before resigning all together.

UKIP had hoped to maintain its momentum, even in the wake of internal power struggles, but failed to make headlines at the general election of 2005 gaining only 2.3% of the overall vote and not winning any seats. For the remainder of the decade the story remained pretty much the same for UKIP, good results in European elections but little domestic success. Only in the wake of events such as the self-destruction of the traditional ‘third-place’ political party, The Liberal Democrats and the ever-worsening state of the European economy has the prospect of Nigel Farage gaining a seat in Westminster started to appear feasible.

Serious political parties however, require serious manifestos. With UKIP, one thing is clear: they want to pull Britain out of the EU, thus curbing immigration into the country. But what else do they stand for? Surely any party seeking to take office needs to make provision for essential services such as health care and education? On this front UKIP behaves in a somewhat schizophrenic manner. On the issue of taxation the message is clear, lower them, through cuts to National Insurance contributions and the introduction of a single flat rate of income tax for all. In line with this theme the boys in purple also jabber about public spending being out of control, with drastic cuts to foreign aid being required – not to mention the financial benefits of leaving the E.U (£45m + £65bn a year apparently!) Strangely though the party has also made mention of ideas that would involve drastic increases in public spending too, such as a 40% increase in the amount spent on defence and a doubling of prison places – probably to help them wage war on Europe and imprison all foreigners respectively. Many of UKIPs proposals also deal with repealing decisions made by previous governments that have proven unpopular with certain easily-defined sections of the electorate: To appeal to students the party says it will restore student grants, for smokers they will repeal the public smoking ban and pander, pander, pander. All political parties are guilty of abandoning principals for the sake of garnering support for themselves, but UKIP go further, having abandoned reality.

Ultimately it seems unlikely that Farage will become our prime minister. UKIP has undoubtedly made significant gains over the last couple of years, but for now they are still dry-humping the legs of our established parties. What is chilling however is the possibility of yet another hung parliament come the next general election, one in which the Tory party is yet again forced to form a coalition government, only this time rather than having to negotiate with the restraining ‘force’ of the Liberal Democrats, The Tories may well lurch further to the right than they have ever done, egged on by their Eurosceptic, ultra-neoliberal bedfellows.

On a lighter note, Farage recently made the headlines when it surfaced that he had visited a strip club whilst serving as an MEP – when questioned further on the matter the UKIP leader had this to say:

“To my knowledge I have been to one in my time in Strasbourg which I was taken to unwittingly by someone who was a candidate for the French Presidency. I had no idea where we were going and we walked through the door and I thought ‘bloody hell, this is pretty good here, I like this.”

Which I’ll have to admit is probably the most honest thing that a politician has ever said.

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