To slightly misquote PG Wodehouse:
“Loon is calling to loon like mastodons bellowing across primaeval swamps”…
The ad above appears in today’s Daily Telegraph: a good choice as, together with the Mail and Express, it’s become more or less the unofficial mouthpiece of Ukip. Today’s edition also carries the following:
The real impact of ‘loongate’, says James Kirkup, is to expose the “running sore” within the Tory party over core ideals.
With reports of Tory party activists already beginning to defect to Ukip over the comments, which have been attributed to an unnamed close ally of Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Political Editor James Kirkup said the story exposed “a running sore” within the Conservative ranks.
Emerging at the same time a Tory grassroots backlash over gay marriage proposals and following on from the Parliamentary infighting over an EU referendum, the Telegraph reporter said the continued Conservative unrest was making life easy for Ukip.
“Everyday is Christmas if you’re Nigel Farage,” he said.
“Each week that comes by the Tories find a way of splitting, dividing, essentially underlining that strategic fracture that they have on the issues where Nigel Farage harvests votes.”
Nigel Farage is used to getting an easy ride. Most of the British press fawn over him and even political opponents (including Labour) have evidently decided to avoid direct attacks and criticism.
So the heckling and minor jostling he and his supporters received on Thursday in an Edinburgh pub, and some mildly critical remarks from a BBC Radio Scotland interviewer, seemed to come as a terrible shock: the saloon bar loudmouth suddenly turned into a priggish prima donna and left Scotland in a frightful huff.
I don’t know who the people who organised the Edinburgh protest are. They have been described as “left wing nationalists” so I suspect I for one wouldn’t agree with them on Scottish independence. But their representative on last night’s Newsnight came over as quite reasonable, and another organiser, Liam O’Hare is quoted in today’s Graun saying: “The people who demonstrated were internationalist. We opposed Nigel Farage coming as we believe in a society that welcomes immigrants, that welcomes people from all walks of life, wherever they come from, but doesn’t welcome racists like Nigel Farage.”
Farage and Ukip are not (quite) fascists. But they are thoroughgoing racists and general-purpose ultra-reactionaries. The nearest recent UK precedent would be Enoch Powell and the semi-official movement he built round himself in the late sixties and early seventies. The left didn’t pussy-foot about when it came to Powell: so why are most of us so polite when it comes to Farage and Ukip?
P.S: Check out Mr Galloway’s craven comments, here.
It’s always worth listening to what intelligent members of the class enemy have to say. Just like serious shop stewards read the Financial Times. We’ve done it before, here at Shiraz Socialist, but intend to do it more regularly, using the heading Enemy Intelligence. Here’s some wise inside info from Benedict Brogan of the Daily Telegraph, on the Tories’ disarray on Europe. Anyone who thinks Labour should meet Ukip half-way, or that there’s a “left wing” case for EU withdrawal (as espoused by the moronic Bob Crow), should read this:
The Tory party’s gone crazy over Europe, and it’s Cameron’s fault
By Benedict Brogan
For a while yesterday, the European flag flew proudly over Michael Gove’s office. The Education Secretary’s vote of no confidence in the EU the day before had made no difference. Whatever others in Whitehall might say, it seemed, the Department for Education remained happily collegiate in matters continental. It had accepted a request to show the flag for Europe Day last week, which was why the circle of gold stars on a deep blue background proclaiming the penetration of Brussels deep into the workings of British governance could be seen flapping erratically in the breeze at the top of Sanctuary Buildings in Great Smith Street. No one raced for the halyards when Mr Gove appeared on television on Sunday morning to announce that he would vote to leave the EU if he could, and it was only at lunchtime yesterday, when the flag’s presence was drawn to the boss’s attention, that his ideological preferences were brought to bear and it was hastily lowered.
The waving of a flag tells us nothing about the Government’s European policy, of course, save perhaps that the EU is more deeply embedded in the fabric of the state than we would like to admit. The speed with which it was whisked off the DfE’s flagpole once it was detected by those who understand the power of symbols tells us plenty, however, about how twitchy the Conservative Party has become since the latest flare-up of its Euro neuralgia. Over the past few days it has, with a troubling degree of deliberation, thrown away the small but growing political advantage it had given itself in recent weeks in order to indulge in another of those interminable arguments about the nature of our relationship with the EU. In the space of a fortnight the Tories have gone from leading a national conversation about Labour’s unsuitability to govern a changing Britain, to staging a public family feud about who emptied the dishwasher last time and where they should go for the holidays. Read the rest of this entry »
The success of UKIP in this week’s local elections, hailed by Nigel Farage and his cheer-leaders in the right-wing press as a “game changer” means the left can no longer afford to shrug the party off as “just a distraction.” UKIP won 147 seats (of which 139 were gains) and averaged 25% of the vote in the wards where it stood. On the basis of these results, the BBC projected national share of the vote put Labour in the lead with 29% of the vote, the Tories second on 25% and UKIP third with 23%. The Lib Dems would trail with just 14%. Of course, these results may not carry over to a general election, especially as the vote was only in England (plus Anglesey), and excluded the main urban areas. Nevertheless, UKIP is clearly now a serious force in mainstream British electoral politics.
So now seems a good time to consider what social forces UKIP represents, and especially its place on the populist far right of British politics. We republish below a remarkably prescient article from Searchlight magazine of June 2012, analysing the rise of UKIP and its links with the fascist and semi-fascist far right. The headline above this post is ours, not Searchlight‘s, by the way: their title for the article was UKIP at the Crossroads.
Above: Farage triumphant
UKIP at the crossrooads
By Adam Carter
Recent events have created a seemingly perfect storm for the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the right-wing populist eurosceptic party that has supplanted the British National Party as the main electoral force to the right of the Conservative Party. The economic chaos in the Eurozone, pressures on public finances in the struggling UK economy, widespread disillusionment with the mainstream parties and growing criticism of the European Court of Human Rights for its handling of terror suspect Abu Qatada all suggest that the time might be ripe for UKIP to make the transition from single-issue pressure group to successful populist party. The fact that UKIP has recently been polling close to the Liberal Democrats with 8% in recent national opinion polls certainly suggests that it is in a stronger position than ever before to emulate other populist radical right parties in Europe.
There were however mixed fortunes for UKIP in the aftermath of the (2012) local elections. The eurosceptic party could draw some satisfaction from the results and the evident disquiet that its electoral prospects had provoked in the Conservative Party. But on the downside, it failed to gain representation on the London Assembly, largely as a result of a clerical error, and became enmeshed in more controversy about UKIP’s links with extremist groups and individuals. Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, UKIP’s Scottish leader and head of its policy unit, was criticised after he called for members of the extreme-right British Freedom Party (BFP), which has recently joined forces with the Islamophobic street thugs of the English Defence League, to “come back and join us”. Other accusations of extremism were levelled at UKIP candidates in Sheffield and Oxford. Read the rest of this entry »
“It is very tempting to vote for a collection of clowns or indignant, angry people who promise that somehow they will allow us to take your revenge…
“[UKIP is] against the political class, it is against foreigners, it is against immigrants. But it does not have any very positive policies. They do not know what they are for”
Kenneth Clarke nailed UKIP good and proper when he said that a few days ago. It was refreshing, as well, to hear him endorse Cameron’s 2006 description (now quietly buried by Tory HQ) of them “fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists.”
Farage and his shower, unused to scrutiny and criticism, have been complaining about “a morally reprehensible” “smear campaign” against its candidates in the run-up to this week’s council elections. It’s unfair, and unsporting, they bleat, to pick up on comments their candidates have made on Twitter and Facebook. Well, welcome to the rough-and-tumble world of serious bourgeois politics, Mr Farage: after all you’ve always wanted to be a part of it, haven’t you?
Today’s Daily Mirror carries an excellent exposé of UKIP candidate Alex Wood giving a Nazi salute and with a knife between his teeth (above). His Facebook page contains these comments about Africans:
“If I’m completely honest mate, they disgust me. I mean just look at the mud huts they live in and how they kill each other. It’s quite barbaric.
” This is what UKIP wants to prevent – our country ending up like Africa or some other third world country.”
The Shiraz legal team tell me that I have to point out that Mr Wood denies making those comments: ha ha ha.
Wood has now been suspended from the party and removed as a candidate: but how the hell did he get accepted as a member and selected as a candidate in the first place?
Even before the Wood exposé, UKIP had been forced to suspend another candidate, Anna-Marie Crampton, following these comments on the site Secrets of the Fed in which she claimed that the second world war was “engineered by the Zionists” in order to bring about the creation of the state of Israel. She also claimed that Zionists caused the Holocaust:
“Only the Zionists could sacrifice their own in the gas chambers…It was thanks to them that six million Jews were murdered in the war.”
Again, our legal eagles insist that I inform you that Ms Crampton denies that she made the comments, claiming the site was…ha ha ha…hacked…
What else have we got? Oh yes, there’s retired sheep farmer Susan Bowen, selected to stand in Tintagel, but now removed following the discovery that she used to be in the BNP.
Then there’s Chris Scotton, suspended from membership and as candidate in Leicester, following exposure of his Facebook “liking” for the English Defence League.
Well, at least Farage and his cronies did something about a few of the Nazis in their ranks: but what about Caven Vines, UKIP candidate in Rotherham, with close links to the BNP, who thinks there are too many Muslims in Britain? UKIP have refused to condemn him or, indeed, do anything at all about him.
Nor has they acted against the vice-chairman of Yeovil UKIP, Godfrey Davey, another candidate on Thurday, who tweeted:
“At the rate this government is going we will end up with civil war it will be us or the imegrants [sic]“.
Mr Davey also has views on other issues:
“Every time you give sodomites an inch they want a mile, no pun, pedeophilia here we come [sic].”
I suppose that in comparison with that sort of fascistic filth, UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom’s comments on Radio Five (John Piennar, Monday April 29) that women of child-bearing age shouldn’t be employed because maternity laws are “too draconian” were relatively inoffensive – even if they did amount to encouraging employers to break the law.
This shower of racists and ultra-reactionaries has been given an easy ride until now, mainly because a large section of the print media (the Mail, Express, Sun and Telegraph in particular) sympathise with them.
But why hasn’t most of the left been more outspokenly hostile to this bunch of racists, homophobes and all-purpose reactionaries? Today’s Morning Star, for instance, carries an extraordinary editorial headed “Ukip’s just a distraction“, some of which could have come straight from a UKIP press release:
“Farage denies that his party is xenophobic or racist, insisting that opposition to immigration is based on sound economic fears that huge numbers of Bulgarians and Romanians are poised to enter Britain, putting pressure on welfare benefits, state education, the NHS, housing and other social provisions.
“In truth there is no major political party in Britain that hasn’t spouted something similar in recent times to justify tough rhetoric about clamping down on immigration.
“So the jibe of racism could equally be pointed at the Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.”
Surely it couldn’t be that the Morning Star, like the Daily Mail and the Tory ultra-right, rather agrees with UKIP on at least one or two matters?
I keep promising myself (and readers) that I’ll never write another word about that posturing charlatan Galloway. But for a blogger, he’s the gift that just keeps on giving:
George Galloway: “But there have been achievements in North Korea. They do have a satellite circling the earth. They have built a nuclear power industry even though they suspended it on false promises from President Clinton and other U.S. statesmen. They do have a cohesive, pristine actually, innocent culture. A culture that has not been penetrated by globalization and by Western mores and is very interesting to see. But I wouldn’t like to live there. And I’m not advocating their system. Not least because they certainly don’t believe in God in North Korea…”
H/t: Pete Cookson
From the archives:
NO ROOM FOR ASIANS? RUBBISH! NO ROOM FOR RACISM!
Many things have changed in the four decades since this 1973 “open letter” to Britain’s foremost racist agitator of the time, the Tory MP Enoch Powell, was written.
It appeared in the paper Workers’ Fight, published by what is now the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, in two of the industrial papers, for dockers and steel workers, that they also published, and in leaflets given out on demonstrations.
The labour movement was then at the peak of its strength and militancy. Within a year we would bring down the Tory Government and replace it with the Wilson Labour Government. The same chauvinist abuse, scapegoating, and hostility hurled now at immigrants from Eastern Europe was then directed at Asians and Afro-Caribbeans. Then, however, the shameless nationalism and racism, though it was very influential, came mainly from right-wing political fringes. Now it also comes from mainstream politicians and even, in a thinly-disguised form, from some on the anti-EU “left”
Powell, a leading figure in the Conservative Party, was dismissed from the Tory Shadow Cabinet by Edward Heath in 1968 because he made an inflammatory racist speech. Today Prime Minister Cameron is one of the worst chauvinist demagogues. The “Open Letter”, written by Sean Matgamna, appeared under the names of Tony Duffy, editor of Real Steel News and Harold Youd, editor of The Hook.
AN OPEN LETTER TO ENOCH POWELL
The Tory Government and the bosses it serves now desperately need all the help you can give them. We have – so far – thwarted its plans and defeated it, again and again. We have spat on its laws. And we will drive it from office before long.
WE? The working class. The men and women of all creeds and colours who do the work in Britain, who man the factories, drive the trains, clean the streets, erect the buildings, care for the sick in hospitals, build the ships and load and unload them, stoke the furnaces and dig the coal. We, the real people of Britain, the “Lower classes”, on whose backs your class stands.
Millions upon millions of workers hate and despise this Tory Government. They recognise it as their most bitter enemy, and they demand its immediate resignation.
And that’s where you crawl out of your rat hole. You see the tragedy of the Uganda Asians as another chance to whip up racialist hysteria In Britain. Wrapped in the cloak of a far-seeing ‘patriot’, a man who speaks for the ‘People’, your service to the bosses is to try to get the Tories off the hook by dividing worker against worker, white against black; to deflect the anger of the working class, to head off its discontent and to pit one part of our ranks against another, to our common injury and to the benefit of your class.
Your message is the sick message of hatred and division. In the name of averting a “national catastrophe” you want to promote a working class catastrophe — that of racial conflict. You harvest race hatred and you sow it. You have become the prophet of a race war which you do your best and worst to set alight.
After your 1968 speeches, fascists organised anti-black demonstrations, and racialist gangs took to assaulting black workers and youths – IN YOUR NAME.
That, Powell, is where you link arms with the Mosley fascists and the National Front, those sick and obscene gangs of misfits, Hitler-lovers who get their kicks from hatred of blacks and Jews, and who want to destroy the trade unions and labour movement.
That is why you are one of the most dangerous enemies of the British working class – black and white – right now. You are the carrier of a disease of racialism that could ravage the working class and cripple our ability to go on standing up to the attacks of Heath’s Government.
You are also the biggest fraud and con-man in the whole Tory party. You are a shameless, habitual, bare-faced liar. AND WE CAN PROVE IT.
YOU SAY: Immigration equals national catastrophe. Why? How? For whom? Immigrants to any healthy society are an asset and a “bonus”. They are fully grown, educated (and they are educated) and capable of working, whereas additions to the population by natural increase need years of education, care and social benefits.
You play on the fears and the insecurity of workers under capitalism. But you, Powell, are a fanatical defender of capitalism and enemy of socialism, which is the real solution to the problems of the working class.
You believe in the free market, even if it means 3 million unemployed. You care nothing for the working class or for the effects of capitalism. You are against the Trade Unions, you were a minister in a Tory government whose every anti-working class act you supported.
You are no “friend of the ordinary man”. No — you have nothing but a spiv’s contempt for working people. You have one concern only – to divide our class on the Idiotic basis of skin colour, to cripple us in the real fight.
Keeping out immigrants will not solve unemployment or any other problem: If workers listen to you they will be less able to fight unemployment. Instead of attacking its real cause they will start attacking each other.
You are not the exponent of a cure for our ills: you are an ulcerated carrier of the disease – capitalism – which afflicts British society.
YOU SAY: Britain is overcrowded. But what about the thousands who LEAVE every year?
YOU SAY: That immigrants differ in culture and background. Yes, they do. (So do the Welsh, English, Scots and Irish, and the large numbers of European workers who came here after the war.) But not nearly so much as the culture, lifestyle and values of the British workers differ from those of our British boss class.
The breadth of understanding, the real culture, even the general knowledge, of the British working class is in fact all the better, is all the richer, for the mixing. Our understanding of a common interest with workers of other countries is sharper for the experience. Our grasp of the need for INTERNATIONAL working-class solidarity is stronger for the contact.
In the Common Market the working class will only be able to defend itself by cutting across narrow nationalism and forging strong links with European trade unionists.
That’s what worries you, Powell, and your class, – as does the sight of black and white and Asian workers united on flying pickets. The working class maxim UNITY IS STRENGTH applies outside the country, as well as in it.
You SAY: The British people are denied the facts about what is happening in their country. But whose country is It, Powell? Two or three per cent of the people — those you represent — own all the substantial wealth of the country. They contribute little or nothing to the wealth of the country, to the well being of the majority of its people.
50,000 immigrants who work for just so much as one year (and they do work) will contribute more to the common wealth of the British people than will the whole gaggle of spivs and parasites that make up the ruling class during all the natural lives of a whole useless generation of them.
Black workers have more right to live in this country than all the winter-in-the-Bahamas set, all the Reggie Maudlings, the Arnold Welnstocks. the Lord Vesteys and the Enoch Powells – they have earned that right through hard work. And one day, quite soon perhaps, they will help “us” make it really OUR country by taking it out of the hands of rats like you.
In 1968 some muddled workers joined with fascists in supporting you. Since then the working class has felt its own strength, it has got a clearer picture of its real enemy now than for a long time past. It has the experience of a series of victorious struggles in common with tens of thousands of black and Asian workers.
Many militants must and will rally to protect our black brothers if the fascist gangs and backward workers of ’68 once again try to use the ‘respectable’ cover you provide to attack blacks and Asians.
This time working class militants, black and white, can create defence groups to drive your fascist followers back into the sewers from which you encourage them to emerge. If they don’t, they are allowing you, Powell, and your class, to inflict a wound on the working class which can turn septic.
With all our hearts we, working class militants from the port and steel industries, pledge ourselves to fight to root out, and to wipe out, the racialist poison you represent for our class.
The black workers are our brothers in the struggle of the working class. You, Powell, contemptible gutter-rat that you are, are one of the most diseased representatives of everything we are struggling against.
With populism in the air at home and abroad, our old friend Coatsey draws our attention to this exposé of the horrible (but still supposedly “left”) CounterPunch magazine’s attempt to paint the racist Huey Long as some sort of progressive in the Hugo Chavez mould. Regular readers will know that here at Shiraz we don’t share the prevailing liberal-leftist adulation of el Comandante, but to compare him to the racist Long is simply an insult to Chavez (and a particularly ironic one: see below). It’s time that some leftist idiots realised that anti-capitalist rhetoric does not a socialist make.
Mike Whitney has posted an article on CounterPunch titled Our Chavez: Huey Long. There seems to be an effort in recent years on the part of some people to try to portray the sometime governor of Louisiana and U.S.Senator as a great champion of the people, no doubt because of his anti-capitalist rhetoric. Yet when one takes a closer look at his life, it becomes clear that things were not that simple.
During Long’s lifetime, most of the Left regarded him with deep wariness, if not outright hostility. There were good reasons for that. First of all, he governed Louisiana as a virtual dictator. He even organized a secret police force to keep watch on his opponents as well as on his followers.
Long was also a white supremacist. He maintained Louisisana’s Jim Crow laws. (Long would sometimes smear his opponents by spreading rumors that they had “coffee blood”. This gives a bitter irony to calling him “our Chavez”.) Long’s apologists point out that he didn’t talk about white supremacy in his speeches. This was perhaps because he didn’t need to. In 1935, Roy Wilkins interviewed Long for The Criis. They discussed an anti-lynching bill that Long opposed in the Senate…
Read the full article here
Cameron’s shameful, cynical speech about furriners coming over here to scrounge off our generous welfare system is just the latest manifestation of mainstream politicians pandering to UKIP and the racist right. The wretched Clegg’s been at it as well and Labour’s not above it either. In this poisonous atmosphere, even sections of the left are hamstrung by their anti-EU obsession. The Murdoch press and a former adviser to Frank Field (one of the most right wing Labour MPs of recent times) are not obvious sources of reason and enlightenment in this non-debate, but the following article came as a welcome breath of fresh air when it was published on March 8 in response to a speech by Iain Duncan Smith, acting as a warm-up act for Cameron’s performance today.
Naturally, I don’t agree with all of what follows, and wouldn’t personally have given either Field or Farage even the back-handed compliments (for “clarity”) that the author proffers, but overall it’s a pretty good piece. Actually, the bulk of it would make the basis of a good speech from a half-way principled Labour leader…
Benefit tourists are just political phantoms – It’s a myth that lazy foreigners are sponging off our welfare state. Our leaders ought to be straight with us. By Phillip Collins (THE TIMES, March 8 2013)
Some of the most testing problems in a democracy are the phantoms. When crime is falling but the people say it’s rising, is it prudent for politicians to declare the people to be in error? Is it ethical to pretend the phantom is real to show a popular touch? This week the spectre came dressed as “benefit tourism”, which in a histrionic performance in the House of Commons, Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, described as a “crisis.”
I would not suggest there are no foreign nationals in Britain claiming benefits in preference to work. I have no doubt that the official figures will miss some black market activity and fraud. But to suggest that Britain is in the grip of a crisis of lazy foreigners stealing our benefits is untrue, irresponsible and not worthy of a Cabinet Minister of good standing.
The very term “benefit tourism” suggests that people treat welfare states like holiday resorts. It is a claim that large numbers of migrants are taking advantage of the generosity of the welfare state and that is their motivation in coming to Britain. Not attracted by the higher wages on offer in Britain, the feckless East Europeans go to the trouble of leaving family and friends back home because — and only because — of the irresistible allure of British housing benefit.
This is an argument that carries with it enough rope to hang itself. But let’s demolish it with the facts as well. It is not true that EU nationals can walk into Britain and live instantly off the fat of the land. Anyone from the EU who wants to stay longer than three months has to be in work, seeking work or be able to show that they will not become a burden on public funds.
For this reason, there is no reliable evidence at all that this country has a serious problem with benefit tourism. Even if there were any serious studies that showed migration patterns are linked to benefit levels, which there aren’t, the rational tourist scrounger would go to France where there are no jobs and where unemployment benefits are much higher than they are in Britain and eligibility conditions are weaker. Yet not many Poles went to France because the French have this irritating habit of speaking French.
As it happens, it has been good news that the Poles came to Britain. People from the countries who joined the EU in 2004 are much less likely to be claiming out-of-work benefits than British-born people, even though more of them are of working age. Just over 1 per cent of Polish people who live in Britain claim unemployment benefit. The rest are working. We can object to the Poles on the grounds that they are foreigners taking British jobs that should be reserved for British workers but we cannot object to them on the grounds that they are bone idle. Read the rest of this entry »
Adapted by JD from Workers Liberty/Solidarity (editorial)
Ukip has seen its support surge, most recently in the 28 February Eastleigh by-election where it won 11,571 votes — 27.8%, an increase of 24%, and enough to beat the Tories into third place. A recent opinion poll puts them on 17% – well ahead of the Lib Dems and exactly 10% behind the Tories..
They have also just won a local council seat in the North West.
Last year, in the Croydon North by-election, Ukip polled 1,400 votes, an increase of 4%. In Rotherham, it won 4,648 votes (21.67%), coming second. In Middlesbrough, it also finished second with 1,990 votes (11.8%).
The trends suggest that Ukip stands a good chance of gaining the most votes of any party at next year’s European Parliament elections.
A great deal of debate has taken place in the mainstream press about whether Ukip’s recent electoral gains were just “protest votes”, rather than indicators of the party consolidating a longer-term, loyal base. If the vote was an expression of “protest”, the questions are: who was doing the protesting, what were they protesting about, and in the name of what alternative?
A study into Ukip’s vote at the 2009 European elections, where they came second to Labour and won 16.1% of the vote, argued that Ukip’s “core supporters” are “a poorer, more working-class, and more deeply discontented group who closely resemble supporters of the BNP and European radical right parties.”
The BNP would sometimes pitch “to the left”; leader Nick Griffin claimed in 2002 that his party was “the only socialist party in Britain”, and the BNP’s local work often has an explicitly “working-class” edge and includes opposition to cuts to local services. Ukip’s pitch is different.
Where the BNP might demagogically and disingenuously attack Labour for abandoning white workers, Ukip’s leader Nigel Farage focuses on attacking David Cameron for not being conservative enough. The Tories failed in Eastleigh, Farage said, because “traditional Tory voters look at Cameron and ask themselves: is he a Conservative? And they conclude, no, he is not. He is talking about gay marriage, wind turbines, unlimited immigration from India, he wants Turkey to join the EU.” The Daily Mail‘s Peter Hitchens described Ukip as “the Thatcherite Tory Party in exile”. Ukip wants compulsory “workfare” schemes for anyone on benefits, greater privatisation in education, and a part-privatised “national health insurance” model to replace the NHS.
But despite its right-wing pitch and the fact that 60% of Ukip supporters previously voted Tory (see chart at the top), figures in the Independent show that more than 40% of Ukip supporters oppose the Tories’ cap on tax credits and benefits, 43% want increased spending on public services, and more Ukip supporters than Lib Dem supporters believe that “the government is cutting too deeply”. There is a potentially unstable contradiction between Ukip’s ultra-Tory policies and the instincts of some of its working-class supporters.
It would be patronising and complacent, though, to believe that working-class people who vote Ukip do so simply to express a vague “protest” without any real understanding of or belief in what the party stands for. It is dangerous to imagine that if some left-wing electoral vehicle can replicate Ukip’s populist pitch (but from the left), we can repeat their success.
The Socialist Party-led Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) stood in the Rotherham, Middlesbrough, and Eastleigh by-elections on as “populist” a pitch as one could wish for — a lowest-common-denominator anti-cuts appeal. TUSC came out of the “No2EU” coalition, an attempt to tap into anti-EU and anti-migrant sentiment “from the left”. TUSC polled 620 votes in total across the three by-elections, less than half of Ukip’s lowest single score. Unfortunately Ukip’s vote represents a layer of anti-migrant, anti-Europe feeling amongst working-class people — which the left needs to relate to with a serious long-term political campaign based on socialist ideas and emphasising working-class unity.
Peter Woodhouse, a Ukip-voting train driver and former Labour supporter interviewed in the Guardian, said: “One of the reasons I voted for Ukip is immigration. I’m worried about the dropping of the barrier in January. I fully expect 2-4 million Bulgarians and Romanians to come over. What’s it going to be like? We’re a small island.” Sarah Holt, a shopworker, said: “They have talked to me about their policies and I agree with a lot of what they have told me. There’s going to be more and more foreigners coming in and taking everything from us. It’s diabolical.”
Although senior Tories like Kenneth Clarke have warned against a rightwards lurch in response to Ukip’s success, a cabinet committee met on 5 March to examine “wide-ranging plans” to restrict Bulgarian and Romanian immigration to Britain without breaching EU law.
But, critically, where is the Labour Party, the wider labour movement, and the left? Eastleigh was a dismal showing for Labour, finishing fourth in a by-election while in opposition for the first time in nearly 15 years.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper unveiled Labour’s new immigration policy last week, and while it is focusing on “crackdowns” on employers who exploit migrants, previous “crackdowns” have been used as cover to deport migrant workers rather than level up their conditions.
The far-left is politically hamstrung on the issue, having been desperately attempting to give a progressive gloss to anti-EU sentiment for years. The “No2EU” coalition and the (closely-related) Campaign Against Euro Federalism have even attacked “the so-called ‘free movement of labour’”, and “the social dumping of migrant labour”. A speech by the then-RMT President Alex Gordon to a 2011 conference of the “People’s Movement” (an Irish anti-EU coalition) argued for restrictions on immigration on the basis that continued “mass migration” would “feed the poison of racism and fascism”.
The left needs more than a change of approach or tactics; it needs a change of politics. Attempting to convince Ukip-supporting workers that their anti-migrant and anti-EU feeling would be better and more progressively expressed by voting for some supposedly “left” electoral formation (Respect, No2EU, TUSC, etc) than for Ukip is a dead-end.
We need to convince workers of an alternative set of ideas: that the enemy is not “Europe” but capitalist austerity, and that the answer to fears about increased migration putting a strain on jobs, wages, and services is not to restrict migration but to organise all workers — British-born and migrant — to fight for the levelling up of conditions to provide living wages, decent jobs, housing, and public services for all. The labour movement needs an emergency plan that can unite workers across Europe to fight for working-class policies against the policies of austerity.
• Sign this statement — “Equal rights for migrant workers!”