UKIP is now motivated by prejudices against foreigners, gays, and Muslims
In an exclusive article, UKIP’s founder Alan Sked says The EU, it turns out, is as intellectually bankrupt as Nigel Farage. Indeed, it positively deserves him. He is its mirror image
I am ceaselessly asked these days by the world’s media to account for the rise of UKIP and to pontificate on the future of Europe and, more particularly, on whether Britain will remain inside the European Union. So here are a few of the answers I give.
The rise of UKIP has resulted, not from any talent displayed by its leadership (leader, I should say, since it is a one-man band and it is run strictly on the Fϋhrerprinzip). It has no intellectual appeal and indeed abhors intellectuals. It is motivated largely by prejudices against foreigners, gays, and Muslims and is thoroughly reactionary.
It would like to restore Britain to its position in the 1950s, when she was a global power, with considerable armed forces, before the advent of mass coloured immigration, membership of the EEC and the sexual revolution.
It hardly bothers to talk about the EU any longer but concentrates on immigration, which is responsible for everything in its eyes from housing shortages, failing schools, to making Mr Farage late for meetings. In short it is a pretty unattractive creature. It cares not for actual policy formulation. At the last general election, when we faced a huge economic crisis, its flagship policy was ‘ban the burka’.
Farage himself later described its manifesto as ‘drivel, sheer drivel’ but he did write the introduction to it. Today, he makes up policy as he goes along, but it is still usually drivel. His ex-colleague, Godfrey Blum MEP, used to declare that the party could always buy policies from right-wing think-tanks. But how could it tell whether they were any good?
So how has it acquired so much support? First, the EU changed the electoral system for the European Parliament to a PR List system allowing parties with about 2% of the vote to elect MEPs. This enabled it to become the default protest party at European elections and appear on Question Time. Then the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition with the Tories. This allowed it gradually to become the default party in British elections.
Finally, the Coalition government introduced a policy of austerity which hit the poorest sections of the population and consciously deflected the economic resentment of ordinary earners against welfare recipients and the resentment of welfare recipients against immigrants. And this policy of austerity continues despite the Coalition’s failure to meet deficit reduction targets, with even more austerity promised in the future.
Little wonder that the lower middle classes and the unemployed are turning fascistic. They see no future for themselves under the present political establishment. The Scottish Independence referendum proved that. The areas that voted to quit the UK were the poorest of the lot. There is nothing surprising in any of this.
So what are the implications for the EU? Farage, it should be noted, is doing less well than anti-establishment parties in France, Spain, Greece and elsewhere. The EU may well break up on its own accord. After all, what does it have to offer? Defence against Putin? Higher living standards? Lower unemployment? Economic growth? Democratic accountability? Control of multinationals? A new European nationalism?
The answer, of course, is simply ‘none of the above’, The EU, it turns out, is as intellectually bankrupt as Farage. Indeed, it positively deserves him. He is its mirror image. My own fear is that we might indeed get an in-out referendum in 2017 and that the case for BREXIT will be fatally undermined by UKIP’s toxicity. We will then be stuck in a failed, undemocratic, economically declining, corrupt set of supranational institutions of international irrelevance.
A lot of people who ought to know better seem to think, however, that BREXIT would signify the end of the world, the end of the European Dream, however much of a nightmare that has turned out to be. For them it is an existential question. Yet this is ridiculous. Britain managed to decolonise a world empire after 1945 without the population really noticing.
Leaving a set of institutions which have brought us no benefits but into which we have paid billions largely to support policies like the CAP and CFP which have been against our interests, will hardly disturb anyone either. If anything there will be less nostalgia for the EU than for the Empire -–and we can always cobble together a European equivalent of the Commonwealth.
Palacky, the great Czech statesman and historian, once said of the position of his people inside the Habsburg Monarchy. “We existed before Austria and after Austria, we shall still exist.” Despite Farage’s baleful control of UKIP, I still feel much the same about Britain and the EU.
Alan Sked is Professor of International History at LSE and author of several books on British and European history. His last book was ‘Radetzky: Imperial Victor and Military Genius’. He was a founder member of the Bruges Group and thereafter founded the Anti-Federalist League which changed its name to UKIP in 1993. He resigned from the party which he led till 1997 and thereafter became its leading critic
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