UKIP; the false alternative.
So despite seeing their much touted by-election chances come to naught this week, Nigel Farage has still seen fit to proclaim UKIP as Britain's “third party”, and to be fair there is some justification for this given successes in recent years and their current poll ratings.
The threat of UKIP in the past few months has put Europe at the top of the agenda, especially for Tories who feel they must shift to the right to avoid losing more votes and influence to the populist Eurosceptic party. Meanwhile the media's treatment of the party has also become more inclusive and positive, and the sympathy for the indefensible actions of Rotherham council appears to have put the mainstream agenda closer to that of UKIP.
Yet this raises the important question: what exactly is UKIP's agenda?
Sure, we all know about the EU. Further questioning to more interested members will reveal ambiguous attitudes regarding combating “political correctness” and even the word “libertarian”. But few know much about the specifics of their policy proposals and philosophical platform. As the couple in the Rotherham débâcle said; "We have no strong opinions on immigration; we don't know very much about politics. We agree with UKIP in getting out of the European Union. That was our initial reason for joining UKIP."
Perhaps it would be wise to go beyond the EU issue and take a deeper look at UKIP.
According to their policy website UKIP:-
Denies man-made global warming and would pull out of all related international commitments and agreements, and thus oppose all renewable energy projects in the UK.
Would increase cuts to services and foreign aid.
Wants further de-regulate the city.
Would introduce a flat tax of 31% for all earning over £11,500. This would mean the very richest pay 14% less than they do now.
Would abolish inheritance tax.
Wants to keep Trident and increase defence spending.
Would continue to cut benefits and introduce corporate workfare to stop “lazy” claimants.
Believes there is a need to “Free the police force from the straitjacket of political correctness”.
In other words they would continue to impose austerity on the poorest in society whilst allowing the super-rich and their financial corporations to benefit even more from reduced taxes and decimated regulations. Indeed their primary reasons for leaving the EU relate to the need to cut such rights and regulations in the name of The City and big business.
Militarism and harsh police powers would increase and our stance on fighting climate change would go from barely minimal to non-existent. I don't know about you but this sounds very similar to the mainstream policies of the big parties. Essentially UKIP are offering a more high-octane version of the status quo rather than an alternative to it.
The one area where UKIP could credibly claim to be an alternative is that they are not yet funded by the same cabal of rich corporations and millionaire donors like the other big parties. However they do enjoy a great deal of funding, ironically, from the EU for their level of MEP representation. In addition I would not be surprised if they begin to steal some super rich backers from the Tories if they keep up their successes, such is the plutocratic nature of so much of their policy and philosophy.
Indeed Farage recently admitted to the Telegraph that UKIP were on the verge of persuading key Conservative funders to switch, arguing that Cameron had “betrayed banks and financiers”, the very richest in our society. Farage himself comes from a City background and claims to be the only politician to be given the freedom of the City of London. Again this is a more fuller realisation of the already dominant and much derided revolving door situation between politicians and big business positions.
This would be fine of course, were it not that I fear that many of UKIP's newest voters and supporters are not aware of a large part of their platform. People are clearly annoyed and frustrated with the failings of the political, social and economic establishment. Yet UKIP's background and policies are precisely in favour of this establishment and its interests.
They have a massive inclination to the bankers, financiers and corporations to whom a great deal of popular anger is directed. Research on UKIP voters shows that their three main issues are immigration, Crime and the EU debate.
Aside from this I doubt the party would find similar popular support for their pseudo-libertarian economics, corporate dominion or zealous climate change denial, for instance. Equally the migration, crime and EU issues are played up by the corporate elite, to create false scapegoats when the real reasons for a lack of jobs or prosperity comes from the hegemony of such elites. Thus both via their 'populist' and disguised policies, UKIP offer a recipe that can only exacerbate the elitist dominance of the nation by the 1%, and one that can only further the problems faced by most ordinary people.
As the above quote from the Rotherham foster couple suggests many UKIP supporters have been misled about the party's true intentions. Whilst they might not have directly sold a lie to the electorate, they have played well upon political indifference, illiteracy and single issue tendencies.
UKIP are part of a peculiar and ingenious part of the pro-corporate neoliberal right. Along with groups such as the Tax Payers Alliance and similar US organisations they seek an acceleration of the elitist status quo, whilst pretending to be some grassroots campaign fighting against an all-powerful left-wing consensus, at a time when the opposite is in fact true.
Western nations are dominated by neoliberal hegemonies bankrolled by the 0.1% and a mass leftist popular movement is needed. The rise of UKIP demonstrates the lack of political understanding and literacy in the West and is an insult to the martyrs of democracy.