(Sorry… I haven’t posted in over a month and when I do, it’s a politics rant. I’m not even sure why I wrote it, I just got fed up with a lot of the comments I was reading in various places and wanted to articulate why. And now it’s written I might as well post it).
Right now it seems like it’s hard to say anything negative (or even just neutral) about UKIP on the internet without a load of angry people jumping down your throat, telling you you’re behind the times, out of touch with ordinary people’s concerns, and you’d better get used to this because the whole country’s moving to the right, and they ain’t going back. But I’m going to try anyway ;).
Firstly, I’m not convinced UKIP’s recent performance was quite as astonishingly brilliant as a lot of the press seem to think it was. Yes, they did well for a “minor” party, and they improved a lot on their share of the vote from last time, that much is true. Though I’m sure I remember a European election years ago where UKIP polled a similar share of the vote and everyone was going on about how well they’d done and how this was the start of big things for them. So I can’t help but have a slight sense of de ja vu right now.
Plus, the turnout was pathetic – 31% on average according to this page on the BBC, a full ten points lower than the same elections in 2009 – which means UKIP’s 25% of the vote translates into only about 8% of the electorate, a rather less impressive number. Meanwhile, over 20% carried on voting for the same old parties they’ve always voted for, while (and surely this is the really telling statistic) nearly 70% of people didn’t even think it was worth bothering to vote at all.
Strange, that. You would think if a party really was revolutionising British politics, providing such a breath of fresh air and finally offering policies that address the concerns of ordinary people, they would be engaging a large proportion of that 70%. Instead we see turnout continuing to drop like a stone – almost like what you’d expect to see if large numbers of people were both disillusioned with the 3 main parties AND unimpressed by UKIP.
You also have to remember that this wasn’t a UK-wide election. It was mostly a rural England election – no Scotland, no Wales (except for Anglesey), and no London or other big cities. In other words, all the places that traditionally vote Conservative – the places you’d most expect a right wing party to do well. It seems doubtful that they would have got so much support in the places in England that are traditionally Labour strongholds, or in Scotland where the left wing (by Westminster standards, at least) SNP won a landslide victory at the last election. But I guess “Right wing party wins votes from 8% of electorate in traditionally right wing areas” wouldn’t be such an attention-grabbing headline and wouldn’t fit with the narrative of the whole country moving to the right that most of the press seem keen to push.
I also don’t see how anyone can really claim to know why those 8% chose to vote for UKIP. Some people say they are only taking votes from Tories who don’t think Cameron’s government is right wing enough; others that they’re only attracting “protest” votes from those who are sick of all three main parties and want to register their disgust; UKIP themselves of course claim it’s because their policies are popular and they’re taking votes from across the political spectrum. In truth, no-one actually knows – there’s no reliable way to know because the ballot paper doesn’t ask for reasons why.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there aren’t people out there who genuinely like UKIP’s policies and would want a UKIP government. Of course there are. But you can’t claim they’re the majority of the population or anywhere close to it on the basis that 8% of people, in the most UKIP-friendly areas of the country, voted for them, especially not when over two thirds of people eligible to vote were so uninspired by ALL the parties, INCLUDING UKIP, that they didn’t even bother.
Ahem. As you can probably tell, I don’t like UKIP very much. But it’s actually not their flagship anti-EU stance that bothers me the most. I disagree with them on it, for sure – I mostly like the EU and I think it would be a mistake to leave, but I’m not such a rabid Europhile that I can’t see any reasons people might oppose it. It’s UKIP’s other, so far less talked about, policies that worry me more. They want to get rid of most legislation protecting workers’ rights for example. How on earth is that going to help ordinary people? I don’t care how much Nigel Farage seems like the kind of bloke who’d be fun to go for a pint with or how much his hatred of immigration/wind turbines/the EU might resonate with many people… as long as his party propose policies like that, any “ordinary” (i.e. non-millionaire) people voting for them are like turkeys voting for Christmas.
I also find their claims to be “libertarian” and in favour of getting rid of state interference in people’s lives to be pretty spurious, demonstrated for example by their opposition to gay marriage. It looks a lot like they just oppose state interference when it comes to rich people trampling over everyone else to get even richer and apart from that they’ll interfere with the lives of anyone they happen to disapprove of.
They apparently want to increase defense spending by 40%. For the love of god, why? Where’s the threat that justifies this? We already have a big enough military budget to be fighting two completely unnecessary, destructive and probably counter-productive wars. Surely that’s more than enough? Not to mention, where’s the money for this and all their other promises going to come from? After all, they also propose to slash income tax, corporation tax and National Insurance. It seems hugely hypocritical for people to bash Labour for being financially irresponsible, as UKIP’s target demographic often tend to do, and then turn round and cheerfully vote for a party that appears to be promising both massive tax cuts AND massive spending increases without any explanation of how they plan to balance the books.
As for their denial of climate science… well, as far as I’m concerned, any party that rejects established science for their own political ends is a menace. I don’t want to turn this into a global warming rant so I will just say this: I know people don’t like the implications of climate change, and I can totally sympathise with that, I don’t like them either. I’d much rather there was no downside to cheap electricity, cheap flights and virtually unlimited personal mobility because I like all those things. But to bury your head in the sand and pretend there isn’t a problem when all the reputable science suggests there IS a problem is utter madness.