Those of you who don’t live in the UK might not be aware of what happened in our European Elections last week.
Well, the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party won the most votes (and are providing the highest number of Euro MPs). Here’s the Guardian’s coverage of that, and, for balance, here’s the Telegraph’s.
There’s a general feeling amongst almost all my friends that UKIP is fascistic, racist, stupid, homophobic, bigoted, intolerant and a massive backwards step for the civilisation of our country. They (UKIP; not my friends) favour such policies as an ‘amicable divorce’ from the European Union; an end to the ‘mass, uncontrolled immigration’ that membership of the EU makes possible; an end to subsidies for renewable energy scenes and a concomitant support of fracking. Actually, I could continue listing them, but you could just read them all in more detail here.
I agree with those friends, but also wonder why so many people want to vote for a party that seems to possess so many of those attributes that we might dislike in a person. Apparently UKIP’s supporter base is mainly rural (a UKIP spokesman famously said last week that they do not do well in London because the people who live there are young, cultured and educated), so perhaps there’s a different mindset that comes with living in the less urbanised parts of the country. Perhaps the settlement of EU immigrants in those areas stands out more, and any event that happens in a smaller place is bound to have a larger effect. Is that why they fear immigrants being employed in positions that British people could otherwise take? Because it hits harder in their communities? But then doesn’t that pose a different question regarding the employability of people from different countries? If you live here you have to work here, and thus pay for housing, clothing, food etc. at British prices. So are immigrants happy to work more cheaply, and if so, what is a fair wage? We’re also richer in London, so the less well-off UKIP voter might well find that one ‘taken’ job leaves them in a much worse position in Rotherham than it does in the capital.
The other strange thing is that it doesn’t seem to matter what faux pas the UKIP politicians make; if anything such gaffes only seem to strengthen their position. When Nigel Farage makes comments about not wanting a Romanian family to come and live next door to him, do vast swathes of the country actually agree, leaving the rest of us to find such suggestions to be offensive? Is that linked to the rural fear? Perhaps some of this attitude comes from the older people who fear change and the pain of having to adapt to it.
What seems clear is that UKIP, like may parties before it, is catering for a viewpoint of many people, but a viewpoint that many other people find abhorrent (I imagine you’ll find similar differences of opinion on Labour vs Tory). But as a wise person once said, what you resist persists, and the urban opposition to UKIP might only succeed in strengthening the resolve of its supporters. If anyone out there really wants to reduce the influence of this party they might be better off having a chat with a UKIP voter, finding out why they’re so scared, and enrolling them in a more palatable alternative.
But then it’s so much easier and more fun to make snarky, indignant comments about how much you loathe UKIP to your UKIP-loathing friends.