Tag Archives: UKIP

Truth and Daring

Three for Monday:

One The story of the UKIP leader dumping his girlfriend for racist messages she sent about Meghan Markle bears all the bizarre hallmarks of the public conversation on UK racism. For instance: the appearance of racism is somehow worse than the crime. The fact that the leader of an openly racist party is dating a white supremacist should not be surprising; yet, he is forced to distance himself from her beacause while it’s OK to lead a party that has espouses racist policies, her comments that Markle would “taint” the Royal Family were too blatant. Furthermore, in being perceived as attacking the Royal Family, she also disrespected that most British of institutions, the Royal Family; and part of the UKIP brand is their version of patriotism. As always, racism is seen as a personal character flaw than a systemic issue. It’s easier to deal with the blatant racist than examine UKIP and its place in the political discourse as the balloon floater of racist ideas (that are then doubled down on by mainstream politicians).

Two MLK Day and the death of Cyrille Regis, the pioneering black footballer who endured racism to play the game he loved. It has been interesting to read the tributes to him; his courage was admirable. Being MLK day I did think about civil rights more generally and sports and protest. I think the public threshold for black people opposing racism is low – you can only speak out so much. Be persistent (in the mould of Kaepernick in the US for example) and it’s funny how the troublemaker tags start to get handed out.  It’s easy to forget that Martin Luther King was not that popular in his lifetime for his stances on Vietnam and capitalism, let alone race and in some ways he has since been sanitised in death. In the US, his memory is often invoked as a rebuke against anti-racist campaigners like Kaepernick, who have their protests policed and condemned for being confrontational by those who forget that in its time, the non-violent protests were (necessarily) difficult and confrontational and unpopular too. I realise I’m conflating two different eras, sports and countries here, but Rhian Brewster’s experiences of racism as a young player right now are a testament to the fact that while the naked hate of Cyrill’s era is thankfully a thing of the past, we still have a way to go towards eliminating racism in UK sport and society.

Three This thread on immigration policy, which shows the link between bad policies and rhetoric on immigration, and public perception and anxieties on the subject:

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Oh, Nigel.

Can we make up our minds, please?

I’m loving and cheering on the #ostentatiousbreastfeeding hashtag, but I have a problem with the reporting of the issue of Nigel Farage’s suggestion that breastfeeding mums should “sit in a corner” of restaurants. This isn’t the first time he’s said something sexist.

I find it a bit frustrating that the media roundly pokes fun at the outdated or offensive things he or other UKIP members say or do, but treat his xenophobia and anti-immigration rhetoric with deference. Why do we allow him to drive the agenda on that when on *every. other. issue* – the NHS, women, the economy – literally anything else his and his party’s views are roundly derided as asinine?

Oh yeah, because they are. We need to make up our minds and stop using him to legitimise racism and xenophobia in public discourse. No other political leader could be so discredited on all these other issues and still be taken seriously on their one pet hobby horse.



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Mapping Fear

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On guilt and grasping

I’ve been thinking about Emily Thornberry’s tweet all weekend. OK, maybe not all weekend. I got my first taster of gin cocktails on Friday night at the Star at Night in Soho, and I had two of my favourite cocktails at London Cocktail Club on Saturday night – the Pornstar Martini (a passionfruit delight that comes with a shot of prosecco) and the Heisenberg (tequila-based homage to Breaking Bad that comes with a knowing sachet of blue coloured salt)….ok, I’m back- where was I?

Yes, so when I wasn’t drinking, or recovering from the latter, I was thinking about Emily Thornberry’s tweet and the reactions to it. She posted, without comment, a picture of a terraced house  festooned with England flags and with a white van outside. The fact that she did shows that it was almost as if she was in a foreign country, far away from Islington. It shouldn’t be so. But she didn’t mock it.

However, the Labour party’s scramble to compensate for her perceived lack of tact and out-of-touchness with the working class strikes me as a bit of an overreaction that betrays their own anxiety and guilt about not standing up for working class people. What she did was embarassing, but the cover-up is usually worse than the crime. That holds true in this case. Ed Miliband, who can’t (won’t) even back the care workers in his constituency battling for a living wage condemned Thornberry (I’m outraged! etc)  and then went on a grovelling campaign.

If Labour really wants to respect people like White Van Man (who is fast becoming our Joe the Plumber equivalent) it would push back on austerity rather than accepting it wholesale, and work on lifting people out of poverty wages that were topped up with tax credits. It would challenge  UKIP. I mean properly challenge UKIP by dealing with people’s legitimate concerns but without pandering to bigotry.

Right now they (and the other parties) pander to UKIP rather than tackling the causes behind what drives people to protest there. And some of those reasons also require honest talk – on migration, for instance. It’s a reality of the 21st century. Now… that will never be acceptable to some. But recent research from British Future reveals a moderate – anxious, yes, but nuanced – majority who could be persuaded to accept migration if their concerns are addressed. Instead, we have nervy soundbites and grovelling op-eds about….a tweet.

And just as the “UKIP are right but vote for us to get UKIP policies” is a patronising (and incidentally, a losing) strategy, that confirms the prejudices and conspiracy theories of UKIP supporters (Nigel is right! And now the establishment just wants us to be good and vote for them again anyway)-  the scramble over Thornberry scramble is unedifying because it’s almost as though Labour was caught out showing its true colours – rather than one woman betraying her snobbery. Their reaction actually confirms everyone’s suspicions that Labour does indeed no longer stand for working people.

(There’s a  great discussion over on the Guardian politics podcast – one of the commentator makes the point that UKIP is a nasty vehicle of protest. I agree very strongly. I do think there is a crisis of representation, but protesters should weigh up the impact of allying themselves with a racist, extremist, truly nasty party just to give the establishment a bloody nose. And…about that establishment, UKIP is hardly anti-establishment)


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Labour goes emo

If political parties were people, Labour would be the teenager with a chance of edging a tight race on sports day, but who spends the days beforehand lying on the floor in her room, being emo about the fact that her running shorts aren’t that great, rather than training for the big day.

I’m doing a massive disservice to teenagers here. But really, instead of bringing the fight to the Tories and UKIP, Labour is engaging in some self-indulgent introspection and fretting over a situation they can’t reasonably change (Ed and his personality and popularity deficit) before the election in May next year.

Sure, it won’t be easy, as David Lammy points out, (ok, he doesn’t think a Labour majority is possible, and he may be right) – but at the same time, Cameron didn’t win last time either, even with the economic crisis and Gordon Brown being so unpopular. Labour could bring a fight – they need to. They need to scrap for every seat, but it’s as if they’ve already given up, despite the fact that the Tories are actually in trouble. Sure, they’ve got the polls closer than ever, but they about to lose a second MP seat to UKIP, the economy is going slightly off the boil again, and people are still generally hard-up. And the cuts they propose will make it even harder. They haven’t even done the *one thing* that they said they would – the deficit has grown. In fact, two things. They didn’t meet their arbitrary and bizarre immigration target.

But Labour is chasing its tail. It’s as if the fact that they might not win outright means they won’t even try. And triangulating messages according to what UKIP is saying hasn’t yielded any results. Not with UKIP supporters, not with the hostile sections of the right-wing press, and not with Labour’s natural supporters, who are unconvinced at best and annoyed with the duplicity at worst. It isn’t who Labour are, and it’s obvious. Its attempts to ape UKIP are craven and cynical – and it looks that way. At least UKIP are consistent. I don’t like them, but they are what they say on the tin. So, given that Labour aren’t convincing anyone and certainly not building any new coalitions with this narrow appeal to the bigoted minority…why not fight? Why not be full-throated and bring.the.noise?

Whether Lammy is right about the election outcome remains to be seen, but he definitely has one thing right – Labour needs to figure out who it is first:

For Lammy, Labour has to be “relentless at communication, we mustn’t move around on policy areas like immigration and Europe” because Labour is “a pro-immigration party, we are a pro-European party”.

He added: “I don’t think that posturing and positioning each time there’s a new immigration poll is right for the Labour Party.”


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For Shame

There’s a lot of talk about British values in the air at the moment. Apparently, this is all about anything UKIP want or endorse. It seems to involve a lot of dog-whistling and some downright blunt scaremongering. So no to immigration, no to human rights, anything that’s populist is popular and apparently right. Well, when it’s right-wing, certainly.

And these are the fruits of this small politics, this inward-looking, anxious, grasping tree that offers no shade to the most vulnerable in society:

The poor forced to steal or rely on foodbanks. Aditya Chakraborty wrote a blunt, hard-hitting piece on this today:

“All the other instances that police from Lancashire to south London cite as one of their growing crime areas: of people stealing to eat because they can’t afford basics.

If this sounds humdrum, that’s what austerity Britain is: humdrum, run-of-the-mill immiseration. Greece gets austerity imposed upon it by Brussels and Berlin, and Athens goes up in flames. But the British choose a government that imposes cuts – and then the poorest are forced either to steal, or to beg from this decade’s other great phenomenon: food banks.”

The UK axes support for Mediterranean migrant rescue operation. Apparently, this is to reduce the “pull” factor to the UK of helping desperate people stop from drowning. This, when half the world, from Syria to Libya, is more or less on fire. When the majority of refugees are actually taken in by neighbouring countries, more often by developing nations. We have plenty. History will judge us for looking to our own at a time like this – especially when our share of the burden is so small.

“The British government seems oblivious to the fact that the world is in the grip of the greatest refugee crisis since the second world war.

“People fleeing atrocities will not stop coming if we stop throwing them life-rings; boarding a rickety boat in Libya will remain a seemingly rational decision if you’re running for your life and your country is in flames. The only outcome of withdrawing help will be to witness more people needlessly and shamefully dying on Europe’s doorstep.

“The answer isn’t to build the walls of fortress Europe higher, it’s to provide more safe and legal channels for people to access protection.”

These are not British values. The narrow, diminished, uninspired and isolationist little island mentality of UKIP does not speak for me. But they certainly seem to have sway with the establishment.

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Clacton II

So, he won. Douglas Carswell won his seat back as a UKIP candidate. It has been hailed as a grassroots uprising, the birth of four-party politics in the UK.

Grassroots? Carswell is establishment (and so is Farage but that’s a story for another day). Would UKIP have won if they fielded their own unknown candidate? Maybe. Maybe not.

Four-party politics? Now they have an MP. So do the greens.

Predicably, the media backlash has been personal – Farage has said something stupid (again), calling for HIV positive people who migrate to the UK to be excluded. Scaremongering, for sure, especially in these times of Ebola panic. But he tends to say something stupid on a regular basis, but it’s not made a big deal of until he rocks the boat a teensy bit too much. He should be roundly condemned for the statement, but let’s not pretend that this is a one-off or that the people voting for UKIP really care about UKIP policies or controversies, beyond the simple, reflexive EU exit and cutting immigration. Otherwise they’d be a bit perturbed at UKIP calls to privatise the NHS, among other crazy policies.

It *is* remarkable that UKIP have broken through to get an MP, but it looks less like a people’s revolution than the rearranging of the deckchairs in the crazy section of HMS establishment. But as narratives go, nuance isn’t as sexy.

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Party On

We’re just emerging from party conference season. Today David Cameron promised tax cuts for those who earn the most and the least, hot on the heels of George Osborne’s pledge to cut even more from welfare – but not pensioners, who make up the bulk of those on welfare (and who happen to vote), and not the disabled (though they’re still getting slammed by the bedroom tax. So…cuts will hit those who are already struggling so that “welfare doesn’t pay more than work” but there is nothing to address in-work poverty, which the Joseph Rowntree Trust has pointed out has grown. And for ethnic minorities, they found, it’s even worse.

Miliband forgot some stuff, but remembered some other stuff. Labour’s message, which emerged from the fog of conference, sounded to me like something-something mansion tax something-something hard choices something-something cutting child benefits. See…the problem here is, when the Tories are mean, they at least throw some tax cut candy in there. Labour just looks like it’s aping them. But what’s the point? As Sunny Hundal pointed out today, they are doing so to win credibility from a section of the press that won’t give them any, while sounding unconvincing and uninspired to the rest of us:

“The media’s attitude to Labour on austerity has been akin to Eurosceptics Tories with Cameron: forever demanding more concessions without giving an inch.”

UKIP meanwhile, were batshit crazy as always. Farage claimed that Cameron raised the terror threat level and recalled MPs to vote on bombing the “Islamic State” to distract from their conference. Yeah. But he still managed to make the political weather with Reckless’ defection and nabbing a Tory donor too. I still think that UKIP are allowed to influence the agenda in a way that is disproportionate to their number of MPs (to date, zero) compared to, say, the Greens. They will probably win in Clacton, but for a party that’s meant to be a grassroots insurrection, they seem to rely heavily on poaching MPs with ready-made support bases.

So far, so establishment.

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all eyes on Clacton

There’s not much that hasn’t been said about Douglas Carswell MP’s defection to UKIP and the pending by-election (and the original UKIP candidate who has to stand aside), but it occurs to me that for all his boasting of an “earthquake”, Farage is playing it very safe. He’s obviously relying on some defections and his standing in a seat with a good shot at winning to get UKIP some representation in parliament. Like another supposed big hitter, Boris Johnson, who has declared he’ll stand in the Tory safe seat of Uxbridge.

The funny thing is, both of these men get disproportionate, and very favourable press attention, because they are characters, they entertain. And they’re allowed to dissemble and skim along on the surface, rarely challenged by the third estate.

With this though, it’s clearer than ever that the election coverage will be UKIP (and to an extent Boris) – focused, with a side order of immigration scaremongering, especially with the news that net immigration is up 39%, and primarily due to EU migration, as non-EU migration can barely be squeezed further.

This is going to be a very nasty fight, especially as David Cameron feels squeezed between the crazy wing of his party and UKIP. Labour, of course, will follow the debate and sit squarely within the paradigm set by the right.


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Empty Gestures

They did it last summer, and it looks like the government is at it again: the silly season is due to be dominated by damaging immigration discourse and ridiculous publicity stunts in poor taste that manage to simultaneously exacerbate the perception that the government hasn’t got a handle on an immigration system in crisis while convincing no one that their vacuous stunts make a difference.

So the most high-profile opening salvo: David Cameron and Theresa May hanging out with border agents in the home of people arrested for being suspected undocumented immigrants. There’s something quite awful about David Cameron casually leaning against the kitchen counter of someone’s home, uninvited. The occupants are conspicuous by their absence, and the media and the Prime Minister no less are in the intimacy of their home, broadcasting to the nation. Despite the fact that the occupants of the house haven’t been convicted of a crime, and might yet be innocent, the invasion of their home in such a high-profile manner really brings the hostile environment home; and the “Go Home” campaign it seems, is far from over. Cameron saw fit to double down:

“”When we find you, and we will find you, we’ll make sure you are sent back to the country you came from,” he said.”

Funnily enough, and despite the far right rhetorical grab, UKIP actually felt there was political mileage in denouncing the stunt as “vacuous”. Labour, oddly enough, criticised the government for not going far enough. This is what it has come to. The main parties are so desperate to be seen to be tough that they’ll say (and do) anything, and somehow conspire to leave UKIP (and the Greens I suppose, not that anyone asks them) to claim the moral high ground.

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