UKIP and the Dangers of Closed SocietiesPosted: April 26, 2014
The UKIP leaflet delivered by our postman this morning packs a powerful but false message.
It’s a dangerous message because, if not dissected, it appeals to many people.
The advance of UKIP has been accompanied by a surge in ultra-nationalism, by movements such as ‘Britain First’ which I stumbled upon on Facebook. ‘Britain First’ posts photos of members in what look like dark olive green shell suits and black flat caps, demonstrating against Islam. Scapegoating with a vengeance. When I checked it, 204,951 people had ‘liked’ Britain First on Facebook, and apparently almost 1.62 million people were ‘talking about this’. Those are huge numbers.
It all sounds so simple: send ‘home’ people who are not ‘British’ and all will be well, they suggest, implying jobs for all, adequate incomes for all, and people waving their Union flags with pride.
UKIP’s message is similar. ‘Only UKIP will take back control’, shouts the leaflet. ‘Help us to help you get your country back’.
But who really wants a closed country? North Korea is a closed country, and there are many more people desperate to escape than to enter. UKIP leader Nigel Farage talks about strengthening ties with the Commonwealth, but this strikes me as posturing more than anything else, because close links between Commonwealth countries have long existed. UKIP argues for free trade between Commonwealth nations, but the world already has a trade regulator, the World Trade Organisation, hardly an unmitigated blessing because it is not countries which benefit from free trade, but corporations. Is UKIP covertly on the side of corporations? Exiting the EU would deprive UK workers of European protections relating to discrimination, working hours, dismissal following the take-over of their employer, health and safety failings, and a lot more. UKIP would withdraw from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, thus removing another protection against injustice. Unemployed welfare claimants would have to work for their benefits, and the big answer to energy shortages would be fracking, with all its attendant (but unstated) problems of low or negative return on the energy consumed in the process, pollution of groundwater, profligate use of fresh water, land subsidence – and emissions of greenhouse gases.
UKIP reduces the economic problems of the UK to that fact that, in its words on the leaflet, ‘4,000 people a week come to live in Britain from the EU’. The message is not couched as blatantly as the black propaganda from Britain First, but just the same it is an exercise in blame shifting from us and our policy failures onto ‘them’, thereby creating divisions where none should exist. Deliberately creating divisions is a very dangerous undertaking, so I am not surprised that UKIP proposed a 40% increase in spending on ‘defence’. That is no longer a firm policy, but UKIP would still prioritise defence, and more money on armaments in a state with closely controlled borders could mean a lot less freedom for the resident population. Good news for arms manufacturers and the surveillance industry, if for no one else. Those corporations in the driving seat again.
What else would happen if, in my view by some misfortune, UKIP gained control of a still-united United Kingdom, abandoned the EU and closed the borders? Apart from the near certainty that Scotland, if not already independent, would prefer the EU to UKIP, the chances are that Wales would follow, leaving Northern Ireland torn between the options of joining the Republic of Ireland, forming the United Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland, going it alone, or perhaps linking with somewhere else entirely.
Of course, if people were happy with the existing political parties, UKIP would be redundant. The UKIP vote is largely a protest vote, against politics which privileges the moneyed classes above all else, while pretending to do the opposite. There is little to choose, policy wise, between Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour. Despite some claims to the contrary, all accept the primacy of international capital and international corporate power. Labour does a little more income redistribution than the Tories, but major policy differences there are not.
Corporate control of the media means that, especially in the City of London’s orbit in South East England, smaller parties are largely ignored. The Greens are treated as single-issue, rather than as expressing a philosophy of peaceful co-existence through co-operation and collaboration. In Wales, Plaid Cymru has to counter the oft-expressed view that it is a single-issue party, seeking independence, when it could much more accurately be described as green with a focus on cultural and political self-government within the EU. In Scotland, the SNP was also tagged with the single-issue label — until it became the largest party in the Scottish Parliament in 2011.
The EU as an institution is far from perfect, but much more, so much more, preferable to a closed, suspicious country bristling with arms, where EU social, legal and economic protections no longer apply.
Pat Dodd Racher