Febrile and depressing are two of the words I would use to describe the political climate in the UK today, south of Scotland at any rate. Whilst our cousins to the north of Hadrian’s Wall have ditched their political apathy and are continuing to have a well-rounded discussion on the type of nation they want to be, if they want to be a nation at all, England especially seems to be sliding backwards into the arms of regressive, isolationist UKIP. Having distracted myself from work for several hours today and yesterday, discussing on various social media forums just why I think everything about UKIP is a very bad idea, I thought I’d distil my distaste into one handy blogpost that I can re-post ad infinitum and actually manage to do some work instead of arguing with misguided souls on the interweb.
So one thing I learned today is that UKIP supporters really don’t like being told the party they support is racist. Wanting to restrict immigration isn’t racist, they cry. Give us an example, you lefty bigot, they tweet. They also seem to think that my objections to their political party spring from reading biased MSM articles. Actually, I try not to read too many articles about UKIP as I find it too depressing and worrying. I’ll restrict myself to discussing UKIP’s stated policies and words that came out of the mouths of their members.
So where was I? Ah, racism. Well, exhibit A is Nigel Farage. Recently he spoke about what his reaction would be if Romanians moved in next door to him. I don’t know about you, but my reactions would, in no particular order, consist of the following; I wonder what the new neighbours are like? Great, they can give me some advice on interesting places to visit when I go on holiday there next year! I should really make the effort to be extra nice as there has been some pretty nasty, racist political discourse around about Romanians, and I want them to feel welcome in my country. And maybe most importantly, do they have decks and vinyl? Because Romanian DJs are the best in the world at the moment! Predictably, our Nige didn’t go for any of the above but said ” … if a group of Romanian men moved in next to you, would you be concerned? And if you lived in London, I think you would be.” Pretty offensive, right? Now replace the word “Romanian” with “Jewish” or “black” or “Muslim” or “Indian”. I think you can see where I’m going with this. It’s just recycling hate speech for the latest target, which is currently Eastern Europeans, and more specifically Romanians*. Of course, I have no doubt there are some awful Romanians, but to tar a whole nationality with the actions of a few is pretty … well, racist. It’s a good job the Spanish don’t do the same, considering all the British criminals that have been living in the Costa Del Sol since the 1960s …
Then, of course, we can take a look at UKIP’s bedfellows in the European Parliament. I was recently reading an interesting article in the Telegraph, that hotbed of leftist, anarchist thought, that reported that because of UKIP’s desire to win an extra £1 million funding from the European gravy train they claim to despise, they have formed an allliance with the KNP, an extremist Polish political party, who are so far to the right that even everyone’s favourite French fascist, Marine Le Pen, ruled out any kind of political relationship with them. The KNP are really lovely. As well as being holocaust deniers who claim that Hitler didn’t know that he was gassing millions of Jews, in July this year, they called for the abolition of the minimum wage in the UK, claiming that “4 million n****rs lost their jobs after President Kennedy introduced the same policy in the US. Yes, Nigel really is the people’s party. If you like being mates with people who don’t believe in the Nazi genocide, use the “N” word and think that you should get paid loads less than you already do.
But as the kippers would tell you, just because someone says something racist, it doesn’t actually mean they ARE racist. D’you get me?! So I got acquainted with their latest political manifesto. Nope, not the one that Nigel Farage disowned as being complete nonsense, which included such political hot potatoes as making it policy that trains were repainted in British colours, presumably to make up for the fact that since privatisation the majority of train companies are owned by foreign companies? Who knows. Anyway, you can peruse their latest manifesto here. It won’t take long, there are more pictures than policies. If you make it through to page 7, under the heading “Local Housing”, UKIP pledge the following “UKIP will prioritise social housing for those with parents and grandparents born locally”. This is devoid of racist terminology, you may think at first glance, but what this actually translates as in real life is that anyone whose parents and grandparents were not born in the UK gets bumped down the list for social housing, so white, proper Brits get first dibs. It doesn’t matter if you were born here, pay taxes here, or have a British passport, you are, in UKIP’s eyes, a second class citizen. Not only would this disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of immigrants, it would also disproportionately affect those of Afro-Caribbean backgrounds, a large proportion of whom moved here in the 1950s and 1960s to fill vital jobs in the UK. Sorry guys, you’re not British (read white) enough to be a full citizen. Is this really what we want our country to look like? Whether UKIP likes it or not, the UK is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial nation. Women and disabled people form a large part of our population as well. The words of its leader and its party members are full of disdain for the majority of the population. If UKIP doesn’t like being called racist, sexist and bigoted, then some of its members and supporters should stop saying racist, sexist and bigoted comments. It’s quite simple. Also, if you can judge a political party by the company it keeps, the fact that Nick Griffin, BNP racist, is supporting UKIP now should concern UKIP, if it really cares about not being seen as a racist party.
I’ll return to immigration and UKIP’s obsession with it a little later. Actually, for me, more than racist rhetoric, the bigger worry is UKIP’s dismissal of climate change and our need to combat it. Although UKIP would have you believe that immigration is the biggest issue facing the UK today, it isn’t. It’s the trashing of our planet due to over-consumption. If we continue as we are, then our children and our grandchildren won’t have much of a planet left. There is an over-whelming consensus of climatologists, around 97.5 %, who are sure that climate change is man made. The consequences of global warming are terrifying; mass extinction, flooding, agricultural collapse, widespread animal and plant extinction and freak extreme weather all have the capacity to cause international food markets to collapse and global political instablity. Geopolitically, it also benefits the UK to reduce its reliance on Russian gas and Gulf oil as our foreign policy is currently hamstrung because we are so dependant on human rights abusing regimes to provide our energy needs. Finding alternatives should be a priority. So what are UKIP’s policies about probably the most important political problem we face? According to their manifesto, they want to reduce the price of petrol, abolish British taxpayers’ contributions into solar power and wind turbines and opt out of the Climate Change Act which commits the UK to cutting its carbon emissions by 80 % by 2050. UKIP, they laugh in the face of science. If the consequences weren’t so catastrophic, I’d chuckle at their ridiculousness.
Of course, the main thrust of UKIP’s manifesto is about leaving the EU, although that’s spearheaded by its desire to stop immigration. Speaking personally, I have no great love for the EU in its present incarnation. It needs vast reform. But I also think there are many good parts to it as well; free movement of people with EU borders, £400 billion trade for our economy and being a signatory to the Human Court of Human Rights (which is especially important to me as the UK is a country without a constitution to guarantee my basic human rights). But I prefer to take my inspiration from parties like Podemos, Syriza and to some extent, the Five Star Movement, all of whose skepticism about the EU doesn’t translate itself into a dislike of the EU through the lens of hating immigrants, but a discussion about the broader effects of austerity, even though all of the aforementioned political parties are based in countries which are far poorer and have far more less capability of dealing with immigration than the UK. So what would happen if we did leave the EU? Well, there would probably be a huge stock market crash, a constitutional crisis as Scotland are very pro-EU, destablisation of Northern Ireland due to their border with the EU member, Ireland, huge loss of trade (as our European partners would be highly unlikely just to shake us by the hand, say bye, and re-sign all of our old trade treaties on the same favourable terms). It would also cost tens of billions of pounds to manage, money that should be spent on housing, schools, the NHS and the environment. Which apparently are all UKIP priorities. Well, apart from the planet, they don’t care about that so long as business is good. There is no word in UKIP’s manifesto about what would happen to the estimated 2.34 million EU migrants already living in the UK. Presumably they would just be expected to uproot their lives and leave their friends and families and go back to where they came from? Unless they are married to Nigel Farage. And what of the millions of British people living and working in other EU countries? If the UK were to leave the EU, would they be able to carry on living and working and loving in the country of their choice? Or would they have to pack up and return home to the motherland to the dreary prospect of living in UKIP Britain.
The UK had net immigration of 243,000 people last year. Some of these are EU immigrants, some are from elsewhere. The majority will not stay, if my immigrant friends are anything to go by. They come to the UK to learn English, to study, to improve their job prospects, to enjoy the culture, for love. After several years, once the realise the quality of life isn’t all that great, a lot move elsewhere. Even if they do stay, EU migrants make an estimated £20 billion net contribution to the UK’s tax coffers. To be frank, we need their money, skills and labour for our economic system to survive. And for the under 40s to get any kind of pension.
UKIP peddles the lie that immigration is the root of all the UK’s ills, conveniently not discussing the fact according to official government statistics, based on passport data, the number of EU migrants to the UK is almost exactly balanced by the amount of British migrants to other EU countries. Read that link again, Kippers. Sorry if the facts don’t fit with your ideology. But UKIP merely hides its dislike of all things foreign under the mantra of protecting British rights for British people. Apparently, it’s Johnny Foreigner’s fault that we don’t have enough social housing, have ridiculously high property prices, failing infrastructure, lack of jobs – especially for the working class. These problems exist, but it’s utterly disingenuous to blame this on immigration.
Immigration is a convenient figleaf for the right to hid behind. But their business model of hypercapitalism depends on cheap immigration to survive. And Nigel Farage knows this. If all those Latvian fruit-pickers and Polish builders leave, we would face economic collapse. All this chat about immigration is just a handy distraction from actually getting people to talk about the more complex failures of a whole economic system. We have no houses because successive governments didn’t build any and our politicians refuse to force the owners of over 1 million empty and/or derelict properties to make them habitable to ease our housing shortage. They just sit on the land and watch their bank accounts grow fatter. We sold off our industry and our oil and the working class are denied a living wage via legislation because that’s too ‘communist’. Instead of apprenticeships and careers, they have the scrapheap of the non-unionised service industry awaiting them. Our NHS is gradually being sold off to nefarious companies for profit, the MPs and Lords who voted for this monstrosity are overwhelmingly on the boards of private healthcare companies. The best way to cut the benefits bill would be to introduce a regional sensitive living wage, to halt the need for people to have their wages topped up by publicly funded tax credits. When housing benefit forms the second biggest cost of the benefits bill after pensions, and 90 % of housing benefit claimants are working, doesn’t the system need to change? What about rent caps, land value tax, progressive council tax rates? How about passing a law that ensured that all new builds included a hefty percentage of actually affordable and social housing? What about reform of the banking industry that caused the global recession in the first place? Highly unlikely when some of UKIP’s backers are the very people that got us into this mess in the first place. If UKIP really did care about the working class and the UK in general, then these are the sorts of issues it would be addressing in its manifesto. Instead it peddles the myth that if we stopped all immigration tomorrow, everything would be fine and dandy, just like in the 1950s (fine and dandy if you were white, male and middle/upper class, that is). No, it wouldn’t. We would still have exactly the same problems, because it’s the structure of our political system that needs to change, not the nationalities of those who make up our society. I understand people’s frustration with the political situation in the UK. I will not vote for Conservatives, Labour or the Liberal Democrats, but I think our problems are far more complex than just blaming the EU and immigration. The UK deserves better than UKIP. It deserves a complete political overhaul, but that isn’t going to begin by voting for Nigel Farage.
I’m an immigrant. I recently took advantage of the EU freedom of movement that the UK signs up to. I moved to a poor region of a southern European country. Unemployment is rife. Since I came here I have felt humbled by the welcome I’ve received. People are patient when I attempt to speak their language. No one accuses me of stealing their jobs. I’ve been offered houses to stay in, drinks, nights out, work, friendship. There are no articles in the newspapers here condemning immigrants, aka me. I couldn’t have felt more accepted. Like many other migrants, I’m not sure how long I’ll stay here and when I’ll move back to the UK. I want to learn another language, embrace another culture and escape the British weather. Contrast my experience with the Romanian guy I spoke to at a party in London this July. He lied about his nationality to me. When he eventually told me the country he came from, he did so with the words “I know the English hate us, so I pretend I’m from somewhere else”. He had been beaten up the weekend before by a load of English anti-immigration thugs, who told him to “Fuck off back to gypsy land” whilst punching him in the face. This is the atmosphere that UKIP and it’s anti-immigration rhetoric is fuelling, blame the immigrant rather than the political and economic structures that most of us helped to create and continue to vote for. Even Nick Griffin, BNP racist, is supporting UKIP now. Is this my country now? I couldn’t be more ashamed. And that, my friends, is why I don’t like UKIP.
*For some reason, the right seem to have it in for Romania, but don’t have much to say about Bulgaria. This puzzles me. Although in my opinion, both countries and cultures are equally fascinating