Why UKIP? Why Now?

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By now, there are thousands upon thousands of articles are offering commentary on the rise of UKIP, and rightly so; UKIP represent a dramatic and historical shift in our political geography, and these are the first European elections where the Conservatives have not been in the top two.

But analysing UKIP as a party is only one half of the story. UKIP is merely a piece of the larger jigsaw that, when complete in all 27 pieces, shows the wider rise of the populist right in Europe. With the exception of Spain and Greece, surprisingly, as they adopted far left parties for representation, most member states that have had to endure austerity post-2008 have shifted to right wing populism.640px-Nigel_Farage_of_UKIP

Britain often likes to think of itself as an exception from the rest of the continent. Cut off by the English Channel, standing proudly as an archipelago independent of the mainland, the British public have always been wary of the European Union. If Farage had ever been asked to write his own Yearbook tagline, “What of our sovereignty?” would probably be at the top of his list, like many of his fellow Eurosceptics.

But where does this sudden urgency to protect sovereignty come from? Why do UKIP voters – and their continental counterparts – feel as though they want to invent a time machine to go back to the Treaty of Westphalia and bring it back to the future to wave in the EU’s face? Or more specifically, the Schengen Agreement’s face?

The rise of right wing interest, which has a tinge of nationalism that quite often comes with a side offering of racism, can be explained with one thing; scapegoating. The Great British public are not particularly aware of the ongoings in Brussels or how it affects them. In fact, the one thing that is wider than the Democratic deficit –a deficit only enhanced by the abysmal turnouts of these European elections past- is the knowledge deficit. It is unlikely that the average member of the British public would be able to outline what the Common Agriculture Policy means for the UK, or be able to cite a statistic on how many of our laws come from the EU.

Rather, UKIP’s popularity is down to the subject of immigration, with enough empirical evidence for this observation being found in that singular giant pointing finger billboard that we have all become far too familiar with. While workers are living on the most basic of wages and the unemployed struggle to find any vacancies on the barren job markets, politicians and other elites find themselves in a predicament.

It is not enough for Osborne to cheer about recovery when the rest of the public has yet to feel its positive effects. No, if they are to justify austerity and the disproportionate effects it has on the poorest then they must play the blame game. Namely, instead of revealing to the poor that their problems are in fact caused by a lack of a Living Wage, rising bills, a lack of housing, and austerity as an overall package, they pinpoint immigrants and welfare claimants.

After all, it is in those two manifestations that the last remnants of New Labour’s tumultuous legacy can be found. “It is not this government’s fault, it is the mess Labour left behind!” they exclaim. This is a tactic used not just here but all over Europe, as the EU struggles to implement its IMF inspired, neo-liberal austerity policies  –  and with paradoxical implications for those in power.

HysteriaThe scapegoating has led to parties on the far right specifically centring themselves around ‘The Immigrant’, with little else about them being made obvious. For one thing, the average working class UKIP voter probably doesn’t know of Farage’s plans for the NHS, or for the school system, or for tax. If they did, they might realise that voting UKIP is completely contrary to their interests. Instead, ‘The Immigrant’ takes priority. And with this the right parties grow in electoral appeal.

In turn, the mainstream parties are forced to adapt to this very climate that they originally created, and they themselves shift further right. The result is a vicarious and in many ways very dangerous and hate-inducing political landscape stretching right across Europe. UKIP is thus but one populist by-product among many others created by what the philosopher Michel Foucalt saw as a link between power and knowledge.

As elites spread deceit to shift the blame for the failures they have caused, it is immigrant-centric and far right parties that prosper. If we are to prevent a repeat of history, we must eradicate this scapegoating culture and detach the powerful elite from the apparent facts we are made to consume. Namely, we must erase ‘The Immigrant’ as a caricature.

Photos by Euro Realist Newsletter and Ian Burt, Flickr. 

One thought on “Why UKIP? Why Now?

  • The UKIP’s appeal is not simply because of immigration. It’s the only party that has not been swallowed up by the Climate Change delusion.

    Reply

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