John Walker's Electronic House

On UKIP, Ignorance, And The Lazy Lie Of “Disillusionment”

by on May.27, 2014, under Rants, The Rest

Disillusionment is so often cited as the reason people vote for extremists, the underpinning reason why X or Y is happening in British politics. And it’s mostly gibberish. It’s a nonsense told both by those who wish to vote for extremes, and by those attempting to justify why others might vote for those extremes. The reality is, it’s barely ever the case.

I feel like we’re in a pretty scary place. When it comes to politics, there’s obviously a tendency for hyperbole, exaggerating one’s claims to suit one’s political agenda. But for someone with left-wing beliefs, their understanding of how to treat others best represented by socialism, the United Kingdom is currently a frightening political landscape.

People are voting UKIP/BNP/English Democracts, etc, etc, we’re told, because they’re disillusioned with the main parties and want to see things shaken up. This is plain, absolute rubbish. It doesn’t make sense in any way, and the media’s frequent declaration that this is the case is both intellectual snobbery, and woeful naivety.

The obvious reality is, a large contingent of people voting for extremes, for racist and homophobic parties like UKIP, BNP, etc, do so because they are racist and homophobic. Pretending this isn’t the case is endemic in the reporting of our politics, perhaps from a fear of appearing “biased”, perhaps from a fear of alienating the racist and homophobic contingent of their audience. Very few people tend to wear the mantle of “racist” with pride, hence that most oxymoronic of aphorisms, “I’m not racist, but…” The inevitable continuation of something either grotesquely or insidiously racist rather confirms the contrary, but for some reason our press has opted to acculturate itself to the opening gambit. Essentially, the coverage of UKIP in the recent elections has been, “UKIP isn’t racist, but…” The reality of course being: UKIP is racist, and lots of people who agree with their racist views have voted for them accordingly.

Being disillusioned with politics because it’s not racist enough would perhaps be a more honest use of the d-word, but of course it’s never represented this way. Instead we’re given diatribes about corruption, expenses scandals, broken promises, and the elite political class ignoring the needs of the regular working man. That’s all true of course! We currently have a Conservative government that is making copious rotten hay while the Sun doesn’t shine, leaping on the economic crisis as an opportunity to further its ideological goals of the destruction of welfare, the dismantling and privatisation of the NHS, and the easing of taxes for the rich. Eton/Oxbridge educated rich kids reshaping the country into something that supports themselves further. So in steps good ol’ Nigel Farage, pint-smoking, cigarette swilling man-of-the-people, not a part of all that lot, eh?

Farage, whose father was a stockbroker, was educated at private boys’ school Dulwich College. He went on to become an investment banker and commodities trader, working for companies deeply embedded in the corruption of the economic crisis such as Refco, while each of the four companies for which he worked was at some point embroiled in financial scandal.

Since becoming an MEP he’s been linked to expense scandals , employs his own wife as a secretary (his German wife, no less, giving her a job that could have gone to a British national), and earns a considerable salary. His attendance record for votes in the European Parliament is below 50%, in 2013 his attendance being the fifth worst of all 752 MEPs, and the third worst of all UK MEPs. (Two of the four remaining worse attendees are also from UKIP.) Farage was a member of the EU Fisheries Commission, during which he attended one of 42 meetings. In his time as an MEP he has never attempted to amend a piece of legislation, and UKIP by their own policy vote ‘No’ for any vote they do bother to show up for. In doing so, UKIP and Farage have voted against extended paid maternity leave, clamping down on the ivory trade, and efforts to fight organised crime, and abstained on votes to help the victims of the Japanese tsunami. Votes attempting to cap bonuses for bankers, or dramatically reduce European Parliament costs by creating a ‘single seat’, weren’t attended by any UKIP MEPs. Despite their terrible attendance, and unwillingness to engage with the parliament, they – including Farage – still claim the full amount of their allowances.

To be disillusioned by politicians, and thus vote for Farage instead, is an act of gross ignorance. A rich investment banker, privately educated, from a wealthy background, who actively votes against not only the interests of the people he claims to represent, but the policies of the party he leads. Adding on top of this the overt hypocrisy of his employing his German national wife in the UK, raising children who (perfectly reasonably, of course) speak English as a second language, and swilling around in expenses for which he does at most less than half the work, you’re not even touching on the fact that Farage is a Huguenot name, Farage descending from a group of people whose very existence depended on the open immigration policy of England. He is every bit the politician toff, the embodiment of the wild hypocrisy our press so lazily pretends he opposes. People do not vote for him because they’re disillusioned with the other politicians. They vote for him because he represents their hate and bigotry.

Farage is a man who saw the floundering self-destruction of human pustule Nick Griffin and the BNP and thought to himself, “Ah, I see where they’re going wrong!” I don’t believe that Farage is a racist for a second. I don’t believe that Farage would care less if Romanians moved in next door. I highly doubt he believes there’s any “immigration crisis”, since he – like every other politician – knows there isn’t one. Farage is something far more creepy and frightening – he’s a man who’s spotted that he can use racism, fear and bigotry to his advantage. He has realised that there is enough stupidity and spite amongst the British public that he can leverage it for power and money. His own life and behaviour demonstrates there is no ideology behind his actions – instead just a cold, calculated, cynical manipulation of the most vulnerable, or the most unpleasant. He spotted a way to convert ignorance into power. He’s crafted a party that is racist and bigoted, as a means to an end.

The fear of recognising that large numbers of people are ignorant is perhaps the largest inhibitor of our rationalising and responding to Farage and UKIP, and their significant success in the European elections. The press do not go near it, either for fear of insulting their readership or appearing elitist and out of touch. Let alone recognising bigots as bigots. In the build up to the elections, I frequently saw reporters interviewing people on the streets regarding their reasons for voting UKIP, who invariably began with “I’m not racist, but…”, and then went on to say something horrendously ignorant and racist, based in fear and hate. And then rather than reacting to this, or acknowledging it as such, or questioning the claims, reporters would turn back to the camera and say, “And that’s the message we’re hearing on the streets today. Back to you in the studio.” Wildly stupid comments, based on parroting whatever idiocy had been written on the front page of that day’s Daily Express, about how “all the…” people of one nationality or another were stealing our wives, or eating our jobs. Instead, like the businesses they obviously are and need to be, the various press organisations rushed to attempt to accommodate these views, appeal to them, and sell their products.

The reality is, an enormous number of people are ignorant, and more seriously, determinedly unwilling to learn. This fuels bigotry, and bigotry fuels extremism. Tell someone who is willing to consider, research and investigate information that Romanians are stealing their jobs and jobless Bulgarians are living in platinum mansions paid for by their personal tax alone, and they’ll discover neither is true. Tell someone who is wilfully ignorant, or unequipped to learn, and this will rationalise that which they do not like, and develop bigotry.

Why did lots of people vote for UKIP, despite their not representing any of their policies or claims by their actions, and despite their being a party populated by so, so many open and overt bigots? Because lots of people are ignorant and/or bigoted.

Does that mean ignorant people should be condemned as humans? Goodness, what a surprise – no. Does that mean people should be dismissed, hated, discounted? No! It means we can recognise the failings of society and the educational infrastructure, and begin to address the issues. If your roses have greenfly, and you pretend they don’t, the roses get eaten and harmed. These ignorant or bigoted people (possibly including me) are the roses. If we recognise that education is failing people, and that bigoted tropes are endemic in people’s lives, then we can begin to help protect everyone from these infestations, help people to bloom. Pretend otherwise, and society gets blighted. Join the greenflies’ side, and crap, we’re in big, big trouble.

Most frightening of all is that the three major parties are responding by seeing if they can pretend to be more pro-greenfly. The Liberal Democrats are pretending that they were making a pro-Europe, pro-immigration case, but it simply wasn’t true. Every sentence was smothered in caveats about how “We know there is a serious problem, but…”, only making themselves look like they were acknowledging they were failing to address an issue they recognised. The reality is, of course, that all three parties know there are no significant issues with immigration, and all three parties are aware of their dependency on the EU and the utter madness it would be to leave it. Indeed, all three know there is no real problem with “welfare scroungers”, and that the abuse of welfare that does exist has no significant impact on the economy. Right now they are all engaged in various levels of pretending otherwise, because they too recognise the volume of hate and bigotry that’s out there and amongst their own, and how appealing to it can win them votes. Each of these deceits plays neatly into people’s fear and hatred, enabling us all to blame everything on others around us – the (other) unemployed, the (other) bureaucrats, the (other) immigrants. No personal responsibility, and no responsibility in our leadership. It’s all the fault of this other guy. It’s a genius scam, and it’s working terrifyingly well.

And the madness is, here lies the truth of disillusionment. 60-70% of people don’t bother voting. Lots of them will just be lazy. Lots will think politics is for other people, because they have been so poorly educated about politics (the very concept of it was never mentioned to me at any point during my schooling). And lots will be because who the bloody hell will they vote for? Not because politicians are all X, Y or Z, but because there is currently no meaningful left wing representation in the UK. All three major parties are right of centre, and the outliers on the left such as the Greens are a) so small and poorly thought through that they can’t effect change, and b) so riddled with anti-Semitism and so involved with horrific organisations like Stop The War, that they can end up appearing more right wing than the rest. With no feasible representation for anyone who isn’t driven by ignorance or hate, and that’s an awful lot of people!, voting has become damned difficult.

For me, the dilemma of voting last Thursday came down to there being no party that even tries to represent me. I ended up voting for what I considered the least worst in Europe, and then instantly felt awful. There is no party responding to this by arguing in favour of the beauty of a welfare system, in which we support each other in our times of need. Nor by arguing for the joy of immigration, of the UK’s blatant dependence on people from other parts of the world living on this bit of the world, let alone the opportunity and enrichment it provides everyone. Every major party, and most minor parties, are actively arguing against what I believe in. In next year’s general election, there’s no one for me to usefully vote for. I’ll vote Pirate Party if there’s representation in my area, or goodness knows who if not. But whatever it is, it won’t be for a party that will win anything. Which leaves me feeling pretty disillusioned.

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22 Comments for this entry

  • Optimaximal

    I feel pretty bad that I (honestly) forgot to vote.

    I had my postal vote ready and everything, but in between living, working and child-caring, the envelope got lost on my desk, under a pile of wet sleepsuits.

    :(

  • Michele Burnett

    Such a well written, intelligent article, (i.e., it shares my thoughts), on the political demise and the living satire that is Mr Farage. Having smiled and occasionally sworn whilst reading, my only disappointment was that you hadn’t yet worked out a positive way for this to roll out.
    I suppose then, that it’s now down to me…

  • Mark

    I’m sure a lot of this true, but the media seems to find it difficult to acknowledge that immigration affects everyone differently. While it’s been enormously beneficial to me on every level, I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that low-skilled labour has seen real wage compression as supply of that labour has increased. I have no idea how that issue is addressed without giving credence to the idea that there’s a so called immigration crisis, and it’s part of a much broader set of issues around weakened labour regulations and workforce deskilling.

  • Dan Lawrence

    “I feel pretty bad that I (honestly) forgot to vote.”

    Well at least now we have someone to blame for this country’s problems who is actually partially responsible.

    It was notable to me that all the places where there actually is significant immigration rejected UKIP, and the places where they have only ‘heard about immigrants’ voted for UKIP. The idea that UKIP’s success with an anti-immigrant message is based on something fundamentally real seems fantastical. Prejudice based on a lack of life experience seems more likely and of course the underlying inequality and stagnating real wages.

    London, Paris, Manchester & Scotland all resisted the UKIP tide. Perhaps the great cities should follow Scotland’s example and declare independence. City states used to be bastions of civilization in the barbarian, backward countryside of old and it seems we are returning to those days. Or more likely we never left. I spent most of my formative years in the great English countryside and the rise of UKIP there surprises me not at all. Beautiful scenery, filled with absolute bastards.

  • Dan Lawrence

    “While it’s been enormously beneficial to me on every level, I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that low-skilled labour has seen real wage compression as supply of that labour has increased.”

    Labour (as an economic group) is really fucked. Cancel all immigration tomorrow and most of the jobs will just go places where the low wage workers are. At least in the short term, they’ll be replaced by robots in the medium term. Nobody is prepared for the loss of jobs that the second wave of mechanisation is going to bring, this time the robots are coming for the service jobs too and we’ve run out of sectors for the humans to retreat too. A new Sainsburys opened near me with entirely robot tills – no staff at all. The big ASDA just doubled it’s robots too it’s now half and half. Robot cars are going on the regular roads in the US this year. I read an academic study that reckoned something like 40% of current jobs could be robotised in the next fifty years. We’re at the start of it now, but like all gradual change it’s hard to see until suddenly it’s happened.

    You can’t fix any of that by hating immigrants. It’s not only cruel and shitty, it’s a complete waste of time.

  • Mark

    That’s all fine and I don’t think anyone sensible is suggesting that hating immigrants is a solution, but I don’t see a lot of time and energy directed at addressing “the concerns of labour”, from any political party (beyond some stuff around a cost of living crisis that no one outside of the policy wonks takes that seriously.

  • TheGhostOfUncleAdolf

    Ha ha, cry more you fat, grim, humorless bore. UKIP is so incredibly moderate, in a decade or so they will fondly be remembered as the centrists they are.

    Nationalism is on the rise world wide whilst the nightmare of degenerate Western “democracy” continues to collapse. A pudgy, slow-witted, man-child gaming “journalist” has no chance in the calamitous times that lie ahead. Pampered feminists and mentally-ill men pretending to be women will cease to exist. Faggots in video games will be the least of your problems.

  • Mitch Bowman

    I honestly can’t tell if the above comment is supposed to be a satire of the average UKIP voter. If it is…the Hitler reference in the username is a bit on the nose, innit?

  • U KIPPED

    LOL John “Writing about computer games is real journalism” Walker being wrong abut everything as usual.
    Owned a video games.
    Owned at politics.
    Owned at life.

    INTERNET BUTT-DOCTOR DIAGNOSIS: RECTAL RAGNAROK

  • Xercies

    It really is fear and ignorence, they see the times and they see the problems around them and they blame something immigrants, EU regulation, anything and they think if they can change this they will make everything wonderful again…unfortunately life doesn’t work like that. But then again its the same in the Left while I agree with a lot of them they still have there problems in blaming things and thinking getting rid of it will make a tree grow…

    It is annoying seeing how there is no party that goes to my more we should all get along and make things right views or if there are there to small to do anything.

    But then again what can we do? Because Russel Brand said do nothing and no one likes that idea but doing something hasn’t really gotten us anywhere.

  • DanLawrence

    And now the Guardian has stats to back you up:

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/may/27/-sp-racism-on-rise-in-britain

    Racism rising everywhere except London, with average of around 30% being startlingly close to the UKIP vote.

  • Saul

    Great article, but do remember that racism doesn’t just exist in UKIP members. Like you briefly point out, it’s in the Greens, but also embedded in EVERYONE. To move forward, we need to acknowledge, discuss and work on this racism, whenever we see it in ourselves, or others.

  • Billy Joe Ray

    Don’t worry there is a Tl;DR at the end.

    Troubling times indeed. Good article, but not quite seminal. Always be seminal! One response I garnered sharing the green anti-semetic link with a supporter:

    “It’s a bit thin. Attenuated tenaciousness I call it. A strong argument on very thin and narrow evidence. We’ll discuss Zionism and the Israeli state another time maybe. I think the party was probably right to avoid sinking it’s limited resources further into investigating an intense but probably irrelevant sectarian internal argument. But I’ll keep a watch on developments. Political parties should always be a place for learning and discussion. Beware the member
    who knows everything. And beware the member who wants to serve his employers by joining up to cause division and disunity from within.”

    I for one don’t like the sound of that daily circulation of Ku Klux Klan business, and I’m not sure he read it. But I don’t think anti zionism and pro-palestine(ianism?) are anti Semitic. Might vote green still.

    I just wish Labour would get better: Reverse most of their economic policies, find one simple directive for Milly to limit his personality pain and stick to it, go pro civil liberties, welfare, unions and nationalising, come down against banking crime and surveillance. Among other things. Get some of that Elizabeth Warren type support. I’m not sure about in or out of Europe. Tony Benn was against it, you know, citing how our politicians become powerless. If I wanted out I’d want to still have immigration, but for better reasons than cheap Labour, because I’d be hiking up the minimum wage too and creating jobs and initiatives for the unmotivated long term unemployed to atleast be artistic and entertaining. But sticking together against Putin sounds good.

    Anyone seen The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer? I don’t suppose you have. Advertising dude infiltrates the conservatives on a gossip ticket, gives everyone postal votes over every little piece of democracy so people are sick of it, and then lets people vote to have no votes ever again. Voted in dictatorship. infiltrates But the audio recording is terrible and I’m not sure If I actually recommend the film.

    UKIP are the modern British equivalent of the Mussolini party. Appealing to the middle class, seeming characterful, patriotic and respectable. They’ll do the same shit if they get in. People should study Fear and Misery of the Third Reich by Brecht more- in these regimes even those with the “correct” race and beliefs suffer, all the cash goes to war, all the time goes to keeping up appearances, fear of stepping out of line etc.

    Is there a copy of UKIP’s policies from their website last year before they hid all the really ugly ones about deportation camps etc?

    Is there room now for a new John and Nick medium-Left party? Call it the Social Justice Warriors, gather some steam, merge it with anyone doing anything similar. Of course, you’d soon be done for all that pending libel. But you’d have Ricky Gervais’ support, surely.

    Tl;DR Green anti-semitism debateable, Labour should just go populist for the things no one says openly, there are other reasons to want out of Europe, there is a well plotted movie about the rise of a British dictatorship, UKIP are like the Mussolini party, we need a new party on the actual left.

  • Billy Joe Ray

    Oh and the tax evading rich. I guess no one will ever do a mega tax for the mega rich.

  • innokenti

    I think it’s unfair to just dismiss people as racist as ignorant. A lot of people will blame immigration and so on as a simple and easily-provided cause for the problems and hardships that they see and experience. With it being peddled by the likes of the Mail for years and years, of course it helps.

    But their concern is not with immigrants, and I doubt that for a lot of people who voted UKIP it’s in any way ideological. They have an underlying fear, or problem that they are facing, and the loud, easy blame that is laid on immigrants, homosexuals, liberals or whatever is easy to believe.

    Other parties need to acknowledge the concerns, the fears of the people as real, but show as lies the easy explanations of ‘too much immigration’ as the cause of these. It’s quite hard to do that.

  • John Walker

    Innokenti – I don’t “dismiss” anything. But saying it’s unfair to dismiss/label/whatever people as ignorant, and then going on to explain the various ways people are ignorant, is an odd argument.
    You say people have fears and concerns, and that other parties need to acknowledge them, but you don’t say what the fears or concerns are.

  • Loser

    Well here are some examples of ukip voters for you:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27584237

    but in summary: first 3 don’t actually know/care what ukip is about, 4th is probably racist.

  • Novodantis

    Great article. I agree that what needs addressing is how people are educated, rather than denouncing them as inferior or immoral.

    It’s also worth mentioning that the crux of the problem (much like climate change and a number of other controversial issues) seems to be agreeing on a reliable source of fact. The lengths people will go to find/deny/overrule the information they come across staggers me; and in the age of the internet it seems there’s an almost limitless supply of trite and garbage to counter any rational, factual argument. As the average person apparently has a very shallow limit to his-or-her evidence digging, it all just sounds like opinions to them. Perhaps that does indeed make this lazy majority ignorant.

    If there are still droves of people that “cannot find evidence for evolution” (despite the fact we are, on a global scale, practically tripping over the stuff), how can we ever hope that the average person will get a clear picture on the true facts of immigration?

    The thing that troubles me most is that I cannot see any non-authoritarian solution to the problem of authenticity.

  • innokenti

    Stuff like losing your job, hospitals closing down, public services under strain. The kind of basic stuff people get worried about.

    The problem is that other parties either dismiss UKIP as racist, or try to acknowledge that there’s, for example, a problem with immigration. Well, the first one doesn’t exactly help engage with people, and second one is not exactly true. So I would like to see e.g. Labour helping people understand that what people fear happening isn’t actually caused by immigration but, e.g. Conservative (and Labour) policies, or whatever else and provide the solutions (that don’t involve awkward poking about with immigration which only negatively affects the UK in the end).

    People might be ignorant, but it’s not always particularly easy to get educated. The media has been doing a poor job (and they should be doing a better one), but politicians can at least try it. So not in disagreement with the second half of your post. But I don’t think anyone will get very far with the education if you start off with just calling people ignorant and bigoted – they don’t feel that, and I don’t think a frank admission is going to magically shake anyone out of it.

  • drewski

    The problem with wanting a “real” Labour party is that very often, the traditional working class support of the Labour party are the ones opposed to the policies of the modern left.

    I genuinely feel for the true working class. Labour are more interested in appealing to the modern, middle class left, and the Tories are happy to present a conservative moral base whilst shredding working class jobs in the name of economic ideology. Neither have any answers for the working class whatsoever.

    UKIP doesn’t either, of course, but at least they give them someone to blame instead of prevaricating.

  • Griz

    Late to the party with this, I see, but I’d like to contest a point with you. In the article you assert “The obvious reality is, a large contingent of people voting for extremes, for racist and homophobic parties like UKIP, BNP, etc, do so because they are racist and homophobic.”

    Are you then denying that if a party performs poorly in an election and loses a significant number of votes, it won’t redouble it’s efforts to try and better represent what those people want? It won’t see that as a problem that needs investigating, to “reconnect with local issues” and all the other buzzwords we hear? I would argue that’s exactly what happens, so if people go out and do “protest” votes, that does send a message to the parties that they would have traditionally supported. “These people are really unhappy with us, what do they want and can we give it to them?” and I believe it’s this which some media commentators interpret it as.

    Now I’m not *supporting* that tactic, don’t get me wrong. I believe you should vote for what best reflects your views, because if everyone is buggering about with their votes trying to be “tactical” and “clever” then there’s no telling what lunacy we have to put up with till enough time elapses that we can fix it. But, I do also recognise that things tend to rumble on with their own inertia unless something forces action and so there’s a certain amount of “squeaky wheel gets the grease” in play.

  • Klemens Metternich

    “Does that mean ignorant people should be condemned as humans? Goodness, what a surprise – no. Does that mean people should be dismissed, hated, discounted? No! It means we can recognise the failings of society and the educational infrastructure, and begin to address the issues”

    Oh thanks a lot, John. How incredibly magnanimous of you to spare me from hurt and persecution, only exacting the teeny tiny issue of using the education system to brainwash the young to conform to your personal ideology.

    Please stop with the mightier-than-thou claptrap. You leftists or liberals or whatever you want to call yourselves may fervently believe yourself to be right, and that’s cool I guess, but don’t be so sure that the other side would agree with you if only they were educated and brilliant like wot you are.

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