Rise of UKIP: Be Careful What You Wish For

December 10, 2012 8:00 pm

Our media are giving the UK Independence Party (UKIP to you and me) unprecedented publicity of late.

Understandable, given their recent surges in by-elections in Corby, Middlesborough, North Croydon and, more controversially, Rotherham.

UKIP’s ubiquitous leader, Nigel Farage, pops up everywhere with his abundant line in rent-a-rant. You could be forgiven for believing he has a season ticket for BBC’s ‘Question Time’ too. The guy is hardly off our screens, tirelessly peddling UKIP’s rise from a receptacle for disgruntled ex-Tories to a new force in mainstream British politics.

Three wings of the same party

As Farage himself (rightly) said in his speech at UKIP’s 2006 conference: ‘…Labour, LibDem, Conservatives are virtually indistinguishable. You can’t put a cigarette paper between them which explains why there are nine million non-voters in this country.’

The sheer lack of real choice in today’s political parties means UKIP has made electoral hay. The main parties are like three wings of the same capitalist party.

They offer no solutions to the ongoing crisis of the capitalist system except either cuts, more cuts, or ‘nicer’ cuts. Our political class, egged on by the media barons, seems hellbent on making ordinary working and middle class people foot the bill with their jobs and services, to prop up the economic system brought to its knees by the greed and irresponsibility of the banking and financial sectors.

While those on benefits and in low-paid, insecure jobs are faced with years of austerity, those at the top of the tree continue to make millions hand over fist: bankers continue to award themselves bonuses; millionaires avoid paying taxes; tax haven loopholes still gape wide open; and big corporations hire expensive teams of lawyers to hive off obscene profits while our economy goes to hell in a handcart.

Monetarist policies

Tories blame the last Labour government for its largesse. Labour blames the Tories’ agenda of cuts that are ‘too fast and too deep’. The LibDems look like ‘dead men walking’ –  towards their pending general election meltdown.

What neither Cameron or Miliband want to discuss in too great detail is the political history behind this.

It was the 1974-79 Labour government that first introduced monetarist policies.  It  took a loan from the IMF following the destructive recession of that decade. The Thatcher government made a bigger step forward. They attacked workers’ conditions to break the power of the unions in to create a low-wage economy with a reserve pool of unemployed, cheap labour to help boost profits. Twenty per cent of manufacturing industry was destroyed as a result. The way was clear for the Tories to sell off wholesale, our public utilities, public housing and follow it up with the de-regulation of our banking and financial services.

The New Labour project, perfected by the Blairites, removed any semblance of left wing reformism – embodied by the airbrushing of ‘Clause IV’ (the re-distribution of wealth) from its constitution. The Blairite clique closed down real channels of grassroots democracy within the party and distanced itself from trade union militancy. Labour became little more than a ‘pale pink Tory Party’ in the eyes of many.


The only game in town was capitalist. Defined lines between parties became blurred. For ordinary working people, it made no difference who they voted for. Labour, Tory, LibDem, they all sounded the same and, more crucially, did the same once they gained power.

This sameness was amplified when the recent scandals began to break. The MPs’ expenses scandal was the most memorable. Nothing did more damage in the eyes of the public than the revelations of elected representatives being found with their snouts in the trough – the Tory grandee and his duck house, the Labourite coining it in with property deals and mortgage payoffs.

LibDems didn’t escape scandal either. Traditionally, as the old Liberal Party, they used to pick up votes when the main parties were found wanting in some way. Protest votes were scooped up from Labour, or they were perceived as the Tory ‘second eleven’. But now they were drawn into a scandal too far. Their fatal coalition with the Tories may have sealed their electoral fate for the foreseeable future. 

Frontiers of the State

Democracy suffered as public disgust translated directly in lower turnouts in elections.  A lot of those who chose to keep voting began to look elsewhere for a viable alternative, or so they thought – enter UKIP.

UKIP’s calling is its hardcore anti-European Union stance.  Some right wing Tory MPs grouped themselves around Thatcher’s anti-EU speech 0f 1988 in Bruges. She declaimed that ‘We have not rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level’. From that was born the ‘Better Off Out’ (BOO) Group in 2006 of mainly Tory MPs (12) and MEPs (3), including their Northern Irish Unionist allies Peter Robinson and Ian Paisley. The late Labour MP Austin Mitchell also made a showing.

BOO was funded by the notorious, fiercely anti-trade union, pro-apartheid, ultra right wing ‘Freedom Association’. Other supporters of BOO were notables such as arch-Tory Lord Tebbit and millionaire novelist Frederick Forsyth. As UKIP’s leader, Farage agreed not to stand candidates against ten Tory MPs associated with BOO.

Nigel Farage, himself a Thatcherite, left the Tory Party in disgust at the signing of the Maastricht Treaty by John Major in 1992 which brought Britain into the European ‘single market’. Casting around for a new home, he joined UKIP in 1993 which had metamorphosed from the ‘Anti-Federalist League’ formed by academic Alan Sked from amongst sympathisers of the ‘Bruges Group’.

‘Little Englander’

Sked himself ran for election in Newbury in 1993, sharing the platform with Enoch Powell, the once disgraced Tory minister sacked by PM Ted Heath for his anti-immigrant ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968. Sked’s lack of electoral success and UKIP’s flat lining was possibly a result of being seen very much as a one trick pony, an inward-looking, ‘Little Englander’ party of ‘disgruntled right wing ex-Tories’ or, as David Cameron himself was to describe them, as late as 2007 in a radio interview, as a party of  ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’.

Sked himself, after being replaced as leader, described UKIP in 2004 as ‘…racist, and have been infected by the far right. UKIP is less liberal than the BNP.’  His successor, Tory peer Baron Pearson of Rannoch, controversially invited Dutch right wing politician, Geert Wilders, to show his anti-Islamic documentary in the House of Lords.

Under Nigel Farage’s leadership, UKIP gained a master publicist and communicator. It didn’t take him long to seize upon the increasingly anti-immigrant/anti-EU mood that had built up over the preceding years. And he had a lot of material to work with.

Opponents to the EU, on both wings of the political spectrum, had different reasons to reject the expanding influence of Brussels’ growing influence. From the left, opposition stemmed from the view that the European project, from the very beginning of  ‘the Common Market’ through the EEC to the present EU, was a bosses’ club that largely benefited capitalism with few direct benefits for workers.

From the right wing view, the growing power of Europe was seen as either a ‘left wing conspiracy’ to establish a federalist state with age old rivals Germany and France at its centre, or else as a supra-national ‘United Socialist States of Europe’. There were plenty of tabloid scare stories about this to draw from, the Daily Mail, Daily Express and the Murdoch press in particular.

‘Johnny Foreigner’

The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 meant the collapse of the Stalinist states of Eastern Europe. A new wave of immigration from those impoverished countries were feared to be heading west to escape the grinding poverty alongside the many ‘old waves’ of immigrants from the wider ‘developing world’. The entry of such states into the expanding Europe meant further freedom of movement for such immigrants.

As ever, at particular periods in our history, we have welcomed immigrant workers. Many have contributed much to our economy and culture down the centuries. In post-war Britain, immigration was positively encouraged when we experienced full employment and a labour shortage for our expanding industries and public services. And they were welcomed by, amongst others, one Health Minister in particular of the then Tory government of the early 1960s – Enoch Powell.

It is only as the inbuilt boom/bust cycle of capitalism turns full circle when those once welcomed immigrant workers turn into their opposites and find themselves pilloried in our press, blamed and scapegoated for the failures of that same capitalist system. Politicians of all parties have been guilty of this, and continue to be so right up to this day. Rather than admit the failures of the capitalist system they represent and uphold, our sorry excuses of politicians would rather drum up a whipping boy in the form of the immigrant, or Johnny Foreigner as the bringer of our ills.

House shortages? Blame the foreigner. Out of work? Bloody foreigners taking our jobs. How long now have we had the constant drip-drip of anti-immigrant/asylum-seeker newspaper articles, often supplied with a ready quote from one political worthy or another of all parties?

All useful fodder to deflect attention from their lack of political will to actually build homes, invest injobs and services.

Political Pact

And that is exactly where UKIP stands in a more purer form than the other parties perhaps. They have peddled the lies and those who have swallowed them will vote for them. It’s not because all these voters are essentially racist or anti-immigrant, but because the main parties have squandered their trust, and played a blinder in misplacing the blame.

Yet, what new UKIP supporters are buying into is no different to what the main parties offer in essence.

Witness Nigel Farage, interviewed on the BBC following George Osbourne’s ‘mini-budget’ statement on December 5, 2012. He said it was ‘good’ that corporation tax has been cut, but ‘where are the other cuts? We need more cuts. And small businesses need the incentive to employ our young people. We should have our employment laws liberalised.’

He applauded tax cuts for big businesses, called for more cuts that are already hurting millions of people, and for the government to further attack our employment laws, to give the bosses a ‘hire and fire’ charter.

It’s no surprise that some Tories are urging a political pact with UKIP, or to adopt more right wing policies to win back the 15% of voters who have deserted them for Farage’s party.

A more right wing Tory Party in a new guise? UKIP, U-bet.


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