The political landscape in the UK is changing, that much is pretty obvious to any onlooker. The rise of UKIP (the UK Independence Party), as I have discussed elsewhere, is incredible in its rapidity (though not so much when it originally formed) in recent years. And now it is the order of the day. Everyone is talking about them. And this depresses me a whole lot.
UKIP is the most recent and acceptable incarnation to date of xenophobia in a political format, using fear as a tool to generate distrust and dislike of immigrants and foreigners. Aside from some of the entirely barmy things they wrote into their 2009 manifesto, they are really either riding the wave or creating the wave of UK anti-immigration rapture sweeping the country right now.
The problem is this. Not only are many of the population able to publicly denounce immigration and their support for borderline, if not explicit, racism through open support for UKIP, but this support is not just confined to the middle-class, right-wing element of the UK, Daily Mail-reading society.
UKIP are gaining hugely in the white, working class areas of Britain. The Labour strongholds.
People who have been lifelong Labour voters due to working class, more egalitarian approaches to politics and society are being allowed to release their darker sides. All their woes, economic hardships and myriad issues that they may have are not the fault of the Tory government, external factors, modern life or whatnot, but of Europe and immigration. The in-group / out-group psychology is stark in its effects, causing otherwise politically liberally aligned people to retreat back from Europe into an insular, isolated position of the UK being ‘stronger’ out of Europe with more control over letting horrible outsiders in.
I am not saying immigration debates are not hugely important. In fact, I am in favour of tightening our immigration laws. What I AM saying is that such people piggyback other more dubious ideas and sentiments on the back of bona fide immigration debates and views. Immigrants apparently drain the welfare system, the NHS, society in general: they take out more than they put in. Except that this is wrong. (for example see here, where EU immigrants put in 34% more than they take out and non-EU immigrants put in 2% more)
It is scary. With Tory defections of MPs to UKIP, and with Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband unlikely to inspire and opposition win, we are likely to end up with a UKIP/Tory coalition. So quickly has the political landscape shifted, that I am really fearing for the liberal ideals upon which I think this nation is based. That the Tories, in an attempt to appease such UKIP leaning conservatives, have offered to repeal the European Human Rights Act is terrifying. The UK is entering a new era of moving away from the liberal ideals which make this nation so great, so attractive. Historically, our right wing has been pretty centrist, comparatively. But it’s like the electorate have got bored, or have seen idiotic Republicans in the media from the US and have thought, “that looks fun!” Because our politics looks to be going that way. The kind of anti-science, pro-global warming denial, overly pro-corporate sentiments of UKIP are offering a serious governmental alternative to far too big a slice of the electorate. For erstwhile lifelong left-wing voters to vote for UKIP, that far to the right, says something.
It’s downright scary.
I really do think the UK is on the brink of something momentous, and not in a good way. I predict landslide victories to UKIP in local and national elections as the party appeal to essentially ignorant or misinformed voters; voters who will go with them on a single issue whilst at the same time being utterly unaware of all the other nonsense they peddle too.
If we end up out of Europe, shunning values which have defined this country, then I will cry for the loss of much that makes Britain Great. Global problems need global solutions. UKIP are the very antithesis of that.