Party like it's 1937! Two interesting expulsions from the fringes of political life almost flew under the radar this week. The first, and probably the more newsworthy is the expulsion of UKIP MEP, Nikki Sinclaire (pictured) from the party. This came after her resignation from the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group in the European Parliament a couple of months back. For those who aren't acquainted with the EFD, this ragtag and bobtail grouping of hard right populists hold positions somewhat out of step with the positive political gains of the last 30 years. You know, stuff such as the important victories over racism and sexism.
It is their "maverick" opposition to "political correctness" that Ms Sinclaire fell foul of. She might like to dress it up as being offended by the "anti-Semitism, violence and the espousal of a single European policy on immigration" of UKIP's European friends, but the rumour doing the rounds is the open homophobia of the execrable Lega Nord of Italy was (obviously) deeply problematic for the openly gay Sinclaire. This didn't seem to be much of a problem for the rest of her UKIP colleagues and so she upped sticks. And who can blame her? By their friends shall ye know them.
No one will be surprised if Sinclaire isn't the last MEP to bail out from our europhobic friends. In the previous European Parliament UKIP lost three of its MEPs through fraud and petty bickering, and Sinclaire herself hasn't exactly had an easy time of it during her UKIP membership. The reason for this volatility as compared with the mainstream parties and the other minor parties is the strange niche it occupies in Britain's political ecology. UKIP are virtual no-hopers when it comes to local and general elections (one reason why Nigel Farrage's challenge to House Speaker John Bercow' will come to nought). The 2004 and 2009 European election results show them up as a vehicle for funneling the widespread antipathy toward the EU. Of the 2.5 million who voted UKIP last June, more than a few would have done so thinking they were giving the "Brussels Bureaucrats" the finger. But the problem for UKIP is this vote is completely amorphous, and therefore the constituency it represents is ... well, can it be said they have a constituency outside a European election?
Without the kind of stability of the core constituencies of Labour, the Tories, the far left, the BNP and even to some extent the LibDems and Greens, UKIP as a party will always be all over the place. They have shown an ability to reach beyond the traditional Conservative vote (for instance, they won the popular vote in Stoke) but have proven unable to do anything with it. Without an anchor, UKIP will continue to be riddled with fighting and fallings out.
The other expulsion of interest is unlikely to pass muster on all but the few blogs that take an interest in the sectarian machinations of the British far left. And seeing as this is one of them ... As we all know (at least those of us sad enough to give a fig about 50-strong micro-groupings), the grandly over-titled International Marxist Tendency is in total meltdown (the Weekly Worker and the CWI have got the goods here and here). One episode in its disintegration has been the expulsion of one of its relatively well-known public faces, Heiko Khoo. While not a household name in sectarian circles, he has built a profile as the face of the IMT at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park (there's a bit more about him in Tony Allen's excellent oral history). In an organisation devoid of 'stars' this is a big deal.
What happened? It appears the comrade has been expelled on the flimsiest of pretexts. There's more over at Left Outside. His crime, according to one IMT neophyte, is putting the organisation in danger ... for espousing an analysis of China different to that of the leadership!
In my book that's an action more characteristic of a cult than a political organisation. But then the IMT have always been very, very strange. I used to run a forum in the late 90s with a comrade who fell in with them. To cut a long story short more and more IMT'ers were co-opted onto the moderating team, with the corresponding result that discussion was incrementally censored before the forum was shut down altogether (it was one of the reasons why I set up the UK Left Network list). But anyway, she ended up moving to Belgium to help the section there do up its HQ ... which the city branch was going to move into in some sort of bizarre group living arrangement. Very strange and unhealthy. If I'd had to wait for Peter Taaffe to come out of the bathroom in the morning, or get on Bill Mullins case for not washing the pots I doubt my SP membership would have lasted as long as it did.
I digress. The expulsion of comrade Khoo from the fast depleting ranks of the IMT is a doomed attempt by the leadership to inoculate its membership against ideas not anointed by the holy trinity of Rob Sewell, Alan Woods and (zombie) Ted Grant. Any group that cannot even acknowledge the existence of other socialist organisations, let alone properly engage with the analytical contributions of groups, individual activists and academics in the wider labour movement doesn't deserve to call itself Marxist.