Monday 19 May 2014

Calling UKIP Racist Won't Stop Them

It's become a daily thing. Every day a new UKIP candidate is exposed as a racist, a homophobe, a Holocaust denialist. It's like we've been here before. The establishment is all sixes and sevens as an upstart far right party makes waves, but this is 2014, not 2009. The debates that have rippled across countless Twitter feeds and clogged up party and paper-branded blogging platforms are retreads of arguments had about the BNP. Yet every screwball and screw up leaves UKIP spotless. Just how do you deal with them? There are two broad schools of thought. There's one camp devoted to pinning the racist tail on the bigoted donkey. And there are those who think that will do nothing to stymie UKIP.

In the former camp we find strange bedfellows indeed. We have my favourite Blairite blogger Dan Hodges, who as recently as Friday decided Farage was finished off the back of that now notorious interview. Far be it for me to rain on anyone's parade, but looking at things from the perspective of Monday evening the wheels of the UKIP bandwagon are still turning. More's the pity.

Sharing the tent with Dan are our friends the Socialist Workers' Party. Keen to be the best builders of something - anything - that can help stave off their terminal demise, we have a new front group: Stand Up to UKIP. Now, to be fair to the SWP, their literature is better than what I expected. Unlike Unite Against Fascism material that was all about exposing Nazi Nick and chums as such, SUtU takes aim at UKIP's opposition to same-sex marriage and dalliances with overt racism. Okay, there's more to it than that. The flat tax, banks, scapegoating immigrants, it's a roll call of left touchstones the SWP thinks would resonate with Farage fans. Also, SUtU have protested outside UKIP meetings in scenes reminiscent of UAF pickets. Unfortunately, while it's a more active opposition than Dan urging people to vote LibDem, I don't think it will do much to dissuade prospective UKIP voters.

Many comrades, such as Sunny, argue that highlighting UKIP's racist hues is not likely to smoke the 'kippers. There are two reasons for this, in my opinion. First, voters have already factored in UKIP's less-than-PC approach to a range of issues. It's part of their appeal. It's how voters can rank them the most racist but the most honest of the parties. They are the only ones who will say the unsayable. And second, when immigration is the biggest self-reported reason why UKIP voters will be voting UKIP, any racism row makes the party look tougher on this issue. When this is stirred with a widespread anti-Westminster nihilism, you have a potent mix. Pulling the rug from under UKIP is not a case of aping them, but addressing the contradictions, problems and anxieties that feed their support. That cannot be done with a few soundbites; it takes patient, methodical work and demonstrable policy delivery.

It's obvious which approach I prefer. But the 'UKIP is racist' campaign need not be a waste of time. The key point is a matter of focus. Instead of addressing putative UKIP supporters and trying to shame them into voting for one of the mainstream parties, it would be more effective if the campaign targeted non-UKIP voters and mobilised them to give Farage a kick in the ballots. Because European election turn outs are so low, so UKIP's strength is exaggerated. Yes, it's not ideal to try and drag voters to the polling station by wholly negative appeals. At best something like this can only a stop gap, a temporary tactic while politics gets its act together. And by politics, of course I mean Labour. Because looking at the rest, the Tories and LibDems both remain committed to the privatisation of everything, and insecure, low-waged labour markets. They aim to deepen the social pathologies from which UKIP draws strength. Only Labour has the policies and the capacity to turn this around.


Evan said...

A similar debate was had in the late 1970s with the Anti-Nazi League and the focus on calling the National Front 'Nazis'. The ANL argued that calling the NF Nazis drove a wedge between the 'hard racism' of the NF core and the 'many more numerous soft racists' which might've supported the NF, but were able to put off by the 'Nazi' tag and voted Tory instead.

Maybe calling UKIP 'racist' is enough to put off some people, but then again, they might switch their vote to the Tories.

Anonymous said...

Part of the "problem" as you see it is that the chant of "racist" made at anyone who dared to question Labour's (now admitted) disastrous open door immigration policy has rendered the term meaningless.

Racism is prejudice against another race.

EU citizens (in the main) are Caucasians, just like the British.

How can it be racism when it is the same race that is being talked about!

Prejudiced, possibly although that is debatable, when the Met Police crime statistics, broken down by nationality are freely available.

Of course, it was David Blunkett, ex Labour Minister, who voiced his concerns about the atrocious behaviour of Slovakian Roma, who were causing mayhem in his Constituency, and saying that he feared they would cause a riot.

Is that racism as well? By your standards it certainly sounds like it.

Speedy said...

What Anon said.

Racism has been overused to the extent that no one believes it any more.

Boy cries wolf stuff.

Being called racist is almost proof of authenticity ever since "that bigoted woman".

Racist is the cry of a no-change establishment that does not give a fig for the concerns of ordinary people and does not have to - it is only howling now because PR deprives it of its in-built entitlement to rule. That it is an election for a powerless parliament says even more about how disempowered all the people of Europe really are.

No one will be worried about UKIP come the real elections.

If there was real democracy people's frustration would not be expressed so crudely. UKIP is a howl of pain by ordinary folk condescended to by the powers that be and in a sense it plays in to the hands of the "elite" - look what would happen if they really did have a say.

Robert said...

My view is that the political and media establishment is made up of people who are progressive in some ways, more educated (often far more so) and more enlightened than their countrymen on some issues, but at the same time completely unable to understand:

a. that they have their own snobberies and prejudices

b. that they are where they are as a result of social advantage just as much as ability

c. that the economics they propound favour (and are seen as favouring) them, not everybody

d. that there is a huge link between social division and prejudice, which their economics foster rather than ameliorate

e. that if you weaken labour organsation and socialist politics, it’s not liberalism which fills the gap

f. that if progressive social ideas are linked to fuck-you economics, and are seen as being propounded by a superior elite, then you are asking for what you get, which is an alliance between the resentful proletariat and the cynical wealthy.

That they can’t grasp any of these points is precisely because of their monumental self-regard and sense of superiority.

Anonymous said...

“Racism is prejudice against another race.

EU citizens (in the main) are Caucasians, just like the British. “

Erm, maybe on some other planet, where everything is taken literally, or that one definition of race holds supreme above all others. But on this planet, this comment is total bullshit.

The best way to deal with UKIP is to totally ignore the anti EU and anti Immigration stuff and focus on their horrendous no liberal economic policies, including their plans to trash labour rights. This will see them defeated.

Anonymous said...

Leaving aside the undercurrents in your posting, the racism in UKIP isnt about their anti-EU fundamentalism but about the openly-expressed hatred against black and asian Britons. UKIP are basically BNP in blazers instead of bovver boots. It may not be a good tactic to concentrate on that aspect of their policies or politicians but its a truth.