By Haniya Khalid
Farage, it seems, has tapped into an incredibly lucrative mass market: electorate disillusionment with the establishment and mainstream politics in general. Couple that with the swift capitalization of crimes and social faux pas perpetrated by who those happen to be the perceived ‘other’ and thus threats to their way of life-ethnic minorities, immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals, all considered alien by tight knit, largely homogeneous communities-and you have a firm monopoly on the mindsets of large sections of the working class; the group hit hardest by an incompetent government’s fiscal, social and foreign policies.
But in his recent column for the Independent, with its eye-popping title, Kurdos to Russell Brand and the Guy Fawkes Protesters, Nigel Farage says something that those bearing the worst of the fallout from the bloated whale that is Westminster would be hard pressed to reject.
“Everywhere you look there is discontent with the mainstream, the establishment, with the corporatist politics that we’ve been spoon-fed for the past few decades. Never more so was this evident than this week in the mid-term elections in the United States, and in the Parliament Square protests that took place on Wednesday evening in London.”
Consider, for a moment the situation here. Farage, very much on the right whose party has connections to the European ultra right (whether due to business reasons or ideological), praising an anti-UKIP comedian-actor-turned-activist socialist for going on an anti-capitalist, anti-establishment leftist protest throughout the streets of London with a million other people, marching against quite a few of the principles Farage himself ascribes to-such as the free-market and the crackdown on Johnny foreigner.
“Look to the fact that almost every week, there are protests on the streets of London and elsewhere around the country: some about Isis, some by trade unions, some about Gaza, and some about niche issues like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).”
Most probably, Farage is unaware that the Million Mask March that he speaks of takes place every year and has done so for the last few years across the world’s cities, from London to New York. And that the ‘Guy Fawkes’ masks are donned to denote Anonymous, the online ‘hacktivist’ entity that claims to fight state oppression and corruption across the world through infamous hacking ops targeting government institutions and corporations. But that isn’t the point, and he doesn’t make it the point, noting his difference of ideology with people like Brand and his supporters and yet recognizing the glaring similarity between those who are increasingly attracted to anti-establishment parties like UKIP, and its counterparts on the left such as the Green party, and in Scotland at least, the SNP.
“So I have a lot of sympathy with people who want different policies from the “three major” parties. Sure, they mistake“capitalism” for “corporatism”, and have a slightly different view as to what a society should look like. But we’re driven by the same inate passion to see radical change in our politics. It’s this discontent that is leading a left-wing populist party to success in Spain; a right-wing, populist party to success in America; and an anti-EU, policy-wonk party to successes in Germany.”
Citing the increasing popularity of Spain’s Podemos party, America’s latest Republican winin the mid term elections slating a Democrat majority, and Germany’s Alternative For Deutschland (AFD) regional win, Farage, despite his faults, says what every other politician and civil servant in Westminster and Whitehall won’t. There is something wrong with the way things are going, and the masses simply won’t sit on the sidelines anymore.
“The people of Britain are hungry for change. And why? Because they can’t tell the difference between Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband, and Mr Clegg. Their propositions are just not that different when you think about it: more borrowing, more debt for future generations, more wars, more powers given away to the EU, more corporatism, more cronyism, and maybe a few billion pounds’ worth of difference in their spending plans.”
Despite his renowned oratory prowess, when Nigel Farage writes he is no Shakespeare, nor is he inclined to verbosity. But anyone can understand what he is saying. Like most successful political leaders, he himself is populist and uses emotion and anecdote to reach out to current public sentiment, sometimes at the expense of statistical facts. This is something that Owen Jones seizes upon in a recent article for the Gaurdian on the latest study by University College London that European migrants contributed £20 billion to the economy:
“Anecdotes end up trumping statistics…earlier this year, Nigel Farage was confronted with figures demonstrating that immigrants did indeed pay their way. His response? “There are some things that matter more than money.” If, he added, the arrival of another 5 million to British shores left us “all slightly richer”, he would rather that we were not slightly richer. It was ingenious trolling of the pro-immigration left, painting them as money-obsessed neoliberals, while he was the champion of community and people.”
There’s no doubt, therefore, that UKIP has a penchant for scapegoating the more vulnerable members of society, although the fault of this may lie more with individual donors and members of UKIP who have joined due to the circumstance that it’s an easy outlet for plain racists, rather than what Farage himself may have promoted. This is not to say of course, that Farage is innocent in the world of politics, having dabbled in the favorite pastime of many of his would be peers at Westminster and escaped not entirely unscathed.
But unlike the Prime Minister, who whines about the EU bureaucracy one minute – like a dazzled child vying for the approval of his much cooler and popular older brother – then throws a tantrum over an extortionate EU bill that anyone with half the economic literacy of he who is supposedly running the country would have predicted months before, Farage doesn’t just talk the talk. UKIP policy, however objectionable most Scots find it, is crystal clear. On the EU: get out. On immigrants: extensive crackdown, and for those who come in, assimilate, abide by the law, work or leave. On terrorism: fighting home grown extremists should be the top priority for British security services, rather than sending off troops fight expensive wars in foreign lands, which are what fuel terror at home and abroad in the first place.
But it is a testament to the monolithic structure that is the establishment that everything they said about UKIP before it made significant enough gains in the EU elections to warrant Westminster sitting up and taking notice, and Cameron retracting his “loonies and fruitcakes statement”, was repeated with ten times as much vitriol during the referendum campaign against Alex Salmond and the SNP-and is repeated still, towards what they perceive as ‘nationalists’ and the SNP.
At a time when every single Westminster party is in a state of perpetual crisis, perhaps a first in that noble institution’s proud history, none more so than Labour-the Scottish referendum being attributed as the catalyst for said meltdown-every new day bringing fresh news of disaster and dissention in the ranks, the threat felt by the establishment, whether by UKIP or Scotland, is almost tangible.
Looking through the prism of UKIP’s success, it is clear that it is not exclusive to Scotland that people are fed up with the way things stand and the way they have been working for a long time, although one may note that Scots may have born the brunt of the Thatcherite politics which have since been ubiquitous in every Westminster government’s policies for the last two decades since the Iron Lady’s reign. But the English certainly aren’t happy, neither the Welsh nor many of the Irish, and it isn’t because they are a bunch of whining scroungers, the way Scots are consistently perpetuated as by media outlets and society outside of Scotland in general.
So it is easy to see how a party like UKIP has risen in all the turmoil in English politics-for UKIP has very little, if any, traction in Scotland while the membership and support of the SNP grows day by day, having shot up three-fold simply within weeks after the referendum.
And it’s important not to take everything said about UKIP by the mainstream press at face value. It’s easy to label anyone and anything deviating from the party line as racist. You disagree with Obama? Racist. You are critical of Israel’s settlement policy, which is illegal under International Law? Racist. You voted UKIP? Racist.
After all, if we are to exercise critical thinking, the very thing we complained was absent in the press’ coverage of the referendum, media and political bias is not something unique to the cause of Scottish independence, but to anything that is a threat to the London centric Establishment. And that’s why it’s not us, who are fortunate enough to have alternatives to the Establishment, such as the SNP and the Greens to choose from, that need to worry about UKIP. It’s Westminster.