Tuesday, 27 May 2014

UKIP's success will mean further reaction from Labour and the Tories

As the polls predicted UKIP has again dominated the European Elections in Britain winning more votes and more seats than any other party.
And whilst Farage’s party trailed in behind the SNP, Labour and the Tories in Scotland some 140,000 Scots still voted for their ‘dog-whistle’ racist politics.
Why did they win? And what are the likely consequences for the Independence referendum?
Incredible as it may seem UKIP with its Home Counties base and right wing views are regarded by many voters not just as anti-EU and anti-immigrant, but also as anti-establishment. The more Farage is attacked by the chattering classes and the metropolitan political elite the more popular he becomes.
This is a remarkable phenomena given he is himself part of that elite. Here is a public schoolboy, millionaire merchant banker and former Tory backwoodsman now masquerading as a ‘rebel’ who sticks two fingers up to EU bureaucrats and corrupt Westminster politicians.
Whatever else may be said about his odious, reactionary message it is clear, simple and oft repeated. UKIP dominated these elections with a message that is not difficult to comprehend. Those looking for simple answers, easy scapegoats and an ‘ordinary guy’ hero rushed to him in their droves. His face was never off TV and his message was co-sponsored by several tabloid newspapers.
Millions of Britons in the middle of the worst recession in 80 years have seen their wages fall 17% in real terms since 2010 instead of turning to the left for answers have thus far turned to the right.  The right has persuaded many people that the collapse in their living standard has been caused by immigrants and claimants [who either work too cheaply or not at all] rather than the bankers and corporate capitalism.
We are asked by UKIP to ignore the fact that immigrants make this country wealthier by coming here, that they pay far more taxes into the UK Treasury than they take out, that our NHS and other key services benefit enormously from their labour, that immigrants come here for work not for paltry benefits, that young workers from Poland and Spain have halted Scotland’s population decline, that our quality of life is greatly improved by multiculturalism and that Scots themselves have emigrated for centuries in search of a better life.
This is why the right has done so well in these elections and the left, such as it is, has done so badly. The left must clarify our message afresh, deliver it with aplomb and passion and then purposefully confront the racism of UKIP and its Tory, Labour and Lib Dem ‘bedfellows’ in this debate.

The results of these elections will be fiercely contested in so far as they tell us anything about the Independence debate. We on the YES side argued UKIP was a xenophobic, English party by and large rejected by voters here. That view is somewhat undermined by the fact 140,000 Scots voted for them. Yet it retains some potency since UKIP topped the poll in England whereas they came fourth here in Scotland. However it would have been much better for Yes if UKIP had not secured a Euro seat here.
The Scottish Greens will again be disappointed by the results. I was one of those who felt they were the best electoral vehicle for halting UKIP’s drive into Scotland. But they secured only one more MEP across Britain as a whole and in Scotland their 8.5% of the vote was only marginally better than the 7.5% they got in 2009. This suggests they lack wider appeal as ‘the torchbearer of radical and progressive politics in Scotland’ despite the claims of their election press releases to the contrary. Writing in ‘Bella Caledonia’ Mike Small of the Scottish Independence Convention went even further and concluded ‘the harsh truth is the Greens lack charisma, popularism and bite. They are rootless and unable to reach beyond the Guardianista’.
In due course we might all reflect on what might have been. Perhaps if the Greens had joined the Red/Green alliance proposed by some of us in the Greens and the SSP this time last year it could have made the difference. And it might also have been the test bed for a similar initiative in the more fruitful Holyrood elections of 2016?

Finally, however the last word on these elections goes to that ‘expert’ of Scottish politics the Bradford MP George Galloway who apparently insists UKIP and the SNP are ‘two cheeks of the same arse’. This nonsense surely secures for Galloway the title of the biggest ‘arse’ in Scottish politics today?

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