They won a bye-election on the South East coast of Britain, and came very close to another in the North West. Geographically speaking, neither result is altogether surprising. The Clacton constituency is composed of small towns on the coast that were Music Hall jokes a century ago: dull, dead seaside places where the fossilized white aged retire and find their amusement spending a penny once a week to make the laughing policeman cackle in the arcade.And Rochdale was once a busy cotton town which imported (rather than ‘attracted’) asian immigrants for the mills in the late Fifties and Sixties, but is still, I think, predominantly white and (among at least a substantial part of that population) probably uneasily so.
So we now have a political party, that, rather like the Republicans and the Tea Party, has been manufacturing dog whistles that, by comparison, have a somewhat subdued, but nonetheless penetrating shriek. Its leader wants, among other things, to ban anyone with HIV to enter the country. that’s a code easily grasped by the aged whites in Frinton and the suspicious white northerners of Rochdale. Anyone with HIV is, of course, bound to be either gay or black, or, as they used to say when I was a kid, coloured because there were few if any people of African origin around. Or—as I remember rather bitterly from my early school days, because I have a complexion that’s more Mediterranean than Scandinavian, half-caste or touched with the tar brush, though that sort of thing was only said behind my back. Not that I realised it was being said at all until I was about thirteen and heard about it from a swimming friend whose father was also Italian, but from Northern Italy, so he was blond and had blue eyes . . .
The real irony, of course, is that UKIP’s Leader, who purports to be yer standard working class no-nonsense guy with a flat ‘at, ey-oop, was born in the affluent stockbroker belt of the South East the son of a stockbroker; went to a public school; and worked in the City until the Brussels-Strasbourg gravy train looked a more attractive option. All the things that, in fact, while they might attract the retired Colonel Blimps of the retired seaside resorts of the Essex coast, ought to be anathema to the supposedly hard-headed burghers of Rochdale.
It’s just as ironic that both constituencies were gerrymandered to try to make them Tory. before the Conservative Party comprehended that another might arise that was more authentically Right than they were. There’s not much satisfaction, just a little, for people like me, in that there’s now a good possibility that the Tories will lose a large part of the electorate that they thought they were securing only for themselves. And no doubt, will over the next six months try to re-secure with a good half or more of the neo-fascist Tories that have until this year been relatively subdued, coming out into the open with their leather belts, jackboots and shirts they’ve been hiding in their wardrobes.
There are, probably, all sorts of other reasons (and I can think of quite a few) why a neo-Fascist party (for that, despite its veneer, is what it is) has just got, and possibly will get in six months’ time, a lot of votes. One of them is simply that people are rebarbative. I’ve long held that all politics tends in the end to fascism unless the Left constantly combats it. And for twenty years now, the one major party that could and should have done reneged on its origins and abandoned the kind of people who formed it.
Top Left: Leader of United Kingdom Independence Party, Nigel Farage.
Top Right: Leader of the British Union of Fascists, Oswald Mosley.
As they say, all demagogues look the same to me.