By way of disclaimer, I must state that, though I intend to vote UKIP every chance I get, I’m neither the party’s member nor indeed unqualified supporter. In fact, I’m constitutionally incapable of being an unqualified supporter of any political group.
However, if I didn’t suffer from this innate personality flaw, the current criticism of UKIP would turn me into the staunchest flag bearer. In fact, the conspiracy theorist in me suspects that UKIP is so devious that it’s paying The Times to keep up its relentless offensive against the party.
Yesterday anti-UKIP diatribes appeared on several pages, including the editorial. Today it’s Hugo Rifkind’s turn to pick up the relay baton and do his level best to promote UKIP by ostensibly attacking it.
He starts out by endorsing Dave Cameron’s 2006 description of UKIP as a party of ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists.’ Then he half acknowledges that this may no longer be completely true: ‘It’s different now’. Exactly how?
‘They’re against some arguably restrictive things, such as the EU, employment protection…’ Arguably? That means that the opposite view is still correct, if not exactly unassailable. Amazing what a little adverb can do to hedge one’s bets. What is unarguably rotten, however, is this: ‘…but also against gay marriage, building on the green belt, wind farms, immigration, out-of-town supermarkets and travellers concreting over fields.’
My hair stands up on end. How much more fruitcake, loony and closet racist can a party get? Wind farms, gay marriage, free-for-all emigration and travellers setting up camps in someone’s back yard are all articles of faith. Any infidel against any one of those is fair game for any kind of insult, from fascist to racist to… paedophile anyone?
‘How they square all this with “libertarianism” is anybody’s guess, but I suspect it’s largely done by not reading books.’ Among UKIP supporters (and my friends) one finds Britain’s leading writers, philosophers and theologians, each one of whom reads more books in a year than Rifkind has clearly read in his, admittedly short, lifetime. But hey, he’s a writer, not a reader, and it’s his column.
He’s right about libertarianism though; it’s an unfortunate choice of self-description. One suspects that UKIP publicists went for it because the word ‘conservative’, which would describe the party more accurately, is already taken and thoroughly perverted.
Now comes the capital charge against UKIP, one that ought to make every progressive man hold a cupped hand to his mouth and rush to the lavatory, making gagging sounds as he runs. ‘The dominant philosophy, if you can quite call it that, is one that holds that there is a true, right and commonsense way of doing things and that Britain, through the shrillness of special interest groups and the Machiavellian scheming and moral bankruptcy of its political class, has strayed from this path.’
One of UKIP’s proposals is the revival of grammar schools, a long overdue idea amply supported by the cited sentence. Yes, I realise Hugo must have been educated at an independent establishment, but grammar schools have been shown to have a positive knock-on effect on education in general.
But style aside, what causes Hugo’s ire in this ‘dominant philosophy’? It’s ‘the way it can end up sounding a bit… well, racist.’ Right, I get it. Belief in the existence of truth is ipso facto racist even if ostensibly it has absolutely nothing to do with race. Is it also… well, paedophiliac, Hugo? …fascist? …kleptomaniac? Any term of opprobrium would do, take your pick.
‘The UKIP strategy is to suggest that politicians are the problem; that a smug and entitled political class is not just irritating but actively damaging to the national interest.’ Perish the thought.
People like Ken ‘Kenneth’ Clarke strive to promote the national interest by making sure that Britain is governed from Brussels, while people like the Cameroons and the Milibandits know only one cure for our troubles: more of the same. If that doesn’t prove their commitment to the national interest, I don’t know what would.
Actually, UKIP’s suggestion, so abhorrent to Hugo, is true not only of British politicians but of all Western ones, with the possible exception of Angela Merkel. She is irritating all right, but at least she tries to promote Germany’s national interest, as she misconstrues it.
This whole affair reminds me of the Soviet Union, where the only way for a writer to introduce the public to political ideas different from Leninism was to heap abuse on them. Those clever chaps would trick the censors by attacking, say, Berkeley for being a reactionary idealist in the pay of the ruling classes. In the process, they’d explain in considerable detail every aspect of Berkeley’s philosophy – much to the grateful readers’ delight.
Hugo Rifkind and other hacks from The Times must harbour a secret affection for UKIP. It’s only by seemingly attacking it that they can get around the watchful eye of their editors and owners and carry the UKIP message to their readers. The party ought to be ecstatic: this kind of publicity would cost millions if they had to pay for it.