Pundits living in the good parts of Greater London are accusing similarly domiciled politicians of losing touch with ‘the people’.
This is a case of the teapot calling the teapot black. It’s also stubborn refusal to come to grips with the real issues involved.
Wittingly or unwittingly, even conservative papers are trying to interpret Ukip’s success in the terms of class war. But these terms are set by the socialists who, being both the pioneers and shock troops of such warfare, are much better at it.
The underlying, occasionally explicit, assumption is that Ukip gets ahead in life by agitating some subconscious, subcutaneous resentments in hoi polloi’s minds, the principal one being dislike of Johnny Foreigner.
Since the mainstream party leaders all seem to play lickspittle to foreigners, be that by dissolving British sovereignty in an international body or by allowing unlimited immigration, hoi polloi jump and salute the Ukip pound sign. Of course if they were able to understand the intellectual aspects of politics, they’d vote for one of the other three parties, doesn’t really matter which.
There’s some truth in regarding support for Ukip as voting not for the party but against all others. But it’s far from being the whole truth.
Most people vote negatively anyway, regardless of which party is the beneficiary. In the last general election, for example, many real conservatives voted Tory not because they liked the party or especially its leader, but because they found Labour to be unimaginably emetic. By the same token, an intuitive leftie would rather vote for any party of the left than for the Tories – whoever leads them and whatever their policies.
In today’s politics we choose not so much the lesser of two evils as the evil of two lessers. My contention is that such is an inevitable result of unchecked one-man-one-vote democracy which inherently promotes irresponsible voting for incompetent leaders. But that’s a separate subject.
The fact is that every policy proposed by Ukip makes rational sense – which ought to be grasped by the denizens of both Hampstead and Hull.
English voters, whether educated at Eton or a local comprehensive, tend to like England, a concept most understand in more than just the purely geographical sense.
They’re quite happy, if not invariably ecstatic, with Englishness as it has evolved over the better part of two millennia. Central to this notion isn’t blood but historical culture, understood broadly.
The culture of England, unlike that of any other major European country, rotates around the hub of her constitution based on the ancient common law. Destroying the constitution is tantamount to ripping the heart out of the nation, and only a fool or a knave can possibly believe that our constitution can survive when pooled in a giant, unaccountable foreign body.
Let me reemphasise that this centrality of politics to the nation’s character is unique to England. France, to name one example, effectively was part of Germany in 1940-1944, and yet Maurice Chevalier had every right to sing Paris reste Paris while tipping his boater to the SS officers in the audience.
France doesn’t rely on politics to keep her national identity intact. While England has had roughly the same political arrangement since 1688, during this period France has gone through absolute monarchy, revolutionary government, the Directory, military dictatorship, empire, constitutional monarchy, five republics and vassalage to an occupying power – yet still Paris reste Paris and France remains France.
If the same political game of musical chairs were played here, the English nation would cease to exist, pure and simple. Those capable of thinking such matters through know this; many of the rest sense it. And both groups converge at the voting booth.
The same goes for unlimited immigration. The survival of a local culture based on the English common law is imperilled at a locality where the English are in a minority – as they are in many parts of London, Leicester, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford and so forth.
My background should absolve me from the charge of English xenophobia, but I do feel uncomfortable when walking with my good friend through the streets of South London, where he lives, and realising that we’re the only English speakers in the crowd.
It’s naïve to think that such places can retain their long-term link to English culture, especially since the prevailing demographic trends point at an even worse situation in the future. Specifically, the adhesive of English culture is likely to come unstuck in such places – witness the clamour for using Sharia in many parts of England.
Leaving the EU and restricting immigration are Ukip’s flagship policies, and both can be defended with a great deal more intellectual rigour than that displayed by their opponents.
For example, Dominic Sandbrook complains in The Mail that “his [Farage’s] policies fill me with dread” though they lamentably appeal to those less intelligent than Mr Sandbrook, and isn’t it a shame that Farage is so much better at rabble-rousing than our young Etonians.
This is misreading the situation. Ukip is doing well not in spite of its policies but because of them – not because it sends dark subliminal messages to simpletons. My only regret is that its position as an outsider forces it to rally the troops behind so few policies.
Granted, a small party fighting for political legitimacy can’t afford the luxury of engaging its adversaries along the whole front. Tactically it has to concentrate its forces on securing a breech and establishing a beachhead (all contests are patterned after war, hence the terminology).
But if the logic of political rough-and tumble doesn’t allow Ukip to go broad, perhaps it still ought to consider going broader. I happen to know that some of its leaders have a secure grasp of conservatism in all its manifestations – more secure, at any rate, than the limp-wristed hold of our ruling elites.
If I were a Ukip strategist (something I have neither any hope nor any desire of becoming), I’d suggest that without broadening its strategic horizons, while maintaining its tactical focus, the party risks a chastening experience at next year’s general election.
The nation has many conservatives but no conservative party. Ukip could position itself as the vacuum filler – which would both excite people’s heads and touch their hearts. But this would involve more than just a call for leaving the EU.
Foreign policy, economy, social issues, education, medical care all must come into play, in however limited a way. Is this possible for a relatively new party to do? I suppose we’ll find out in 2015.