European elections: disappointment, misapprehension and lies

Disappointment: Ukip.

I’m not disappointed that Ukip won the European election. On the contrary, I’m happy about it and hope the party can do as well in the general election.

However, one comment from the jubilant Nigel Farage suggested I shouldn’t hold my breath. He got into politics, said Mr Farage, to get Britain out of the EU. Once that goal has been achieved, he’ll get out. Job done.

I agree that departure from that wicked organisation is a necessary condition for Britain to regain her national identity. But it’s not a sufficient condition.

Even assuming that most Brits share Mr Farage’s contempt for the EU (which will be an unsafe assumption once our main parties have joined their propaganda forces with the EU before the referendum, provided we ever get one), they have other concerns as well. Some of those, such as education, healthcare and economy, may even trump the issue of European federalism.

Mr Farage may not think that ought to be the case, and I’d happily agree. But modal verbs like ‘ought’ don’t work in politics any better than the subjunctive mood does. ‘Is’ and ‘are’ are more useful, and the situation described in the previous paragraph is how things are, much as we may deplore it.

Standing on a single issue is no problem in a single-issue election, such as the one in which Ukip has just triumphed much to my delight. In a general election, however, this would be suicidal: for a party to do well it has to commit itself to a coherent programme ticking all the major boxes and reflecting a clearly defined philosophy.

There’s no doubt that, come 2015, the mainstream parties will attack Ukip, portraying it as a one-trick pony. Nigel Farage’s statement, and similar statements I’ve heard from other Ukip dignitaries, will add ammunition to the party’s detractors.

What Mr Farage should have said between his third and fourth pints is something along these lines:

“Ukip has just proved it has become a major force in British politics. We see ourselves as a natural home for a currently disfranchised group: hardworking, conservative people who wish to express themselves freely within the framework of our ancient constitution.

“For us, as it is for them, getting out of Europe isn’t an end in itself but a means to the end – restoring Britain to her past glory as a just, prosperous, kind nation ruled by laws passed on from generation to generation and codified by Parliament.

“Next month I shall present our cast-iron proposals on government, economy, law, education and healthcare. Watch this space – and thank you for your support. Together we’ve made the first step. Now let’s go all the way.”

This is the general idea, not the exact words. The idea Mr Farage chose to communicate instead is tantamount to a boxer dropping his guard while winking at a pretty girl in the audience.

Misapprehension: Contrary to what our papers are screaming in their headlines, Europe hasn’t lurched to the right. In fact, of the parties that have done well in the elections only Ukip can be legitimately described as a party of the right.

Of course, agreeing on the terminology is important here. For me, the right end of any reasonably defined political spectrum is occupied by conservatism.

A sensible definition of modern conservatism was inadvertently supplied by Tim Montgomerie who, as a Tory apparatchik at heart, is bleeding internally in the aftermath of his party coming third – and Ukip winning hands down.

He too spotted with his eagle eye that Ukip’s appeal is somewhat lacking in breadth. The party, he wrote, should commit itself on other issues, meaning it has to decide whether it wants to be “traditionalist or libertarian”.

But there’s no need to choose. A modern conservative party has to be both: libertarian on the economy, traditionalist on everything else.

Gone are the days when British conservatism, especially when spelled with a capital initial, was a form of paternalistic socialism. Nowadays economic libertarianism is not only a sine qua non of a prosperous nation, but it’s also consistent with the founding principles of our civilisation, specifically its accent on freedom of choice.

At the same time, maintaining all other such principles demands social, religious and cultural traditionalism, which is by no means at odds with economic liberty.

If we define conservatism in such terms – and I dare you to find better ones – then it’s clear that assorted quasi-fascist European parties, such as the French Front National, occupy the opposite, left, end of the political spectrum.

The peculiar idea that fascism is rightwing goes back to the 1930s, when Stalin’s Russia was lauded as genuinely leftwing. As it was in opposition to Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, those countries had to be regarded as rightwing.

The Nazi-Soviet Pact that pushed the button for the Second World War brought that definition into question, but not for long. The Nazis attacked the Soviets in June, 1941, restoring the original false taxonomy.

Yet if you compare the Nazi, fascist, Soviet and Front National economic programmes, you’ll see that they differ only in insignificant details. All these parties are socialist, with either a national or international tint.

Front National represents the national take on socialism. Its ideal government involves the big state exercising maximum control over the small individual, which is as good a definition of socialism as any.

Add to this chauvinistic extremism, richly spiced with racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and the picture is complete. Marine Le Pen is a national socialist, which means leftwing. Incidentally, Stalin’s Russia, which is never described as rightwing, boasted all the same traits.

Lies: Putin’s about the Ukraine.

Petro Poroshenko’s landslide victory in the Ukrainian election is widely covered in our press. He’s described as a pro-European liberal, and I have no reason to doubt this designation, even though a part of me smells a bit of an oxymoron in it.

What our press didn’t communicate is that the extreme nationalist parties, Liberty and The Right Sector, flopped with 1.7 and 0.66 percent of the vote respectively.

Yet Putin’s, which is to say Russian, press has been screaming itself hoarse on those two parties representing the mainstream of the forces that overthrew Putin’s stooge Yanukovych. All Ukrainians other than Putin’s stooges are supposed to be fascists. Well, their voting pattern gives the lie to such hysterical slander.

At the same time, Putin’s thugs in the east of the country used intimidation and armed violence to prevent about 20 percent of Ukrainians from casting their vote. Obviously they know something many don’t: even the east of the country wants nothing to do with Putin.

It’s Putin and his mercenaries who are the fascists there. Peter Hitchens, ring your office.

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