Anti-Immigration Party Is Shaking Up the Political Order in Britain

Griff Witte, Washington Post, May 14, 2014

As surely as the toll echoes from Big Ben, every nationwide election in Britain for more than a century has been won by one of two parties: Labor or the Conservatives.

Next week, that august record is likely to come crashing down, courtesy of a far-right insurgent party that has seized on a pervasive anti-immigrant and anti-establishment mood to rocket to the lead in polls for the European parliamentary election.

The rise of the U.K. Independence Party has shaken up British politics in a way rarely seen here. While far-right parties have long been influential across continental Europe, they have always been relegated to the fringe in this country, which sees itself as open and inclusive.

But the political and economic stars have aligned in UKIP’s favor, and a party that’s dismissed as racist, xenophobic and a bit loony by London sophisticates suddenly is steering the national debate with its calls for Britain to close down borders and leave the European Union. A victory in European elections would confirm its newfound status as a major political player, even though UKIP lacks a single seat in the British Parliament.

The party’s message has resonated particularly well in struggling small towns and decaying industrial centers, where the benefits of a recovering economy are scarcely felt and where mainstream politicians are seen as out of touch with constituents furious over a massive influx of foreign workers.

{snip}

UKIP’s appeals to the Reagan Democrats of Britain are hardly subtle: On one campaign billboard, a dejected worker sits on the curb with a coin cup at his feet. “British workers are hit hard by unlimited cheap labor,” reads the ad’s text.

The message is typical of a European election campaign that has been dominated in Britain by voters’ fears, not their hopes.

“UKIP promises a better yesterday,” said Peter Kellner, president of the polling firm YouGov. “The appeal is to people who feel that Britain has become a less attractive, less secure and more frightening place. They dislike the modern world and want to get off.”

The party has traditionally done well in European elections, which are held every five years to select the 751 members of the European Parliament. The elections are marked by low turnout, and UKIP has struggled to translate its success in the European vote into success where it most counts: British parliamentary elections. But the party, which has been around for two decades, has never done as well in the polls as it is doing now.

{snip}

Farage, UKIP’s leader, is a somewhat unlikely champion of the working man. He made a small fortune as a commodities broker in London’s financial district, and for the past 15 years has been employed on the taxpayer’s dime as a member of the European Parliament–a job he wants to eliminate. His German-born wife also earns a government salary working as his secretary.

But Farage is a gifted salesman whose breezy style and ear for a sound bite would not be out of place on American talk radio–or in the local pub, where he often campaigns, pint in hand. That sort of everyman quality places him in marked contrast with the stiff and remote Oxbridge-educated politicians who dominate the Labor and Conservative parties.

And it serves him particularly well when talking about immigration, an issue that polarizes the British electorate like few others.

In cosmopolitan London, immigration is widely seen as a virtuous driver of economic growth and cultural vitality. But here in rural eastern England–where jobs working the fields have been a magnet for Lithuanians, Portuguese and others from across Europe–immigrants are seen as a drain on public services and as competition for housing and employment.

“There are two completely different Britains. There’s London, and there’s the rest of Britain. Attitudes are very different,” Farage said in an interview before taking the stage for the UKIP rally here. “Nobody in this country has voted for 4 million immigrants to come here in the last 15 years, and for probably another 3 million to come between now and 2020. There’s unrecognizable change happening in our country. The life prospects and job prospects, particularly of working-class people, have been severely dented.”

Farage’s solution is for Britain to exit the European Union, a body that by law allows citizens of all 28 members to move freely across the bloc. In the past decade, the expansion of the E.U. into eastern Europe and the economic crisis that has roiled southern Europe have made Britain an especially attractive destination, and millions have made the journey.

The influx began during the Labor government of Tony Blair and has continued unabated under Tory Prime Minister David Cameron, despite pledges by Cameron to sharply reduce the flow. Farage argues that until Britain leaves the E.U., no government will be able to claim control of the nation’s borders.

{snip}

On Tuesday, a prominent young UKIP activist who is of Indian heritage abruptly resigned, saying the party had lost its way by blaming foreigners for the struggles of ordinary Britons.

“The direction in which the party is going is terrifying,” wrote Sanya-Jeet Thandi in an article for the Guardian newspaper. “UKIP has descended into a form of racist populism that I cannot bring myself to vote for.”

Farage has been forced repeatedly to deny that UKIP has a problem with racism. He has said that UKIP will not go form a coalition with other far-right parties in Europe–several of which also are expected to do well in this month’s vote–because he disapproves of their policies and language on race.

The criticism has done little to dampen enthusiasm for the party, and indeed may be feeding it by confirming for many alienated Brits that the elites are out of touch.

{snip}

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  • The party has traditionally done well in European elections, which are held every five years to select the 751 members of the European Parliament. The elections are marked by low turnout, and UKIP has struggled to translate its success in the European vote into success where it most counts: British parliamentary elections.

    That’s not a hard riddle. MEP elections use a proportional representation system called D’Hondt, while British parliamentary elections are first past the post. The former is conducive to multiple political parties, it makes voting for non-lamestream parties worthwhile and not a waste of vote. The latter rewards and ossifies Britain’s two and a half party oligopoly.

  • RealisticGuy

    UKIP is for the UK being independent from Europe. You’d be mistaken to believe that they are pro English, Scottish or Welsh.

    I’d prefer the BNP do well.

    • NeanderthalDNA

      Yeah, don’t completely trust UKIP.

      • rightrightright

        Me neither, but I am voting for them them this time round. There is nobody else and the candidate here is a pleasant, sensible young woman.

        YouGov is a Left wing organisation so its pronouncements are suspect. Its founder, Peter Kellner, is married to the EU foreign affairs appointee, the hard Left Catherine Ashton – the one who looks like a turkey crossed with a camel.

        Farage is an excellent and fearless speaker, yet he greases round mosques, flattering the pajama’d ones in a vomit inducing manner.

    • newscomments70

      I like the BNP. The UKIP message is too diluted and passive.

  • Pro_Whitey

    Again, when will the journalists call Labor far-left, and call the Tories a pale imitation of the far left, for that is what they are? My conclusion from long experience is that the left knows that most low-info people think of themselves as middle of the road, no matter where they are on the political spectrum. They exploit this by defining any enemies as extreme, no matter how normal and average they are, in order to set off an instinctive dislike by the low-info voter.

    • David Ashton

      Quite so, many electors are none too bright. The PC internationalist Liberal Democrats are morally and culturally “left” of Labour, and certainly the white working class, but many voters still think they are moderate center “between” the extremes of “right-wing Tories” (!) and “Socialists”.

      • Sick of it

        Tories are about as right wing as I am black. Well, since I’ve been around anyway.

        • David Ashton

          Quite so: hence my inverted commas and exclamation mark.

    • WR_the_realist

      The MSM never labels a party “far left” for the same reason a fish never labels anything “wet”.

      • TruthBeTold

        Likewise, the one phrase you’re never going to hear from the MSM is black-Hispanic.

  • WR_the_realist

    Once again we see that the only policy position a party need take to be labeled “far right” by the MSM is to favor reducing immigration and enforcing immigration law.

    • David Ashton

      In England I grew up regarding patriotism as a cardinal virtue. Not so today.

      • stewball

        The England we grew up in doesn’t exist anymore.

  • tetrapod

    “UKIP promises a better yesterday,” said Peter Kellner, president of the polling firm YouGov. “The appeal is to people who feel that Britain has become a less attractive, less secure and more frightening place. They dislike the modern world and want to get off.”

    Kellner … Hmmm. Is that a good Saxon name or a smokescreen?

    Yes sir Mr … Kellner. You tell ’em. You tell those poor dumb sods how they need to forget about the dissolution of their homeland, and get with the program.

    • David Ashton

      Kellner looks younger than he is. He was a left-wing anti-apartheid activist at the outset of his career.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    this country which sees itself as open and inclusive.

    Here is the result of “open and inclusive.”

    • Al Rex

      Why have the British allowed these ugly skunks into their beautiful civilized society?

  • JohnEngelman

    Next week, that august record is likely to come crashing down, courtesy of a far-right insurgent party that has seized on a pervasive anti-immigrant and anti-establishment mood to rocket to the lead in polls for the European parliamentary election.

    – Griff Witte, Washington Post, May 14, 2014

    When I think of “far right” I think of a reactionary who favors a return to laissez faire capitalism, or a neo Nazi.

    Many who oppose third world immigration are social democrats who have the sense to realize that social democracy has only worked in countries where nearly everyone is white.

  • Michael OSullivan

    UKIP is a step in the right direction, but it is being used to usurp the the mass discontent that would otherwise vote for BNP or EDL.

    • Bill_der_Berg

      The BNP has been around for a long time. If it is has not won mass support by now it never will.

      • Sangraal

        I fear you’re right. It’s support has peaked. It’s hard to see any signs of hope on the horizon.

    • Sangraal

      EDL aren’t a political party, so no votes diverted from them.
      While they may be closer to the BNP demographically and in their attitude, on racial/cultural issues they are actually much closer to UKIP.

    • jayvbellis

      The EDL is a street protest organization, not a poltical party that runs candidates. We need to just become aware or current realities.

  • Alex Anderson

    I know a former English bobby. He told me that blacks are about 3% of population in England, but are about a third of all the violent criminals.

  • Diversity Fatigue

    To suggest that UKIP is “far-right” shows how far gone the dolt who wrote this article is. And London is rapidly becoming a genuine Third World cesspool. Once the white-owned businesses pack up and leave, due to crime, you will have the European version of Detroit.

  • Singingbird1

    A philosopher would make absolute nonsense of the term ‘Far right’ when applied to UKIP. A Philosopher would also make absolute nonsense of the term ‘Racist’ which is an engineered term,very Emotive and rubbish.(Read A.J.Ayers’ ‘Language ,Truth and Logic’).You see when one has an education,as I do,one knows how to recognise left wing propaganda. I am voting UKIP.

    • Sick of it

      A liberal article from just the other day made it clear that not wanting foreigners in one’s country makes one a racist. Also, apparently, simply being white makes one a racist.

      • David Ashton

        We are still told in England that “only whites can be racist”, apparently because only whites have political power!!!!!

  • DaveMed

    It goes without saying that all of our British members should be spending less time on this site and more talking to neighbors, friends, family, etc.

    No point in preaching to the choir when there are others to be educated.

    • David Ashton

      Some of us do both. What are the non-British members doing here?

      • DaveMed

        Pardon me. I meant, specifically, until the election.

        I suspect you could still sway at least several voters’ minds.

        • David Ashton

          “The main parties are in crisis, run by small groups of rich men and their expensive advisers.” – Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph, May 15 (q.v. on-line).

          I used to say to fairly “liberal” acquaintances, who shared the general public dissatisfaction with ruling “political class”, all you can do at elections is to hold “your” nose and vote for the BNP candidate, if there isn’t one vote for UKIP, and if neither, don’t vote. A matter of protest rather than policy.

          Today I would say to “patriotic” acquaintances, hold “your” nose and vote for UKIP, or don’t vote. It is a matter of symbolic effect rather than picky principle.