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Ukip pushes British politics to the right

 

The rightwing UK Independence Party (Ukip) leapt into the headlines after the May county council elections. Ukip stood in a record number of wards and polled 23 per cent on average across them, netting a gain of 139 councillors – compared to 13 per cent and one councillor in 2012. Hundreds more came in second place, splitting the Tory vote and losing it control of three councils.

Surveys since the election indicate up to 21 per cent of voters nationally supporting Ukip. A ComRes poll at the end of May even put Ukip first in voters’ intentions in next year’s European elections. Although a more recent Guardian poll suggested this had slipped to 12 per cent, the same research found that the party was taking voters away from Labour, not just the Tories.

This breakthrough for the anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, anti-Muslim Ukip was quickly followed by the killing of a soldier in Woolwich by Islamists and a resurgence of the English Defence League. EDL leader Tommy Robinson had endorsed Ukip back in April for its stance on Islam and Europe: “They are saying exactly what we say, just in a different way. I officially back Ukip and I would vote for Ukip.”

Feltham and Heston by-election

UKIP leader Nigel Farage

Racist lies

Even now you can’t read a newspaper without seeing the huge grin of Nigel Farage, the party’s leader and with a 40 per cent approval the most popular leader of any political party. His attacks on the political establishment and chain-smoking, pint-holding public image are coupled to populist appeals:

 “It’s about mass immigration at a time when 21 per cent of young people can’t find work. It’s about giving £50 million a day to the EU when the public finances are under great strain.” Ukip connects Europe to immigration for workers, and to “red tape and green fines” for businessmen, and higher taxes for everyone – the same reason it gives for cutting the foreign aid budget.

But the further away from the television cameras you go, the nastier and nuttier it gets. One local Ukip leaflet had a photo of a native American, claiming British people faced a similar extinction from immigration, while another ridiculously stated that in 2014 the lifting of immigration limits from new EU countries “will allow 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians to come to the UK” – that being the sum of the entire population of both countries!

Eric Kitson the Ukip Councillor for Stourport was forced to resign only days after being elected, due to rancid facebook rants calling for Muslim women to be hanged, the repatriation of immigrants – a BNP policy – and an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews controlled Adolf Hitler. Kitson also supports the EDL.

Ukip wants to hike defence spending and build more prisons, freeze immigration and strip migrants of their rights. Buried in the small print of the Ukip manifesto lie VAT hikes in order to scrap national insurance contributions for bosses, plans to speed up privatisation of the NHS and proposals for a flat-rate tax of 31 per cent for everyone from poorest workers to the richest – if you liked the poll tax you’ll love Ukip! No wonder free marketeer Farage calls the Tories a “Social Democratic” party.

Ukip poses as an anti-establishment party that speaks for the majority, but the wealthy Farage is an ex-commodities trader. He has gained the backing of several millionaire Tory donors, most of them City bankers and businessmen. For all the tales about Britain being ripped off by Europe, Farage prepared for the May elections by touring the tax havens of Monaco, Switzerland and the Channel Islands to consult rich donors. The move to swank new offices in Mayfair, the most expensive area in London, underlines the party is that of the elite, not the grassroots.

Gunning for Labour

Now Farage says he wants to “turn the guns on Labour” aiming to win urban, white workers on Europe and immigration. He’s already succeeding. A recent poll showed that the proportion of voters defecting from Labour to Ukip had risen sixfold from 2 per cent to 13 per cent.

Labour’s response has been… to cave in and chase Ukip and the Tories rightward, with a list of benefit cuts, especially for migrants, and Miliband’s “One Nation” rhetoric and Blue Labour polices.

Against this the left and trade unions need to torpedo Ukip’s anti-working class policies, expose its wealthy establishment backers and reject its xenophobia and racism. The only way to draw poor workers duped into following the Farage mirage to the right is a mass movement against austerity that to unite with workers across Europe and migrants to fight for a socialist united states of Europe.

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