Britain’s political Establishment is bewildered by the rise of Ukip and its charismatic leader Nigel Farage and is pulling out all the stops to discredit them.
This shouldn’t be too difficult since, like all populist movements powering a bandwagon, Ukip has more than its fair share of what David Cameron called “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists.”
Its best-known policies are opposition to the growing powers of the European Union and to unrestricted immigration from the EU.
Both resonate with voters for a variety of reasons arising from a widespread feeling of alienation from the political system and its difficult-to-differentiate major parties.
The EU has never been hugely popular in Britain, viewed as a hulking continental power that interferes in too many decisions proper to Westminster level or devolved administrations.
And although race relations in Britain are generally good, this is no thanks to a political elite that characterises immigration as a problem.
With unemployment at an underestimated two million-plus level and nearly 900,000 16 to 24-year-olds on the scrapheap, scapegoating migrants provides fertile electoral ground for desperate politicians.
Labour apologises for not being tougher on immigration when in office while the conservative coalition pledges more stringent controls.
Ukip trumps them all by rejecting EU free movement, claiming that 26 million jobless people across the bloc have their eyes on British workers’ jobs.
It’s nonsense. It’s scaremongering. It encourages fear of foreigners, but it’s not racist.
Farage has no difficulty knocking down this knee-jerk response, championing a level playing field for would-be migrants and criticising the negative effect of EU Fortress Europe on African and Asian workers seeking jobs in Britain.
The Ukip leader favours an immigration points system whereby employers could bring in staff from anywhere in the world.
Representing the interests of the capitalist class in general, and the City of London in particular, is Farage’s motivation.
That is why he threw a tantrum on Wednesday after the European Court of Justice rejected David Cameron’s appeal against an EU tax on financial transactions.
“This is a deliberate attack on the City of London,” he stormed.
“Just how many times does the British financial industry have to be kicked in the teeth by the European Court of Justice before David Cameron will shout: ‘Enough is enough’?”
This should surprise no-one since Farage is a well-heeled, privately educated, former City commodity broker and son of a stockbroker.
He defends what he understands as his class interest, that of a tiny, rich and parasitic section of society.
To the amazement of only the acutely hard of thinking, Establishment media and politicians seeking to trip him up omit all mention of his class bias, preferring to concentrate on froth.
BBC TV enticed its viewers on Tuesday to tune in on Wednesday morning to hear whether Farage would contest the Newark by-election caused by the unmasking of yet another Tory crook.
His decision not to contest a rock-solid Tory seat where he has no political roots was portrayed ridiculously as an act of cowardice.
By fixating on his decision, the national broadcaster was implicitly casting Farage as the man of the moment.
Channel 4 News interviewer Matt Frei even managed to cede the moral high ground to Farage henchman Neil Hamilton of cash-for-questions infamy by suggesting that the reactionary views of one cash donor must reflect those of Ukip.
Hamilton was able to deride Frei and the programme as not politically serious, asking if every other party submitted each donor to a detailed political questionnaire.
Ukip has benefited substantially from the disastrous decision by hapless Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to challenge Farage to a TV debate on EU membership.
Their exchanges aren’t the sole reason that the Liberal Democrats’ current standing is 8 per cent while Farage’s party is nudging 38 per cent for elections to the misnamed European Parliament, but they helped.
Clegg’s party hasn’t learned its lesson, issuing a leaflet picturing Farage and the slogan Stop this Man and declaring that Liberal Democrats are fighting to protect British jobs by backing the EU.
Their position that leaving the EU could cost three million jobs has already been discredited in the Morning Star by No2EU Yes to Workers’ Rights spokesman Alex Gordon.
The trade surplus that Britain had with EU member states before joining has transformed into a huge deficit, so the idea that the EU would cut its nose off to spite its face by breaking trade links with Britain defies logic.
Deploying tendentious arguments that Ukip is more racist than other parliamentary parties or myths about EU membership benefits to confound Farage plays into Ukip hands.
Communist Party leader Rob Griffiths, who heads the No2EU Yes to Workers’ Rights election list in Wales, is clear that Farage’s opposition to the EU is based on defending “spivs and speculators of the City of London from taxes and speculation.”
Farage shares that priority with all main parliamentary parties, which emulate his silence over public ownership, trade union rights and higher taxation for big business and the rich.
The best working-class electoral response to the development of an undemocratic, neoliberal EU superstate is a vote for No2EU Yes to Workers’ Rights.
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