The local elections saw a jump in support for UKIP, aka the Closet Racists Party (given how so many of their candidates have gotten caught saying horrible racists things) or as I see them the UK Tea Party.
Like the US tea party, at its heart UKIP are committed to a core policy that is simply bonkers. That the UK should pull out of Europe (and one assumes change the name to the Democratic Republic of Southern Britain). As I discuss at length in a prior post this would not only wreck the UK economy and alienate the UK’s principle ally America, but actually make the very problems that UKIP blame Europe for (often inaccurately) worse not better.
As part of the condition of any free trade agreement for example, the UK would have to take on board pretty much all of the current laws relating to consumer protection, trading standard and employment applied in the EU. But these laws will change over time, and without the British there to veto things, they will get written into new laws, laws the British will pressured into sign up too as part of the condition of maintaining this free trade agreement (as Norway and Iceland are forced to do, although generally as they apply stricter regulations on many industries than the EU they don’t mind and often complain about the EU not regulating enough, notably on Fishing policy).
A bad workman blames his tools and a bad politician blames the EU for everything. In my prior post I pointed out how the problems the UK is having with the European court of Human rights is the fault of the UK and its lack of a constitution, not the EU. Applying a similar litmus tests to other areas we see that many of the things the EU is blamed for is simply the product of conservatives and the tabloids over active imaginations.
Take Health and Safety culture. Again, as I mentioned before, while other EU countries have seen a few issues here, nobody is going around banning council workers from wearing shorts in Brussels or cutting down conker trees in Paris. This is largely a consequence of councils in the UK over reacting to the threat of being sued (liability avoidance) largely due to how the British court system works (a problem that could be solved by again bringing in a proper UK constitution).
Do the French complain about all those Terror suspects they can’t get rid of thanks to the courts in Strasbourg? No, actually they just deport them (again because they have a legal system that actually works!).
Do the Germans complain about the billions EU membership is costing them? Well largely no (they do complain about the costs of the eurozone bailout but that is a separate issue) even though Germany pays much more per capita for its EU membership than the UK (thanks to the UK rebate and the fact Germany is part of the Euro). For every Euro Germany spends on Europe, it gets several euros back in return in the form of increased trade and exports.
Look at Europe before the EU came along. Back in the bad old days there was scarcely any cross border trade and that which did occur incurred hefty taxes. German beer and French wine were exotic items available at considerable cost or by smuggling them across the channel hidden under the kid’s seats. Now you can pick up a half decent bottle of French wine and a couple of bottles of German beer in you’re local supermarket and still have change from a tenner. And in return the Germans are becoming quite attached to Scottish whiskey and I’ve even heard praise for English Ales from French people. Is anyone seriously going to argue with me this is a bad thing?
But what about immigration? Aren’t we going to be swamped by Romanians and Bulgarians? Aren’t they all going to claim benefits? Well first of all, the level of immigration from these countries has clearly been exaggerated by the tabloids.
And the best way of preventing immigration is to give the Romanians a good reason to stay in Romania. Which is basically why the EU wants to spend money helping them develop their economy. Notice how all those Poles who came over a few years ago, a lot of who seem to have gone home? that’s probably due to the fact that the Polish economy is rapidly growing (indeed Poland has arguably more to worry about immigrants than the UK) and should be up to the EU average in the next decade or so….while Tory austerity is strangling the UK economy.
And of course “shutting the door” will hardly keep people out (particularly when the Tories cut the number of border guards). Indeed with the UK no longer part of the EU, the Spanish and French will have absolutely no incentive to stop immigrants absconding into the UK. No doubt they’ll start running free shuttle buses to Calais in the hope that the immigrants sneak into the UK and thus cease to be a EU problem anymore.
And the truth is, as I’ve highlighted before, immigrants are good for the UK. Only a tiny handful of them actually claim benefits (indeed the benefits offered in many EU countries is actually much better than in the UK), the rest get jobs, pay tax and then usually move on before they become a burden on public services. Is half the UK immigrants? (as the tabloids claim) Not even close! More like 11% in truth.
Of course some would counter my above point by claiming (as UKIP does) that the UK is “overcrowded“. My response is bolix to that! The UK is not overcrowded, go to the Chinese East Coast cities, New York, Singapore, Tokyo or Mumbai if you want to see what overcrowding looks like.
And even if we buy this argument (of the UK being “full”), well then why are we subsidizing population growth in the UK? I am referring of course to the pesky little fact that 7 times more of the welfare budget than we spend on job-seekers allowance is spent on working tax credits & child benefits to help subsidize working families with kids. Or how about how council tax is based on house price rather than the number of occupants. In any country that is genuinely overcrowded the first thing they do is remove any financial incentive for people to have large families.
I’m not calling for a Chinese “one child” policy (not least because I don’t regard the UK as overcrowded anyway!) I’m merely pointing out that if you do feel the UK is overcrowded, the quickest way to stabilise population isn’t to go all BNP on foreigners. But get the people who are already here to stop having large families. In many European countries all state benefits relating to families are typically capped at two children. Some nations (notably in Eastern Europe) offer no tax credits nor any form of state benefits to families whatsoever. Again, I’m not calling for these polices, just merely pointing out that if you buy the UKIP line, that is the only way you’re going to stabilise the UK population (other than convincing a few hundred people a week to jump off a cliff!).
I heard a Sun reader / UKIP supporter once try and blame house prices on immigrants….I suppose we can also blame immigrants for the wind & rain too! I would instead point the finger at the UK’s “casino landlords“ and the lassie-faire polices on property that has allowed them to flourish. Many EU countries and US states that have seen a large net inward migration have not seen the sort of house price spikes seen in the UK. Largely because they have property taxes and stricter regulation of the private letting market as well as better social housing.
Another two favourites of UKIP (had to stop myself putting down BNP!) is potholes in roads and Wind farms. I would agree that more should be spent on highway maintenance, indeed the Tories have been up to all sorts of tricks here. But road maintenance costs money. Are UKIP proposing to raise road tax or petrol duty to pay for that? That will be popular! I mean I own a car and I accept its only fair that I pay for road maintenance. Its not fair that those who pay taxes but choose not to drive should have to put their hands in their pocket so some boy racer can better hear the sound of the exhaust on his Vauxhall Nova.
As I mentioned in a prior post, wind farms are one of the cheapest and most effective ways of achieving the UK’s green energy targets. They aren’t a silver bullet, but they are part of that overall solution. What does UKIP propose instead? Nuclear? As Ive mentioned before its more expensive and likely impossible outside of state owned companies. Gas? Running out, we’ll be getting most of that in future from Russia….via a pipeline that runs through the EU! (so the UK will need to maintain a free trade agreement with the EU regardless of what silly clauses the French or Germans impose least they start charging the UK a hefty “transit tax” for our gas). Coal? Remind me again, why did Thatcher go after the miners? oh, yes it was because she didn’t want the country beholden to powerful mining unions. Are UKIP going to go crawling back to Arthur Scargill and apologize to him and the miners?
Of course the fact that UKIP’s principle science advisor happens to be Lord Monckton (a noted quack climate change denier…who also claims much of geology and biology is wrong) hardly helps. It would be like the Tories making Andrew Wakefield (the quack behind all the MMR scare) chief advisor on Health or Nick Griffin as chief advisor on Racial equality.
UKIP are, like the US tea party, the payback for the decades of Murdoch’s wall to wall right-wing propaganda in the form of UK tabloids and Fox News. This has served to create not so much a lunatic fringe within the right-wing but increasingly, both sides of the Atlantic, a lunatic mainstream. One that could easily in the long term destroy the main right-wing parties in the US and the UK and all but render them unelectable for a generation.
But there is a silver lining for the Tories. Similar right wing populist parties (as I discuss here) in Europe have tended to be spectacularly successful for a while, but as soon as they gotten any real power, they’ve crashed and burned. This is not surprising given that, as I’ve shown with UKIP, their policies are driven by right-wing fantasies rather than hard headed political reality.
Good politics is good compromise, but compromise isn’t in the vocabulary of political ideologues like UKIP. They also tend to be they’re own worst enemy and often such parties suffer from considerable infighting and split at inconvenient times (UKIP were themselves almost destroyed by infighting between supporters of Kilroy and Farage a few years back). A vote for them quickly becomes a vote for dithering and squabbling and said parties eventually just implode. This is quite likely to be the fate of UKIP.