Sunday, 24 January 2016
You win Ukip. Have it your way: full EU membership
If I think back, a very long time ago, I was at a busy Ukip conference in Scarborough. I think this was around the time when Jeffrey Titford was leader. I had a lot of respect for him because he treated people well. I think at that time the party membership was in tune with the leader, and despite having a very left wing social circle, being a DJ on the underground techno scene, I was never ashamed to say I was a Ukipper. It was a different party back then.
At the Scarborough conference, Farage was in full flow on stage, when an interloper came in from the back, shouting about mass immigration. This was one of the few times I have seen Farage look awkward in front of a crowd. He didn't want to address the question and in the crowd there was an unsettled clucking. There was a reason for that.
Ukip at the time knew very well that as a right wing upstart party it could not afford any accusations of racism - consequently, we mentioned immigration only in passing. It wasn't our thing. That was for the BNP who were starting to grow on the back of it. Ukip had an inbuilt instinct that we did not want their sort.
Now I won't deny, we had our share of goofballs, some who were insistent that the EU was a CIA funded Bilderberg plot, and that wasn't an unpopular view within some corners of Ukip. Fruitcake was in plentiful supply, but on the whole, the ordinary members were decent middle class people concerned with the direction the EU was going in. These are the folks who would have a tough time recognising their party as racist having not seen what I've seen around the internet.
As the party matured, immigration was clearly more of an issue. Personally, I don't think immigration was the real issue. It was more an uneasy feeling that the nation was undergoing a transformation for the worse. And it was. There was something not quite right.
It was a time of massive indulgence and retail was exploding thanks to a burst of cheap Chinese goods all purchased on readily available credit cards. The influx of Polish tradesmen were symptom of a spending boom which had been stimulated on the back of nothing all that tangible as far as anyone could see. We were creating money from nothing. When the 2008 crash happened, nobody I knew was all that shocked or surprised.
As a result, Ukip attracted a large following of hardline libertarians, fashioned after Ron Paul who had made a name for himself in the US presidential race. My own views at the time were not too far removed. The word "libertarian" even featured in the Ukip constitution and Farage thought it astute to dance along to that tune for a while.
However, the big secondary crash, killing off the Euro, the one that all the disaster-porn loonies were hoping for didn't materialise and once again Ukip found its fortunes waning. And that brings us up to the last euro-elections when Farage did the unthinkable - the political equivalent of invading Russia. Immigration. Those posters.
That day I knew that Ukip had ceased to pay attention to that essential message discipline that had brought the party sustainable growth for a number of consecutive years. In one ill judged move, Farage traded sustainable growth for media attention, gambling the party's fortunes on the implosion of the BNP. The trade-off paid some dividend in that he swept the boards for MEPs. But that didn't matter.
Or rather it did. Nigel Farage has always been a chancer and has never been a great one for detail or preparation. I can recall him rolling up to a venue after a long drive and give one of his thundering speeches without any notes, and without the media eye on us, it didn't matter too much if he was a bit loose on the specifics. But he never managed to shake that mentality. He felt pestered by detail and resented anybody troubling him with it.
That then explains the people he is now surrounded by and why we have the likes of Jill Seymour in place of somebody competent and sane. It was then no surprise that a party lacking a manifesto, no preparation and nothing but anti-immigration rhetoric to go on that they would find themselves in the media killzone and completely defenceless.
Worse still, the stronger the rhetoric, the more the party grew. And that wasn't a good thing. Because he was acting as an enabler for the BNP inclined to come out of the woodwork and establish a serious foothold within the party. They are now a force within the membership - and I suspect a good reason why so many have since parted company with them.
This growth was attracting a demographic that, as we have pointed out several times, has an inbuilt glass ceiling, where the more an agenda appeals to that cohort the more repellent it is to everyone else. And so what was left after the Farage gambit was a party not inclined to conceal its loathing of Muslims and not inclined to moderate their message even slightly. Even now, to suggest being politically astute is to be a "limp wristed PC liberal".
And so when aggressive Ukippers demand of me that I acknowledge that we wouldn't be having a referendum were it not for Farage, I am forced to ask what the point was? You see, having enabled some of the most disgusting politics presently in circulation, creating a crossover into Britain First and Pegida, we now have a referendum lineup that resembles pretty much the same one we had in 1975 - racists, losers, hardcore Tories, and Trotskyite whackjobs.
I grant you that these racists (yes, I said that word) represent the minority of Ukip but Ukip has not made any intelligent moves to dissuade them, nor has it been in a rush to put distance between itself and Breitbart which is only too happy to whip up the scummier elements.
Consequently, with Ukip unable to make the running for the designation, Leave.eu steps into the vacuum, assuming that Ukip is the asset rather than the liability. Naturally, nu-kippers think since the referendum is notionally their achievement that they have a god given right to own the message, rather neglecting to observe that they are actually the latecomers, following in our wake, largely on the back of infrastructure built by the Ukip I knew.
And that is what the last few weeks of debate on this blog and others has been about. A battle between the minority of very vocal and openly racist kippers and those who were with Ukip almost from the beginning, who have put decades of work into getting us here and have researched the issues from every angle.
A choice was put in front of Arron Banks. A dilemma. Should he break away from a grunting bunch of misanthropes and embrace a progressive message that can win, or should he turn inward to keep his adoptive tribe loyal to him? He could have used some of his resource and his personal connections to find out if such foaming ranters had any standing within the party but instead elected to retweet them so as to demonstrate his loyalty to the Ukip message.
In fact, it was a battle between the oldest of old Ukip and the newest of the new. It would now appear that the latter has won. Banks is in no way perturbed by his obvious Breitbart and Ukip connections and in the end, flies the flag for the Muslim hating baying mob.
And so in the run up to selection for lead designation, on the one hand we have a band of treacherous Tories with one foot in both camps, who can't even confirm that they are firmly a Leave operation - and then on the other hand we have Leave.eu. Continuity Ukip - with all that this entails.
And so unless there is an anonymous millionaire out there who can help us establish a third player, it matters not one jot who wins the designation - because looking at the two available options - Leave has already lost and there is nothing to play for. So I again ask Ukip what the point of all this was, and why exactly should anyone thank Farage for the poisoned chalice he has handed us?