Farage offers refuge to people frightened of the future

CROYDON COMMENTARY: This borough, like most of London, generally rejected the “appeal” of Nigel Farage’s UKIP in both the local and the European elections. But DAVID CALLAM thinks not enough is being done by Labour or the Tories to counter Farage’s brand of pub politics

Nigel Farage is not my favourite person.

I would prefer to dismiss him and his politics of fear, but I can’t because his pub philosophy has struck a chord with many of my fellow voters.

Croydon Tories' leader Mike Fisher: it is all UKIP's fault

Left scratching his head: Croydon Tories’ leader Mike Fisher could only blame UKIP for his resounding election defeat on Thursday

In last week’s local elections, UKIP did poorly in the cities compared to the rest of the country, but even in cosmopolitan Croydon, one of London’s most diverse boroughs, it amassed a respectable stack of votes.

Mike Fisher, the leader of Croydon’s defeated Tories, is blaming UKIP for turning him out of office: I think that’s too simplistic, but I understand his bewilderment. In my home ward of Croham, UKIP’s single candidate conjured up many more votes than either the best-placed Liberal Democrat or the most popular Green.

I don’t find UKIP appealing. To me Mr Farage is like Warden Hodges from Dad’s Army: I picture him, tin hat on, dictionary in a bag slung across his shoulder, keeping a lonely vigil on East Croydon station, listening intently for people speaking a language other than English.

It’s easy to poke fun at the Faragists, but for many Croydon people, let alone the good folk of Essex, Nigel is the light at the end of a long tunnel: a party leader who talks plainly; a man with whom you could have a pint and put the world to rights; in stark contrast to posh Etonian David Cameron or metropolitan elitist Ed Miliband.

It’s also easy to accuse UKIP of being racist, but I don’t think it is; certainly not in the way the British National Party’s bully boys are racist. I can’t imagine UKIP harming anyone just because they have a different colour skin, a point evidenced by the black and minority ethnic membership of the party.

But I do think UKIP rhetoric plays on some white people’s deepest fears. All that talk of millions queuing up to enter the country and to undercut the wages of indigenous workers raises some very primeval and tribal fears.

And so far, the major parties have failed to acknowledge those fears, let alone to try to allay them.

Take European Union migration. UKIP presents EU immigrants as people foisted on us by wicked Brussels bureaucrats. And the two major parties don’t have the courage to explain that Conservative and Labour have openly negotiated various treaties on our behalf that guarantee free movement between all member states.

Nigel Farage: pub politics is working because it is unchallenged

Nigel Farage: pub politics is working because it is unchallenged

Dave and Ed could argue that such movements are wholly beneficial to everyone and should not be included in migration statistics, reducing immigration figures at a stroke, but the Tory hierarchy is wary of its own Europhobes – MPs such as Peter Bone and William Cash and the like – who are UKIP in all but name, while Labour is frightened of the right-wing press.

Likewise, there are UKIP jibes about the proportion of British laws dictated by the EU: Nigel says its 70 per cent; the actual figure is 7 per cent of primary legislation and a further 14 per cent of secondary regulations. All those changes are also negotiated with British officials and ministers before being agreed, but Dave and Ed don’t mention that either.

And then there’s the money: 90 per cent of our contribution to the EU never leaves the United Kingdom; initiatives are proposed by each member state for programmes agreed communally, but the money goes straight from the Treasury to individual British initiatives, Brussels is not involved. That’s yet another point that Dave and Ed prefer not to mention.

In the face of this deafening silence, people who are frightened of the future turn to an apparently personable bloke who seems to be a straight talker, a safe pair of hands. In the European elections they administer a pasting to the party that dared to stand up for the Union.

All the more reason, you might think, for Dave and Ed to remain schtum: except that saying nothing allows UKIP to go on setting the agenda and that could lead to the kind of democratic disaster now facing the French.

The Farage bubble will burst at some point, possibly as soon as the Newark by-election next week. In the meantime, the half-truths and innuendo, which could do irrevocable damage go unchallenged by either of the men who are most likely to be our next prime minister.

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12 Responses to Farage offers refuge to people frightened of the future

  1. UKIP represents a protest vote. A vote by so many who do not think that politicians represent their views. The profile of UKIP voter tends to be older and having a tough time, just add up all those tiny irritations that Government has heaped on him/her little by little:
    * poor access to the housing market for them and their children, be it the rental or the purchased market;
    * increasing gap in prosperity – it doesn’t matter psychologically how rich or poor we actually are; relative poverty is psychologically painful and draining; too many people feel economically excluded;
    * a plethora of new fines for minor day to day infractions (or threats of): parking;bins; recycling; getting children to school late; taking children on holiday in term time;
    * parks built on; poor planning of public spaces; a sense of being ripped off by big businesses from property developers to utility companies who seem to be able to buy politicians to do their bidding;
    * increasing lack of job security.

    Joe Ordinary feels excluded from the posh white boys club. In Croydon in some wards it is difficult to make your vote count, you know a vote for a minority party is just a message to the effect that you really do not want the incumbent Party any more.

    Croydon is at a crossroads. It has voted for change. We must all walk forward offering more inclusive, open, and transparent government where everyone’s quality of life matters.

  2. I live in Shirley and I stood in Shirley.

    I walked every single road with Shirley Labour Team.

    I do not blame UKIP for losing.

    I blame some people in Shirley for being in denial: the incumbent councillors neglected the ward but “selective” RAs (MORA and SPRA) invited them to their AGMs and listened to their spin without questioning them.

    Some of them may have voted for UKIP in protest. It is quite irrelevant because Labour is now in control of the Council.

    Shirley Labour Party have a lot of residents seeking our help and we are proud to assist the people who voted for us. They are worth working hard for.

    People are tired of politicians who look after themselves and forget they were elected to serve.

    Shirley Labour Party is growing, slowly and steadily.

    We are real people, active and visionary.

    • davidjl2014 says:

      Hope you enjoy the inevitable rise in your Council Tax next year as your Labour policies outspend your budgets. But then you live in Shirley and can probably afford it. Others in Croydon might just struggle. Talking of politicians looking after themselves, I suppose you agree with a part time Croydon Councillor earning more than a nurse or a fireman. Didn’t see the Shirley Labour Party objecting to that.

  3. east1956 says:

    This was a fascinating election.

    The TV pundits have pronounced upon the collapse of the LibDem vote.

    Mr Griffin of BNP has blamed UKIP for stealing his votes, and complained that UKIP is racist against East and Central Europeans, but not New Commonwealth migrants.

    Conservative and Labour have cast around for explanations, and then listened to some odd voices (soon-to-depart Labour MP advising Miliband to adopt UKIP anti-EU sentiments and lead country out of EU).

    Nationally the LibDems are bewildered and lost.

    But in Croydon almost none of this is relevant. It seems to me that people voted on two issues: first to reward hardworking grassroots Labour activists; second to punish what appears to be the arrogant Tories and the apparent cronyism.

    The Tories talked of keeping tax down and giving money back at a time when the Clocktower Library seemed vaguely abandoned and grimy, in a poor state of repair; and parents are being charged £3,500 for remedial reading sessions for their children.

    And quite where among the long vacant plots and the luxury flats under construction is the booming regeneration that would address people’s needs? Some developers and their friends, and the Far Eastern investors are going to profit handsomely and there’ll be no trickle down effect because the money will be long gone.

    Cllr Fisher may have imagined some Feel Good factor, but I sense the majority feel a “Ripped Off Factor”.

  4. Jonathan Law says:

    If voting were made to be mandatory, but there was a “None of the above” box on the voting form , all you councillors, party workers and MPs would be in for a BIG shock.

    Most of the public thinks most MPs are a shambles – all out of touch “Posh boys” effectively wearing the same old school tie, and working to the same agenda, no matter what colour rosette you wear.
    All lined up with noses in the trough, listening to the interests of big business (usually not UK owned business) and looking how to carve up what remains of the UK’s assets for the benefits of others.
    Spending more time buying and renovating second homes to flip for huge profits (Maria Miller style) instead of using their energies for the tasks they were elected to office to do in the first place.

    In my opinion UKIP has scared the pants off some in the halls of power because they have voiced (without the aid of a focus group or a spin doctor) some ideas that have stuck in the imaginations of many of the electorate, and the best that the other parties could do was a series of smears and media attacks on the lunacy of some of the UKIP membership.

    The funny thing was the harder they smeared, the more the public’s interest in UKIP grew – Brits have always rooted for the plucky underdog it seems. If UKIP had actually had anything decent to say as policies that actually govern how the UK could work other than just the desire to be out of Europe, they could have had all the parties against the ropes (which is a sad state of affairs).

    Clegg who I had previously admired was pathetic in the public debate against Farage.
    I wonder if we actually need LBC’s presenter James O’ Brien to stand for office.

    There will come a limit to how long you can keep on rewarding the already rich and punishing the poorest and most vulnerable in society before something breaks ………

  5. davidjl2014 says:

    First of all they laughed at us.
    Then, they ignored us.
    Then, they attacked us.
    Then…….. we won!
    Quote: Nigel Farage 26/05/2014

    • So, your true colours are exposed when you attempt to make fun from a poem written about how the Nazis came for the Jews and other minority groups.

      That’s pretty sick.

      And to think Farage tries to deny you’re the BNP in blazers

      • davidjl2014 says:

        That could be considered libellous Mr Downes. Will be checking with my solicitors in the morning.

        • Another hilarious contribution from a defeated UKIP candidate in the local election.

          You have solicitors who work on Sunday mornings?

          Anyway, good luck with that.

      • My understanding was that the quotation “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” (which is what David was using) is normally attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, who believed in non violent protest in order to free India from Britain.

        However, there is a close variant of the quotation first appears in a 1918 US trade union address by Nicholas Klein:

        “And, my friends, in this story you have a history of this entire movement. First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.” [Proceedings of the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (1918), p. 53]

        Could you please provide the reference to a poem about the Nazis that you are saying he is using?

        • Had you down as being better-read than that, Peter.

          There are various versions of the poem, which is normally attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller.

          First they came for the Communists
          And I did not speak out
          Because I was not a Communist
          Then they came for the Socialists
          And I did not speak out
          Because I was not a Socialist
          Then they came for the trade unionists
          And I did not speak out
          Because I was not a trade unionist
          Then they came for the Jews
          And I did not speak out
          Because I was not a Jew
          Then they came for me
          And there was no one left
          To speak out for me.

  6. mraemiller says:

    I think Farage is an inevitable consequence of the lack of internal democracy in the Conservative Party. Cameron junked most of his party’s internal democracy in order to create enough unity to get into power in 2010 but as soon as they got in the discipline disintegrated because his party simply doesn’t represent the views of what used to be its members.

    He has moved them too far to the left and as a result the far right wing of his party has fallen off. There are other issues too driving this but basically he has created his own Tea Party by being too controlling. There’s only so much you can sweep under the carpet before you start to trip over the lumps …

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