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Wednesday 14 September 2011

UKIP: Nigel Farage makes a Bid for the Working Class Vote

Admittedly, this piece is rather late in the day, with Farage having delivered his conference speech on 9 September. Still, it is worth examining what it contained for it could have implications for other parties scrabbling after the highly fragmented nationalist vote in England.

Farage appeared buoyant in his address, claiming early on that UKIP is beginning to eclipse the Liberal Democrats as the third party in some areas such as London and the North, as well as amongst voters under 24. Given that Liberal Democrat support has slumped to very low levels of late (many national polls placing them at 9% over the past month), this should not come as a surprise, for during the depths of the Expenses Scandal two years ago, UKIP enjoyed a brief moment in the sun when up to 19% of those polled claimed that they’d vote for the party. This support remained long enough for them to perform relatively well at the last EU Elections (taking 13 seats with 16.5% of the vote) but didn’t translate into a Westminster breakthrough last year, with Farage himself scoring the best share of the vote for any UKIP candidate at 17.4%. Nonetheless, Farage also drew attention to the fact that UKIP had taken second place in the Barnsley Central by-election in March, but even so, it should be borne in mind that in this Labour bailiwick their candidate Jane Collins managed to secure only 12.2% of the vote.

I have often characterised UKIP as being a traditional ‘Atlanticist Tory’ party, and this characterisation seems to me to remain pretty accurate. Indeed, Farage does let loose with a rather fogeyish statement which nonetheless contains much truth: “We are being led by a group of college kids, with no experience of the real world and who always put their careers first.” Noting with relish the demise of the Liberal Democrats since the formation of the ConDem Coalition, he stated that their name was somewhat paradoxical, given that they were “neither liberal nor democratic”.

He inveighed against the “betrayal of working class people in this country by Labour by pursuing an open door immigration policy depriving British workers of jobs,” and attacked the Labour “myth” propagated since 2004 that British workers are “lazy”: “There are huge numbers of good ordinary decent people in this country that want to work, that want to obey the law . . . [and] now UKIP is the champion for those people and not the Labour Party.” Although there is truth in this statement, I remain uneasy about aspects of UKIP’s economic policy which involve the increasing privatisation of the NHS and education. 

The Conservative Party too was singled out for attack: “The myth that the Conservatives will stand up for the nation has begun to unravel.” True.

Turning to an announcement of direct relevance to one of the small nationalist parties, Farage announced that on 8 September the UKIP National Executive Committee had taken the decision that the party should campaign for an English parliament. Although this is only one of the policies held by the English Democrats, it is one pivotal to their existence, so UKIP’s decision could have a significant bearing upon the future of the former party. Out of the two, I would much rather see the English Democrats thrive, as their economic policies are more in tune with my way of thinking, but UKIP has the higher media profile and more funding, both of which place it at a distinct advantage in terms of prospects for growth as the three main parties continue to alienate significant sections of their core support. 

Farage made a direct appeal to English nationalist sentiment, claiming that this decision had been prompted by “more than just the West Lothian Question”, stating that our leaders are “ashamed of the very word ‘England’” and that “We are discouraged from describing ourselves as English.” The UKIP NEC has decided that the only way to save the Union is to allow the English parity with the Welsh, Scots and Ulster Irish by providing them with a parliament of their own.

UKIP remains the only nationally visible non-toxic political party in England that could be described in some respects as nationalist. It has built links with parties of a similar stance elsewhere in Europe, including the True Finns, the leader of which – Timo Soini – also addressed the UKIP Conference (see second video below). Farage attempted to associate his party with the growth of populist parties and movements across northern Europe, arguing that this flowering represents the search on the part of peoples in these countries for a positive alternative, for “a new kind of politics”, rather than being a mere reaction to the contemporary economic situation.

In the wake of this conference, whither the English Democrats? What practical political space remains for them?


  1. Unfortunately Farage gives out an image of being a fairly comical figure, lacking weight, although I may be being unfair to him. His roots in Toryism may make him unpalatable anyway to those members of the working class who feel betrayed by Labour. But, as a democrat, and someone proud to be English, I have to say he is, at present, all we've got.

  2. Greetings Brigantian! Yes, I concur with your opinion of Farage on all three counts. So far as clutching at straws goes, UKIP is the biggest around at the moment, and could even be classed as a substantial reed. I wonder what 'Atrebates' makes of him? The latter hasn't commented for a while.

  3. I am a BNP supporter and whilst my party needs to be reformed and have a new leader I still couldn't support UKIP. The fact is they are only right on the EU question and Britain has a lot more wrong with it than just being governed by foreigners via the EU. For example, our economy is too globalised and we need to form a new vibrant manufacturing base to provide jobs for those parts of our country that have have been deindustrialised by the globalist economic policies of Tory and Labour. That way we can get people back to work and not rely-upon the State. The Tories and UKIP would prefer to moan about the 'dependency culture' rather than address the causes of it.

  4. I think he classes himself as libertarian, which is good in small doses, but tends to Ron Paul levels of Stupid if over-indulged. American conservatives love this guy though, and Darrell Hannan. Not just the message but also the robust and direct Parliamentary debate style of speaking - which is something they don't experience in their political life. Americans are much more polite ... maybe something to do with the guns.

  5. I am a BNP supporter but the party has a toxic image which is largely made-up by the biased media. Unfortunately, Mr Griffin and his cohorts have also contributed to this bad image being given some credibility. I voted in the recent leadership election for his opponent but he managed to scrape to a victory. The BNP under his leadership is clearly going nowhere fast and sadly he refuses to see it and go into retirement. I can't support UKIP though. Even though they are spot-on as regards the EU issue there are many things wrong with Britain besides that and they can't be described as ethno-nationalists just 'civics' of the most inclusive kind. To me, UKIP is the EU-hating, Atlantist wing of the Tories.

  6. Anonymous and Barry, thank you both for your comments. I am in total agreement with both of you with respect to UKIP's myopia regarding economics. It is unfair to blame our people for much of the poverty that they experience, when there isn't actually much if any meaningful work that they can do that covers the costs of commuting and keeping a home together.

    UKIP are in essence free-market globalists who hate the EU - Atlantacist Tories. Some of its members can also be prone to xenophobia towards our European cousins, which is something that I find highly distasteful. I like Europeans but dislike the EU. The two are entirely separate for me. Yes, the reality of changing geopolitics does in my opinion necessitate some form of close cooperation with our European neighbours, but not in the form of creating an unaccountable superstate that does not even seek to preserve the interests, identities and rich cultural heritage of its indigenous peoples. We however, deserve a bright future as well as an inspiring past.

    As for the BNP, I’m afraid that its chances have been blown. I’ve written previously about what I thought it needed to do to reach out and capture the popular imagination, because 90% of its policy platform would exert mass appeal. Alas, for whatever reasons, it has failed to take these steps and stands on the brink of annihilation thanks largely but not exclusively to Griffin. If it had firmly distanced itself from Holocaust denial and ejected those neo-Nazi cranks and conspiracy theorists whom it had held to its bosom, it would have flourished. Alas, this never happened. It also needed to become a party with genuine internal democracy, rather than the autocratic apparatus that it remains.

  7. The general public will never accept the BNP now, whatever reforms it undertakes. There has to be a new, clean nationalist political vehicle free of those who possess a fetish for Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s who bang on about Jews. Take the positive 90% of the BNP’s policies and move forward with them. It is a great pity that many decent individuals have risked their reputations in good faith on behalf of the BNP and have been so poorly repaid for their efforts.

    Is UKIP the answer? Evidently not. Its economic policies would be ruinous and harm public services still further. Is it better than the three mainstream parties? Yes, to a certain extent. How do we break out of our current impasse? This is the question.

  8. Hi Brett,

    Yes, the Americans seem to have a bit of a soft spot for him, as they do Daniel Hannan. However, from the perspective of someone from an English working class background, neither of these men seem overly trustworthy or to have the interests of the people as a whole at heart. They are very much men of their own class with specific class interests in mind, rather than being individuals who take into account the well-being of the nation as a whole, as an organic community. Naturally, this is something that the majority of Americans cannot understand, given the radically different nature of US society and political culture.

    As for your observation re gun ownership and the greater degree of politeness in American political life, perhaps there could be a something in it.

  9. Thanks for your reply, Durotogian. I am not just a BNP member but one who actively campaigned to get Mr Griffin elected last year in Barking to no avail. Quite a few BNP supporters and members believe Mr Griffin is connected to the security services and that is why he has acted as he has done in the last year or so. I don't believe this but I wouldn't be surprised if some of the people he has surrounded himself with in the last year (Patrick Harrington springs to mind) are.

    Whatever the truth is as regards these theories, it is clear that Griffin has minimal leadership qualities and can't take the party any futher than he has done; indeed his leadership 'qualities' are now actively harming the party.

    Sadly, as you said, Mr Griffin has failed to distance himself and the party form those cranks that have bedeviled it and caused massive harm to the party and more importantly the cause.

    Our country needs a credible nationalist party more than ever and we haven't got one in stark contrast to Europeans.

    I also find some UKIP member's petty xenophobia more than a little embarrasing. Whilst Europe and Britain should be set free from the constraints of the EU we still need to work with other countries in Europe.

    A good slogan for a new nationalist party would be "Love Europe, Hate the EU"


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