It’s been difficult to avoid the UK Independence Party lately, the media loves them and has been promoting them so enthusiastically that one could easily forget that Ukip doesn’t have a single MP, does not control one local authority, has no representatives in the Scottish Parliament or the Notional Assembly for Wales, and is just a rag-bag assortment of fruitcakes and bigots led by a back-slapping, ‘Did you hear the one about . . . ?’ type you avoid at social occasions, a man who appeals to that section of English society which views itself as being a cut above the average BNP supporter. More couth, innit!
I say ‘English’ rather than British because Ukip is fundamentally an English phenomenon. Something we have always known, and was recently confirmed by research conducted by the Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change, the Wales Governance Centre (Cardiff University), and Institute for Public Policy Research. The findings were that within England Ukip support was strongest among those who identified themselves as being English rather than British. With the result that 29% of people in England told researchers they planned to vote for Ukip in this month’s elections to the European Parliament; in Wales the figure was 20%; and in Scotland 10%. We can safely predict, for reasons that need not detain us, those areas of Wales, and those sections of Wales’ population, from which Ukip will get most support. Which ties in with a well-documented and growing sense of English nationalism.
But this is very different to the English nationalism of the imperial heyday, or even that of WWII; for this is not pride in success, or even obduracy; this is something much more difficult to admire. It’s a resentful and hating Englishness. One result of which is – perhaps for the first time since the Norman takeover – many English now view themselves almost as the underdogs; beset by enemies within and without, those enemies having one thing in common – they’re all bloody foreigners. A nationalism that is both self-pitying and ready to lash out in all directions. (So beware! for in this weltanschauung we Celts – certainly those of us who oppose English domination – are little different to ‘bloody foreigners’.)
Worrying though that might be, there is at least a logical linkage in the rise of such a sentiment and the growing support for Ukip. That said, there are also glaring inconsistencies in Ukip’s position. An obvious one was highlighted by a letter in today’s Wasting Mule from a Derek Griffiths of Llandaff. Before launching into a paean to the EU Mr Griffiths makes the more valid point that, “Ukip is inviting us to return its candidates to the very institution from which it is campaigning for the UK’s withdrawal”.
My immediate thought on reading that sentence was, ‘Well said, that man . . . but, wait, isn’t there another political party in these islands that contests elections to an institution from which it wishes to disengage?’ Yes, there is, and how does this other party deal with the dilemma? The party I’m talking about is of course Sinn Féin.
The answer is abstentionism, which has been a central tenet of Irish republicanism for over a century, and is still followed by the five Sinn Féin MPs elected from the Six Counties to the Westminster parliament. Which seems to me and, I’m sure, many other people, to be a logical, and morally defensible, position. So why doesn’t Ukip follow Sinn Féin’s lead and refuse to send its elected representatives to the European Parliament in Strasbourg? After all, if Ukip voters are as sincere in their opposition to political links with the Mainland as Sinn Féin voters are in their opposition to the English connection, then there should be no problem. Otherwise, the fact that Ukip’s MEPs do go to Strasbourg could be misinterpreted.
So I suggest that, in order to avoid the accusation that they are just a bunch of two-bit chancers and hypocritical gravy train riders, Ukip candidates for the Euro elections on May 22nd should state in advance that, if elected, they will adopt the principled and ideologically consistent position of refusing to take their seats in the European Parliament.
P.S. For those minded to be silly, or hoping to cause a distraction, here is a statement from Sinn Féin regarding Westminster expenses.