‘Surely you’re not going to write favourably about Ukip, Jac?’ I hear you plaintively inquire. Well, yes and no. What I’m going to try to say is that if we learn the right lesson from Ukip’s recent success then that lesson can be used for the benefit of Wales. So let’s first remind ourselves of what the party achieved in the May European elections. (Click on table to enlarge.)
The party won 27.6% of the vote, against just 15.3% for Plaid Cymru and only 28.1% for Labour. And for those who used to argue that the Ukip vote came almost entirely from disaffected Tories, the Conservative vote held fairly steady at 17.4%. If you wanted to be even more dismissive, and self-deluding, then you would have written off this success as the kind of protest vote in which people indulge at Euro elections. It was not. It was much, much more. ‘Something’ was happening. It was observable then and it has become unmistakable since May.
So what was the response from the other political parties to the Euro results? Initially, there was a stubborn refusal to accept the changed landscape of Englandandwales politics. (Ukip is irrelevant in Scotland.) Precious, simpering Leftists and liberals held their noses at the very mention of Ukip, as if it were unwholesome and repugnant, while many leading Tories tended to see Ukip members as oiks, the products of minor public schools. But that soon changed.
Because more recently we have seen the defections of a couple of Conservative MPs (with more expected to follow). One of those MPs, Douglas Carswell, has already won for Ukip the Clacton seat he vacated when he resigned from the Tories. While on the same night, at the Heywood & Middleton by-election in Greater Manchester, Labour held on to one of its ‘safe’ seats by getting just 617 votes more than Ukip. Ukip is odds-on favourite to win the Rochester and Strood by-election next month when another Tory defector, Mark Reckless, stands for his former constituency.
Finally, and very reluctantly, the other political parties have been forced to accept that something very worrying is happening, and it’s no flash in the pan. The growing contempt for Westminster and the ‘established’ parties is manifesting itself in increased support for what voters see, and welcome, as an ‘outsider’ party, an untainted, maverick presence that can shake everything up – and articulate their concerns. And there is one issue more than any other on which Ukip has captured the public imagination – immigration.
As I have made clear more than once on this blog, the biggest threat facing Wales is not fracking, or the lack or primary legislative powers, but the steady and engineered colonisation witnessed by every one of us every single day. It is taboo to raise the subject of English colonisation, and it results in being shouted down as a ‘racist’, or else have it pointed out that there is nothing that can be done about immigration due to EU laws on free movement of labour. Another argument employed is that as citizens of the UK English people are perfectly free to move to Wales.
Ukip’s success, and it’s focus on immigration, has not only legitimised immigration as a subject for debate, but it has even changed the terms of reference. To the extent that even Ed Miliband, the nerdy and disconnected leader of the Labour Party, now agrees that something needs to be done about immigration. This, remember, is the same Labour Party that not so long ago was in favour of unrestricted immigration in order to create a multiracial society. A policy that they believed would lead to better race relations(!) and of course, more votes for Labour.
The Conservative Party has always talked tough on immigration, accused Labour of being ‘soft’, but since regaining power in 2010 has done nothing itself to curb the flow. That’s because today’s Tories are not the patriots one would have found in the Conservative Party in earlier generations; the current crop contains too many of the selfish and short-sighted who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. In the view of such people immigration equals cheap labour, which in turn helps to depress wages more generally. Therefore, no matter what they might say for public consumption, and to hang onto their seats, if immigration is good for them and their friends then they aren’t going to knock themselves out doing anything about it.
This is the split one finds on the Right across the Western world. On the one hand, there are those that oppose unskilled or non-professional immigration. Then there are those that appreciate the economic benefits unskilled migrants can bring to farmers and others, using well-rehearsed arguments such as ‘locals don’t want these jobs’. Finally, there is the extreme Right that opposes virtually all immigration. Most Conservative MPs today belong to the second category but, under the increasing threat from Ukip, are being forced to adopt the rhetoric of the third. To the extent that a government minister this week talked of English communities being “swamped” by immigrants.
So Welsh nationalists should thank Ukip for bringing immigration to the forefront of political debate. What’s more, the debate now is not about legal rights – for ‘Europeans’ have legal rights to be in the UK – but effects on the host community. If ten per cent of the population of Peterborough being immigrants is legitimate cause for concern, then fifty per cent of the population of Powys being English should be cause for immediate action.
The other reason true Welsh nationalists should thank Ukip is for exposing the sheer bloody uselessness of Plaid Cymru. Last May, in the kind of election in which people say, ‘What the hell!’, Ukip was able to get more votes than Plaid Cymru; worse than that, Ukip gained the ‘soft’ Labour, or non-voter, vote in the south that Plaid Clymru claims to have been chasing for half a century. Plaid Cymru can now look forward to coming fourth at the 2016 Assembly elections.
Ukip has opened a door, but Plaid Cymru won’t go through because it’s afraid to point up the hypocrisy in the position of English politicians and media being outraged when a few thousand poor people turn up in a prosperous English town to take the low-paid jobs, yet condemn us as ‘racist’ for drawing attention to wealthy English people buying up our homeland and, in the process, destroying our very identity! No, instead, Plaid Cymru snuggles up to a party the SNP has all but destroyed in Scotland and cobbles together election pacts with the Green Party of Englandandwales and it’s colon representatives here.
With events in Scotland threatening the Westminster consensus on another front there has never been a better time for a radical Welsh party to make a breakthrough. Plaid Cymru is not that party. It never was. It looks jaded, even part of that now-detested Westminster consensus. Maybe that’s the price you pay for being ‘respectable’ and ‘responsible’, being written about favourably in the Guardian and the New Statesman. And Wales pays the price.
Having got that off my chest, let me end on a lighter note, with something I’ve wanted to say about Ukip for a long time – I find Nigel Farage and his gang incredibly funny. Let me explain.
As a child growing up in the 1950s one sub-species of humanity then to be observed was the somewhat louche individual who favoured cavalry twill trousers and a badge-embazoned blazer, or a sports coat. For neckware there was the choice of regimental / old school tie, cravat or bow tie, and above that a moustache he hoped would help him further promote the image of a man who’d done his bit of derring-do, don’t y’know. The favoured mode of transport was a sports car, in which our specimen would cruise around hoping to pick up ‘crumpet’. Despite his natural habitat being the Home Counties and certain areas of west London, this fascinating creature could even be found in Swansea, often at the more acceptable ‘watering holes’ on Gower or in Mumbles drinking half pints in glasses with dimples and handles. (Never a straight glass!) These they would obtain by marching into a pub demanding to be served with ‘A half of your very best bitter, squire’. (It should be noted that during this period many innocents were elevated to the ranks of the squirarchy without ever understanding how or why.) They seemed a hearty crew exhuding bonhomie and guffawing at lame jokes about ‘shirt-lifters’ and ‘darkies’ while slapping each other vigorously on the back. They were almost a stock character in English films of the period, played by none better than Terry-Thomas. In a yet earlier age many of them might have been remittance men.
Anyway, the point I’m making is that I had assumed this sub-species of homo britannicus (‘Homo’, geddit? nudge, nudge) had been rendered extinct by the decline of the English sports car industry, or Rock ‘n’ Roll, or loss of habitat, but I was wrong – they were just hiding, biding their time, and now they’ve re-emeged from the collective apoplexy of the golf club and the piss-take pageantry of the masonic lodge – as Ukip! This realisation has been quite disconcerting for me, even disorientating, though it brought memories flooding back. I suppose younger readers will suspect that the creatures I’ve described never existed. Believe me, boys and girls, they did – just look at Farage and his chums and you’ll get some idea of what they were like!
Of course, nothing I’ve written here changes my opinion of Nathan Gill, the Ukip MEP for Wales. (Pick up the story from here.) He is still a lying shite. He and his brothers-in-law – possibly others – are unscrupulous, hypocritical, exploitive bastards prepared to make money out of desperate immigrants from the ‘Europe’ they claim to hate, and then hide away the cash-in-hand income from the tax authorities. When they aren’t exporting dangerous used tyres to West Africa, that is. Don’t y’know.