There is an unspoken gagging order on those of us who are not bewitched by Ukip: never say its supporters are “racist”. We are expected instead to repeat some mantras about the failures of the political classes and to understand why so many have turned to Farage. Well I don’t care for gags or this unconvincing script. Ours is still an open society. We must not be censored or pressed into a chorus of approval for what is the British version of the US Tea Party.
What happened last week was not an “earthquake”. But commentators and politicians are overreacting and behaving as if it was. The Tories are leaping like frightened foxes even more to the right, and Labour is trying to do the same. Demented Tories attack the Human Rights Act and Labour produces a flurry of punitive, incoherent policies targeting migrants. Can they not see how they humiliate themselves and fail the requirements of high office? Are they mice or men?
Neither party can ever be reactionary or intolerant enough for those who have moved on to Ukip. Douglas Carswell, the Tory who defected, won a by-election for Ukip in his constituency. He is popular and trusted by his constituents and so he was re-elected by those who voted for him previously. He also, unsurprisingly, drew some Ukip votes. Since then, pollsters have been jumping up and down with various forecasts: the party would win between 12 and 25 seats. Out of 650. Sorry, I am not losing sleep over this.
In Heywood and Middleton, Labour’s Liz McInnes won the seat, but by a smaller majority than was won by the late Jim Dobbin. This is more serious. But what has followed is part farce, part political suicide. Instead of speaking up for decent, fair values and the thousands who still voted for his party, Miliband is being forced into turning against migrants and into making promises that will make Labour seem weak, lost, insincere, inauthentic and pathetic. It needs to find strength and be more assertive. Who wants to vote for a scared party?
This is the time for the leading parties to fight back, to expose the real messages and prejudices behind the veil of respectability worn by Farage, the darling of the media. The biggest worry is not that this “Tea Party” has got so far so fast, but that it is not being challenged any more. In fact it sets the political agenda. It is possible, and necessary, to argue robustly in defence of hard-working migrants and the EU, and offer decent measures to address the real pain and feelings of dislocation suffered by millions. I have never heard a single mainstream politician ask: “How would we feel if Spain – still in recession – picked incessantly on British settlers and built political capital on this ‘problem’?” Indigenous Britons who feel their lives are hopeless need to be told that Ukip has no welfare policies. Instead it wants low taxes and an even more cut-throat jungle where only the fittest survive.
Blaming the outsider when times are hard is a common human response. But good leaders step in to temper those resentments and hatreds. And good citizens avoid picking on these easy targets. Look around you and you see British people who are at ease with diversity, getting on with people from all backgrounds. They must be ashamed of the way Ukip has been allowed to dominate our public spaces and debates. On Saturday when I was on going home on the Tube, two couples separately came up to me to say they thought migrants had made Britain a much better place to live than it once was. They were white, middle-aged and looked as if they might have come to London for a day trip from Surrey or the Cotswolds. They will never know how their words comforted me after the week we’ve had.
A good number of Ukip voters think the lager-and-ciggies man will get them out of Europe and push the bloomin’ foreigners from these isles. Imagine that day! No more Poles building and cleaning for us! Coronation Street without black or Asian people! Baristas all “real” Brits, not those offensively hard-working Indians or Spaniards! That Indian or Chinese takeaway run by good working-class white stock!
Dream on. Will they pack migrants into trains and send them off to nowhere? Repatriation has, after all, been discussed previously by party founders.
In pictures: The rise of Ukip
In pictures: The rise of Ukip
1/8 1993: Alan Sked forms Ukip
History professor Alan Sked had been active in anti-EU politics for a while beore he founded Ukip in 1993. He resigned from the party after the 1997 election, concerned that it was attracting far-right members, and has been critical of Ukip since. Picture: Reuters
2/8 2005: Kilroy defects
Former TV presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk founded Veritas in 2005, after a failed bid to become leader, and took many of Ukip's elected members with him. But the party slowly lost its popularity and didn't put forward any candidates in the last election. Picture: REUTERS/Kieran Doherty REUTERS KD/RUS
3/8 2010: Farage becomes leader, again
Farage had led Ukip from 2006 until 2009, when he stood down to fight against the Speaker, John Bercow, for his Buckingham seat. He failed to win the election and returned to lead the party in November 2010. Picture: REUTERS/Kieran Doherty
4/8 2010: Ukip fights for election
Nigel Farage was injured in a plane crash on polling day in the 2010 general election, but his party increased its success in the votes. It fielded 572 candidates and took 3.1% of the vote, though failed to win any seats. REUTERS/Darren Staples
5/8 2013: Eastleigh gains
Ukip's candidate Diane James got the highest ever number of votes for any candidate from the party, but was beaten by the Liberal Democrats. The surge in support gave Ukip confidence ahead of local and European elections later in the year. Picture: Reuters
6/8 2013: Bloom kicked out
Godfrey Bloom, who served as an Ukip MEP from 2004 to 2014, had the whip withdrawn in 2013 after sexist comments and an attack on a journalist. He sat as an independent MEP until 2014, when he ended his term in office. Picture: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
7/8 2014: European election success
Ukip got a higher proportion of the vote than any other party in 2014's European elections, adding 11 new MEPs and taking its total to 24. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
8/8 2014: Carswell defects
Douglas Carswell defected from Ukip at the end of August, and was followed by Mark Reckless at the end of September, who resigned from the Tories amid rumours of many more defections to come. Picture: REUTERS/Toby Melville
When the BNP’s Nick Griffin failed to get back into the European Parliament this May, he said: “They’ve voted for Ukip’s racist policies instead.” This party has allied itself with far-right parties in the EU. Alan Sked, a founding member who later quit, has often spoken of these links and the dark soul of this party. Carswell and other defectors are now in with this lot, stained by Ukip’s xenophobia, which will not wash off. The black and Asian members of this party are similarly misguided and disgraceful.
So I say to the main parties, don’t roll over. Cowardice is for losers. This political malignancy can only be defeated by the politics of conviction. Most Britons have not fallen for Farage. They matter too.
There’s nothing less romantic than a big, showy wedding
We knew this already but couldn’t say – for fear of being labelled party poopers or sour oldies, just jealous of the young – but the “Big Wedding” is a modern calamity. It is stupidly expensive, showy, competitive, excessively demanding, unoriginal and shallow. Priceless love now has a big, fat price-tag on it. A public declaration of devotion has been turned into a display of greed and vacuity.
Parents are pushed to fund these extravaganzas; couples really, really think that copying royal or celebrity nuptials will lead them to marital bliss. Sadly for them, such splurges lead only to a waste of hope and expectations.
The economists Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, at Emory University in Atlanta, US, have carried out a study based on a sample of more than 3,000 people. They found that “marriage duration is inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony”.
Those who spent more than $20,000 (£12,400) on this one day were three-and-a-half times more likely to split up than those who spent around $5,000. Russell Brand and Katy Perry went off to India to get hitched in some style. Liz Hurley and Arun Nayar also chose India for the spectacle. The elephants, Maharajas’ palaces and sequins were great. What followed wasn’t.
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin apparently spent around £8m. Eight million pounds. Well, they certainly looked gorgeous over their four days in Venice, and one hopes this couple will stay together happily forever. But such excess is not good – not for them, not for anyone. Certainly not for marriage.Reuse content