Shocking news this weekend, from the Daily Mirror’s sharp expose of Ukip – key figures in the grass roots are homophobic bigots, and others have racist tendencies. Shocked, I am. Gobsmacked.
Expose is too strong a word here; not to do down the Mirror’s excellent work, but ‘ringaround’ or ‘idle browse’ would probably suffice. All they really did was visit Ukip's fairly open Members’ Forum, and read what people were typing. Putting aside my genuine amazement that this gaggle of unreconstructed paleo-Tories have managed to work their computer machines, I am markedly less amazed that the body of UKIP activists should contain such predictable opinions.
Learning the hard way
Which opinions? Well, per the Mirror, one Dr Julia Gasper, the party’s branch chair in Oxford, ‘branded gay rights a “lunatic’s charter” and claimed some homosexuals prefer sex with animals. She is said to have added: “As for the links between homosexuality and paedophilia, there is so much evidence that even a full-length book could hardly do justice to the ¬subject.”’
There are others, of course, lots of whom are clearly either too clever to put their nasty opinions online or too stupid.
Quite uncannily, the forum is now down for maintenance ‘until further notice’.
Anyway it seems that after its recent blizzard of good publicity and better polling, the party’s masks are slipping. Olly Neville, UKIP’s erstwhile youth leader, was forced out by the bigwigs after coming out in support of gay marriage, claiming that ‘the party chairman, Steve Crowther, emailed me telling me “your stated position on Gay Marriage is quite simply completely at odds with the Party's policy.”’
These kerfuffles amply demonstrate Ukip’s unfitness for the big leagues: you have to expect, as a political party, the same levels of public scrutiny as the major parties once you reach polling parity with them. You can’t maintain lackadaisical selection policies for your regional officials if you’re expecting people actually to vote for you in any quantity. That’s why Westminster’s backbenches are so uniformly asinine: if you pick ‘characters’, you’re going to come a cropper.
Ukip is now learning this the hard way, like the frothing neo-feudalist cowboys that they are, as more and more of their ‘flamboyant’, ‘opinionated’ rank and file show their true colours (white, inevitably). They were always going to eat themselves up eventually, but the pace at which they’re falling from grace is rattling my eyeballs.
Ukip has always been an uneasy coalition of two broad types of buffoon – gimlet-eyed turbo-Thatcherite libertarians and swivel-eyed little-Englander Nimbys with great big woodies for the Empire as was. They were really only ever united by their loathing for meddling Eurocrats – an asset when they were a save-the-pound single issue pressure party, but a great, glaring demerit now they’re trying to bash together a party platform subtler than ‘sod the Frogs’.
Out of step
The bigots, at least, are just bigots. They’re completely out of step with public opinion on every social issue, and not even the right wing press will let itself be seen endorsing them. They’ve hated themselves out of contention. It’s the economic extremists we need to worry about. Don’t assume that cuddly old Olly Neville is a nicer proposition, just because he supports gay marriage. He’s still a libertarian, which means he’s still a fanatic after all.
He’s got Ron bloody Paul as his Twitter background (I have a mischievous cat, FYI), the calling card of an economic illiterate. Libertarianism is all rightwing id – slash taxes, stress personal responsibility, buy more guns. It cares nothing for society or economic reality; instead it advocates untested far-right wank-fantasy under the tinfoil umbrella of privatisation, the channelling of all the wealth into as few hands as possible, and a concerted hatred of the poor (more or less everyone, if they get their way).
That’s what makes this premature Ukip implosion such a shame. I would have loved for them to stick around and sap Tory vote and unity: they’d have fought like anarcho-syndicalist crabs in a bucket. Now, instead, they’ll shake themselves apart and fall back into the arms of mummy, allowing Cameron to reconsolidate, infesting the Conservatives with more anti-tax buffoons and corporatist lickspittles, before forcing him and his policy-makers further rightward, giving what remains of society that bit extra of a kick on the way down.Reuse content