Britain must take on Farage or risk irreversible change

May 27, 2014
Robert Chesshyre

Our political leaders, elected to provide wise counsel, are instead running around like headless chickens

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Nigel Farage’s Ukip won the European elections big. However much hostile pundits rake over the details of the minority of the minority of voters who supported the party at a poll ignored by most Britons, that is the bedrock of the current political reality. 

Nonetheless, now is the right time for those concerned by what Ukip represents to take on Faragism: we are sleep-walking into becoming a xenophobic nation, seeing dangers where none exists, sucked into a paranoia about foreigners, the European Union, migration – a paranoia that threatens an irrational and potentially irreversible change in Britain’s character.

Ukip, the fountain of these fears, controls no councils; has no MPs; if it has policies beyond anti-Europeanism, few know what they are. Yet the tail is wagging the dog – and how.

The reaction to Ukip’s success in the European elections and gain of council seats last week has reduced those elected to provide wise counsel and sane leadership into headless chickens running about promising to out-Farage Farage. “We must,” they bleat, “listen to the people; be tougher on immigration; have a referendum on Europe as fast as possible.” This is the terrified response of followers, not the courage of leaders.

Europe is unpopular, but few of those mustering to the Ukip cause have more than a visceral dislike of Brussels, having been drip-fed over many years all manner of stories about square bananas and Romanian hordes. Many wanted a referendum on the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, yet no one had the faintest idea what that treaty entailed. Somehow “they” were pulling a fast one over “us” and, even if the price was to become Little Britain, we had to stop them. 

This one issue has combined with the post-expenses scandal distaste for Westminster, and the cry has gone up - “A plague on all your houses”. Every saloon bar and golf club big mouth, every populist press columnist knows MPs are on the run. Essex man flexes muscle and those who should be wise and strong enough to resist instead rush to tell him he is right and will be heard. Anyone who says otherwise (and there are a few) is howled down.

Our political writers play the politicians’ game: the script for last week’s elections was written long before polling stations opened. Ukip would win and win big, and the consequences for the established parties and for the nation would amount to an earthquake. Farage smiled his smile and swallowed his pint.

Question: does Farage actually drink all that beer? The number of foaming glasses he is pictured holding would challenge the thirst of an in-training student.

More seriously, he is, of course, a one-man band (if you discount Neil Hamilton, the tarnished former Tory, desperate for a political home): stop the man in the street and ask him to name one other significant player in the Ukip ranks, and you will draw a blank – even from their (I hope temporary) voters.

Farage conducts; plays first violin; blows in the brass section; and, of course, beats the drum.

Commentators mainly report the politicians' view of public affairs – who's in, who's out is to them far more important (and exciting) than the state of the nation. Much political writing is simply gossip writ large. Which is why those who speak their minds rather than parroting what they are conditioned to speak by their parties – Boris Johnson, the late Tony Benn, Farage and a few others – enjoy a popularity beyond the reach of party-line MPs.

That sage commentator Matthew Parris pointed out in Saturday’s Times that hysteria over immigrants is most pronounced where immigrants are thinnest on the ground. Go to the leafy shires and on every hand you will hear alarm that Bulgarians and Romanians will “swamp” the nation, take our jobs, rob us in the streets. Go to London, the true ethnic melting pot, and Farage and his army of unknown candidates get far shorter shift.

The danger remains of the emergence of a hollowed-out party as a real power in the land with little but gut reactions to guide it. Those who utter warnings stand accused of being a liberal metropolitan elite, out-of-touch with grass roots opinion (in Hampshire? in the Yorkshire Dales?)

But before dismissing Ukip’s critics, consider: What would Ukip do in office – over schools? transport? the environment? even the economy? They are one-note populists: do we truly believe that once the last immigrant boards the Dover ferry the sun will shine again?

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Disqus - noscript

that hysteria over immigrants is most pronounced where immigrants are thinnest on the ground....Go to London, the true ethnic melting pot, and Farage and his army of unknown candidates get far shorter shift.

Utter nonsense. UKIP are strong in places which are already beginning to feel the effects of mass immigration. These include places like Rotherham of the Muslim grooming gangs scandal, and Basildon where most of the populace are ex East End and know all about the detrimental effects of immigration.

The reason why UKIP aren't strong in London is because so many of the populace are immigrants imported by Labour as their new voting class and Turkeys aren't going to vote for Christmas are they. The indigenous working class and lower middle class have largely decamped to the suburbs and the home counties because of immigration pressure.

Self defeating twaddle. It is the author spreading fear yet blaming UKIP for it.

You said it yourself mate you and your ilk haven't a clue what's happening in the country and why UKIP are gaining support.

One reason many voted for UKIP is that they disliked the media's own campaign against them, which was unrelenting. The anti establishment banner raised by UKIP was very tempting - the media are part of the establishment, and they, the main parties, their talking tv heads are held in general contempt. It's also clear that Europe is a sclerotic mess which is in need of reform. Who wants to write blank cheques for debtor nations, or contribute blindly to an inefficient gravy train? But I doubt that Essex Man or any one else are going to want to back out entirely. You only have to visit Bruges to see them all over there buying their fags, booze and other nice things. Europe has some benefits. If European leaders institute reforms, returning powers to nation states, as Hollande suggested yesterday, voter perceptions could change rapidly.

"Populist"? "Minority within a minority"? "Risk irreversible change"?

Who is this complete moron, who is in flat denial of the widespread democratic wish of a VERY significant proportion of the electorate? Had Labour or the Conservatives won this latest litmus test of elections, would he describe their voters as a "minority within a minority"? Methinks not.

More and more we now read of UKIP as a "populist" party - that is to deliberately denigrate and sneer at all those, hitherto unrepresented, people who have enjoyed very little choice in this endless battle to make our "wise" leaders listen to our concerns and acknowledge those concerns - at last we have some cause for optimism.

Nigel Farage is a very capable individual - a "consummate politician" is hardly an insult, although, no doubt, the current mendacious, obdurate, arrogant and detached incumbent of No. 10 Downing Street, David Cameron, would have us believe that Farage would not have been worthy to fag for him at Eton.

If I might draw an analogy with regards to the EEC vote of 1975 - let us liken that vote to a hypothetical example of a person who has applied to the local planning authority (we, the electorate) for planning permission to add a modest one-bedroom extension to his house. Without further reference to the planning authorities (we, the electorate) that person then proceeds, over the years, to build a mansion instead of that originally approved one bedroom extension. Would the planning authorities (we, the electorate) allow that to go unchallenged? NO!!!

"Risk irreversible change"? At last! Let us have that "irreversible" change" for God's sake - we simply cannot afford to have "more of the same" in perpetuity - that way lies ruin, as the Lib Dems have clearly and painfully discovered.

“Our political leaders, elected to provide wise counsel, are instead running around like headless chickens” Hear! Hear! UKIP got some 27% of the votes in an election where only 36% bothered to turn up. They were that “popular” that no borough/district even in the so called UKIP heartlands trusted them enough to give them control. I’m afraid this unnecessary hype & rather unhealthy publicity on Nige and his chums by the chatting classes and fickle political class is doing UKIP a massive favour.
The 27% UKIP vote represents a coalition of many fragmented views & narratives which any party with ambitions of government will find difficult to reconcile into a coherent policy & keep all stake-holders happy without alienating 73% of the wider electorate and defragmenting the 27%. In that number some think the EU project is a bad idea gone too far including & some excluding the free movement of people & cannot be salvaged even by reform, some see immigration as a whole as the issue (EU & non EU), some see non-white immigration as the issue, some see militant Islam as an issue, some just infirm, some just like the idea of being anti-establishment & wanted to give the smug political elite a bloody nose. Now that according to Nige UKIP is firmly in the so called mainstream they will have to find another party or join the 64% who couldn’t be bothered to go and vote this time around.
Credit where it’s due, Farage’s political genius (almost Salmond-esk) was his ability to tap into all those narratives and harvest the vote. If they like the UKIP program so much, i just wish the Ukippers had the courage of their convictions & put their party in charge of at least one borough. Nigel Farage says once he get UK minus Scotland out of the EU he will retire from politics and leave some poor sod to do the heavy lifting for a navel gazing little England to negotiate its security & trade deals with the EU, US, China and India.

Is the author as naive as he appears or an idiot,like it or not many of us have not embraced multiculturalism and do not want to,we are sick to death of our political "leaders" selling out our way of life to humour the vocal PC minority who live in la la land,no wonder Britain is a second rate power with these apologists "leading" our once great nation.

...don't forget, Les - these leaders are "wise".

...Aviator - your point would be relevant to ALL participants of the recent Euro elections, so why pick on Nigel Farage and UKIP as being, somehow, uniquely different from the others?

Of course, both Labour and the Conservatives, with the many "minor" parties, comprise many diverse and interesting voters with a multitude of motives and reasons for voting as they do - that is fine but not, seemingly, for UKIP voters.

I do wish pundits would actuallly talk to people and try to understand the UKIP phenomenon rather than hurling insults at it.

If Robert Chesshre had actually done so - or even bothered to look at what UKIP are saying, he might find that not everyone he so unthinkingly denigrates is a "saloon bar big mouth" who doesn't even know what the Lisbon treaty says, or a "xenophope" who "sees dangers where they don't exist". UKIP want controlled immigration and a a reassertion of national sovereignty - not a European Union that has a president and a foreign minister, and is committed to 'ever closer union' (all of which are in the Lisbon treaty by the way - if he's actually read it).

This article just reflects the author's bigotry - that is what needs "irreversible change"

Interesting point. But won't any reforms only be temporary, as long as the EU is commited to 'ever closer union'? And if Merkel is content to see the south of europe condemned to austerity, I doubt that the likes of UKIP, Syriza or the French FN will make her change course

Exactly. Also, why is it that if you don't want Britain to be in the EU you are dismissed as a "navel-gazing little englander"? Where's the logic in that?

I think the whole EU project says more about the lack of self-confidence in European nations, especially after WW2 and decolonisation.The narrative goes that we aren't able to survive on our own, we can't face the global big boys like the USA or China unless we club together. Isn't that a much more 'little england' stance?

Another hack telling the british how to think. Try asking the public before you rant on.Bad show Mr Chesshyre maybe you can write a book about Mr Farage it worked wonders for Thatcher.