Opinion: the rise of British populists, “polite xenophobia”, and dangerous propaganda

The past years have seen the rise of UKIP in opinion polls, and their growing support base is becoming increasingly apparent all over the UK.  Mainstream parties are in the news all the time criticising UKIP intensely with good points to make as well as weak political tactics and comments which are ultimately seen as “political attacks” and only aid UKIP’s campaign.  Nigel Farage, a political entrepreneur who charms the masses with his “polite xenophobia”, simplistic solutions, and exaggerated or false statements,  led the party.

The main attraction to UKIP is the radical Euroscepticism if I may call it that: the complete withdrawal from the EU, whilst “the doctrine of multiculturalism should be ended by all publicly funded  bodies, the Human Rights Act repealed, and Britain should withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights”.  (Jupp, 2010)

UKIP has existed for years and it has never had any significant political influence, with the most successful outcome being Farage and a few other party members comfortably being paid as MEPs to protest against the UK’s membership of the EU. However, the recent development in immigration scandals, namely the lifting of working restrictions for Romanians and Bulgarians has come to the party’s advantage. Tabloid newspapers set the scene in portraying a decaying future for Britain as millions of Eastern Europeans would come to take British jobs and Farage comfortably used the figure of 29 million as a fact to further ignite the fear in British voters, as well as stressing the very little control British voters have over their future and the amount (mainly fabricated) of laws that are made by foreign bureaucrats in the EU. A lot of this has come to surface in the debate with LibDem leader Nick Clegg.

Recent “political attacks” on Mr Farage included being accused by former party members of mishandling allowances from the EU, which were not used according to EU guidelines but migrated into the leader’s personal bank account.  The New Statesman published a video from 1999 where he pointed at games politicians play such as “employing their wives”. It is ironic that Nigel Farage is in fact now employing his wife with his EU allowance. The article is published here though the video is no longer available. The media frenzy was meant to expose the leader’s hypocrisy in criticising corrupt politicians. Farage came fighting to turn matters into his own favour saying how easy it is for MEPs to get money and not have to account for them. With his background he comes across and the honest British politician who knows all about the EU because of his role, however, it is ironic again that figures suggest Mr Farage has in fact not been doing his job as an MEP. As uncovered by the Financial Times earlier in this article it seems that he has attended only one out of 42 meetings he was responsible for. At the time he was accused by former UKIP members and other British MEPs of not helping them make Britain’s vote count in the EU.

As UKIP play the immigration card obsessively,  their new campaign which alluded to a hard core message that British jobs should only go to British workers unfortunately is not surprising. Today mainstream politicians accused the party of “racism” and some drew comparisons to a former BNP campaign. Cheap foreign labour is seen as damaging to national interests and the British public.  What British citizens who buy into this don’t realise is that UKIP is doing no more than dealing with a symptom of a larger problem. Having recently watched a documentary about the “black market” of labour in the UK, I realised that some of the problems are there because of ripe conditions for exploitation within Britain. The documentary uncovered the  poor conditions in which immigrants live, the efforts of the British and Romanian police officers to investigate cases of illegal activity and a large scale of employers breaking British and EU laws. My point here is, if the UK would focus on bringing to account those employers (British or not) who exploit immigrants for cheap labour then the problem would be nowhere near as grave.

UKIP however have no interest in stopping the exploitation of foreign migrants, but to use them as “a common enemy” that all British people must stand against. They make it personal to the British, they generalise the foreigners, they stereotype and use prejudice as their main weapon to seeking political power.  Over the course of history we’ve seen or read about so many populist leaders that we should be able to realise that the large majority have little substance to their claims and policies, and the only way to keep their position in power is through manipulation and abuse.

 

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