Five myths about #UKIP

1)The party is racist

Everywhere in the world, political parties which go up in the polls fast have members which have a maelstrom of views. It’s no surprise that UKIP is basically a  »popular » coalition of people not at ease with major British political parties. Indeed some of these people are attracted to UKIP because they are against the European Union which they consider responsible for immigration from Eastern Europe. This is a wedge issue that the party is trying to play  in some areas in the UK.  Difficult to see any truth in this stereotype that Farage (or his inner circle) are hating immigrants who make their life in the UK by wanting to live and contribute to their community in the UK.  Remember that both the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have a vaguely similar position on immigration especially since the last few years. Many tend to forgot this important point. Some Labour MP have even made comments in the past (for example on non-British hotel staff) which are much more xenophobic than the average of British politics including UKIP members.

2)UKIP is a  »libertarian » party

No doubt that some people who are UKIP members are libertarians or classical liberals. I know personally a few of them and they have principled values even if this sometimes goes beyond the party line. Many are younger than the average UKIP membership age being in their 20 and 30. They consider both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats as too social democratic. But except on some long standing party policies (such as smoking laws and opposition to the European Union superstate which is quite intrusive at times) and some economic policies (such a reform of fiscal laws to make it more simple even through the party seems to flip-flop on the flat tax issue), UKIP is a populist party. There is nothing wrong with that and there is this sense that some libertarians see UKIP as a way to  »kick out » the old dirty laundry. UKIP also have a mish-mash of policies to please (almost) everyone in their coalition. This makes UKIP similar to Beppe Grillo’s political party in Italy without the whole direct democracy concept. They both have the similar  »anti-system » discourse. No need to mention that Beppe Grillo’s party is now a very important player in Italian politics. UKIP could well do the same thing, because there are an sizable base of voters which want to try something new.

3)Only former Tories vote for UKIP

Many voters are not ideological. They usually vote for a given political candidate based on the leader, the platform, their local candidate or a mixture of the three. Especially in a place like in the UK, some will never vote for a given political party that they consider toxic or rotten. What UKIP does is that as a newer alternative,  it is making the party an alternative among voters of all three parties and especially among people who usually don’t vote or don’t vote very often. Of course, for many, Farage seems like a real person, the kind of guy who loves talking to people at pubs and who loves fishing. He is in deep opposition to any other major party leader which many people frankly consider out of touch.  Does this means that UKIP is a protest vote? Possibly in some cases. But the former SDP (and Liberal Democrats) were for a long time playing the same card as UKIP as playing the  »third way » card. It’s no surprise that UKIP is trying to build a local base first, as the Liberal Democrats had done in the last decades.

4)UKIP is against Europe

No surprise that some people in UKIP are British nationalists. However, even if the party is against the European Union (it’s one of the main points uniting almost everyone in the party), the party is not against Europe as a concept. Many UKIP members go regularly in other places in Europe. With the technological progress and the fact that’s it’s relatively inexpensive to travel and communicate everywhere in Europe , the myth of having a party of members who think that the world ends at Dover and who love drinking warm beer and watch cricket is close to total nonsense.

5)UKIP is like a British version  of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National.

Considering the specificity of politics in France, it’s difficult to see any correlation with ideas of the Front National and ideas of UKIP. UKIP is much more pro-free market than the Front National, this considering that UKIP is more for civic nationalism (aka patriotism) than the FN ethnic nationalism. Note that except on immigration, law and order and cultural issues such as opposition to Islamism, the Front National policies are more left-wing than the left of the Labour Party. Especially under Marine Le Pen leadership, the FN is akin to Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Left Front when it rails against  »ultra-liberalism », the  »market » and  »anglo-saxon ideology ». For a non-francophone, these are indeed weird terms, but it is something quite common in the strange world of French politics. UKIP is far more similar in this case in France with people associated with proto-Gaullism such as Debout la république and to people like Philippe de Villiers which don’t have a lot in common with the Front National.

In conclusion, being an humble spectator, I am probably much more optimist of UKIP than many detractors of the party or people who had quit the party.  UKIP is far from perfect, the party is really centralised in term of leadership which has positive and negative sides as entryism is indeed a problem like in any newer party which become popular quickly in the polls. However, the British political world is probably past the stage of thinking of UKIP as a fluke, a flavour of the month or as a sideshow which exists only to divide the vote. Let’s just hope that the party don’t become a nest for lobbyists and careerists and that the party have a coherent manifesto for the next general election.

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