Tuesday 21 October 2014

Ukip: mutton dressed as lamb

Driving a horse and cart through Ukip "policy" is all the rage these days. The left is at it, the right is at it, and I've been here saying much the same thing all this time. But as the Ukip website notes, these are not policies. They are announcements. Again we have the Ukip policy tombola spinning out vague aspirations with no detail.

One thing that has plagued politics since 1997 is the steady stream of soundbite announcements dressed up as policy, keeping the churnalists and twitterers fed - and rather than pushing a vision, politics is all done on premise of "fly the flag and see who salutes". They grub around for votes from wherever they may come, shorting principle for sentiment until what remains is a carefully managed brand image, hollowed out from the inside. Just like Ukip! Sounds pretty much like the old politics to me.

But Ukip knows as well as anyone that poring over policy with a fine-tooth comb is not something the average voter does, and thinking certainly isn't what Ukipists are accustomed to doing. All that matters to them is the message, which thus far is "we need to leave the EU because foreigners". However much appeal that might have with a significant swathe of the working classes, it is not a sentiment that will ever put Ukip in government, nor is it likely to win any referendum. Especially when it hasn't the first idea what it is talking about.

For a party so concerned with immigration one would think they would have published a detailed policy on it by now, and if "taking control of our borders" means leaving the EU, you would also think some specialist effort had gone into detailing precisely how that would be achieved. EUreferendum has already outlined how the Ukip position on this is totally incoherent, and if tested in a referendum debate they will lose the argument. Ukip's position is to take us out of the single market, on which livelihoods depend, is ultimately the fear factor that will ensure the status quo and it is an argument Ukip doesn't even need to have.

Moreover, the justifications for such a policy are hazy when you ask a Ukipist. Without having done any serious homework, without knowledgeable people able to defend policies from a common frame of reference, all we will get from Ukip spokesmen in the run up to a referendum is off the cuff justifications for stupid policies, which if exposed to expert scrutiny (as indeed they will be) will be a total embarrassment to the eurosceptic cause.

Meanwhile, the chief complaint by Ukipists is the disconnect between "the establishment" and "the people" but we still get the same array of managerial top-down tinkering we get from all other parties, with nothing that really changes our relationship with a distant and aloof establishment. There is no integrated platform of democratic reform and there is nothing I could identify as radical. It's just boilerplate right wing stuff in BNP clothes. But then I said this would happen didn't I?

Not that this matters to Ukipists. They now have a tribe, a sense of identity and a support group for their loser politics, and finally they are getting the recognition they have craved. All very well, but now that they have it, they don't know what to do with it - and consequently will be the deciding factor in us staying in the EU.

Had I know the party I stood for all those years ago and toured the country leafleting and campaigning for would turn into this amateurish quasi-racist, statist monstrosity I would have devoted those years to something more productive. Who would have thought that the United Kingdom Independence Party would squander every chance to leave the EU just for the sake of a few seats in the commons? What on earth was the point?

If Ukip hasn't got it's act together by now, it never will. It has unprecedented resources, access to knowledge and money it has never had, and yet still their output could have been scrawled in crayon on the back of a fag packet. If this is all euroscepticism has to offer then not only will we lose a referendum, we will deserve to lose too.

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