Sunday 14 December 2014
Ukip: clinging on to wreckage
While there's a degree of media smearing going on, much of what we learn only reinforces what we already know or suspect about them. The overall public perception is that Ukip is a sordid little one man band playing to a misanthropic gallery becoming more populist left wing by the day.
For all the talk about Ukip being a party that dares to say what nobody else will, it has in fact chosen the most pedestrian, conventional and orthodox line to take on a number of topics. Gone has any sense of radicalism. Ukip has surrendered ground on the NHS sacred cow and is all but silent on the matter of welfare reform, which is in fact a policy area that ought to be integral to tackling a great many of our social and economic problems, including immigration. The more populist it becomes the more conformist it becomes by buying into popular narratives.
It is now so obsessed with immigration that it is more a single issue party than ever it was, with the EU question barely getting a look in on high profile shows like Question Time. We are told the great genius of Farage is that he has broadened the appeal of the party. But there is no evidence that substantiates this claim. Farage has successfully consolidated the protest vote but has maxed out the credit card and squandered all the political capital to do it.
Now whenever Ukip gets media exposure, the better part of their efforts now has to go into defending the reputation of the party rather than promoting ideas and policies. Their main effort is spent on damage limitation and cannot even hold line without having any policy to speak of. That would at least allow them to reframe the debate, but on current form it doesn't look like they can.
In Ukip we see nothing more than a squirming bag of loathing - of everything. And it's a huge turn off. Rather than offering a genuine critique it spits bile in all directions at anyone who is not of the tribe and brand loyalty comes before any sense of moral purpose.
All of this has been put before Ukip on this blog, inviting them to make their case but those days are over. I no longer seek any kind of explanations from Ukip or Ukipists. They are now permanently on the defensive and no contortion is now too ridiculous to salve their cognitive dissonance. I know some otherwise rational Ukipists who know I'm right, and have always known, but still cling on to Ukip as though it were a lifebelt in a storm. But it isn't a lifebelt. It's a waterlogged piece of floating wreckage that burns more calories clinging onto it than simply letting go and treading water.
As we wait in the cold long night in hope of a lifeboat we must do all we can to survive, and if eurosceptics want to survive 'til dawn, some hard choices need to be made because even treading water is preferable to sinking with the wreckage. Now is not the time to be retreating into comfortable delusions. Now is the time to start facing facts and to recognise that a new alliance of eurosceptic organisations is required to fill the void left by Ukip. Ukip has poisoned the well and doesn't care that it will drag everyone down with it.
I am told that Ukip is teflon, but the polls will not hold. A recent YouGov poll puts Ukip on 13%, and there is still more scandal and ridicule to come, and more own goals to be scored. Yelling "steady as she goes" as the lower decks flood is suicidal. Those still true to the idea of a an independent, free trading Great Britain can't afford to be associated with the Little Britain Party. Any movement to leave to EU will have to be promoting a bold, realistic and positive alternative based on something of substance. Whichever light you hold it up to, Ukip is not that. The Mr Angry party has run out of steam and what is left is an ugly thing to behold.
The only reason it will continue to limp along is because of the long years and emotional investment many good people put in to make it a household name but, now is the time to face up to the fact that Ukip is now a cancer on the face of euroscepticism and a spent force in politics. There may be a few last hurrahs to come but Ukip is a dead man walking. If we really do want to leave the EU we cannot afford to waste any more calories clinging on to wreckage.