UKIP is a threat to Labour – it needs a serious response

Ukip symbolj

 Many wrongly see UKIP as a net positive for Labour – this is wrongheaded. Labour needs to get serious about UKIP, says Sam Fowles. 

Last week Nigel Farage announced his ambition, not just to be David Cameron’s “worst nightmare” but Ed Miliband’s as well. The general perception amongst the progressive media appears to be that UKIP’s increasing threat (aptly illustrated by the, suspiciously timely, resignation of Douglas Carswell) will be a net positive for Labour, making it more difficult for the Conservatives to win the next general election. This is a mistake.

All too often we see politics as being only about the next election. It’s not. Politics is about the sort of nation we want. Winning an election is a means to an end. That end is the principles we support becoming the principles that govern our nation. Elections themselves are not defining moments but the inevitable products of public debates. They are won and lost in the collective consciousness, not at the ballot box.

Margaret Thatcher defined the public discourse. Although she herself lost office, every government since, including those comprised of her political opponents, have pursued policies based on the ideology she espoused. They view the world according to the paradigm which she established.

Here’s an example: Most good economists will argue that the financial crisis was caused by a failure of the (private) financial sector. Yet all economic arguments in our public debate are based on the premise that we must cut back on the state. We don’t discuss the logic behind this; it’s become an irrefutable “fact” of British politics. The “private: good/state: bad” paradigm is unsupported by history or economics but every political party conforms with it because it is the paradigm which defines our public debate.

To win elections but, more importantly, to see their principles realised, a political party needs to define the debate. Unless it can do so (as I have argued before) it will always be arguing according to it’s opponent’s terms and thus will always lose.

UKIP may prove to be of short-term electoral advantage to Labour. In the long term, they will push the public discourse further to the right. Labour may be in power but their principles will not. A party that is content to maintain power by implementing ideals that it should fundamentally oppose does not deserve to exist.

In the United States some liberals privately welcomed the rise of the Tea Party when it appeared that its effect would be to make the Republican Party permanently unelectable. Instead American public discourse was pushed to the right. GOP establishment figures like Karl Rove were made to appear centrist and reasonable while Democrats were forced to refight old battles on abortion and race.

If UKIP continue on the road to mainstream acceptance how long will it be before progressives in the UK are forced, once more, to defend hard won legislation on equalities, employment rights or the minimum wage? Rather than arguing for a better future, the left will be forced to devote all its energy simply to prevent it becoming worse.

So how should the left respond? It’s tempting to mollify UKIP voters, acknowledge that they have real concerns about immigration or Human Rights, in the hope of winning them back into the fold. But history should teach us that pandering to xenophobes only breeds more xenophobes.

UKIP supporters do not have reasonable concerns. The basis on which most positions in support of UKIP are founded are factually inaccurate. Supporting UKIP requires believing things which are simply not true. Pretending anything else will move the political discourse to a place where reality is permanently eclipsed by provocation.

There are real reasons that UKIP voters feel disenfranchised and these should be addressed but not in the way they are expressed by Farage and co.

In the 2008 election Obama For America destroyed John McCain’s credibility by focusing on the ludicrous positions of his running mate, Sarah Palin. Her most famous statement, “I can see Russia from my house”, came from the lips of Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey. Palin’s politics were absurd so she was effectively laughed out of office. UKIP should be treated the same way. A party which bases it’s electoral appeal on ignorance and xenophobia should be a punch line, not an election contender.

The enemy of my enemy is not my friend. Labour needs to get serious about UKIP. But the only way to do so successfully is not to take them seriously at all.

Sam Fowles is a researcher in International Law and Politics at Queen Mary, University of London

68 Responses to “UKIP is a threat to Labour – it needs a serious response”

  1. Guest

    Yes, you just don’t allow it. No Debate, No Problem.
    That you are denying knowing the fallacy is amusing.

  2. Guest

    Very little, and as ever you’re trying to abolish many of them, which you can best accomplish by isolationism.

    Keep attacking the EU for defending my rights far better than Westminster, and it’s your right’s austerity which has done the economic damage, not the EU.

    And right, thanks for highlighting the anti-discrimination elements as the ones you want to most abolish.

    (Zero hour contracts are nothing to do with the EU, of course, and of course you’re worried about foreign crimes being extraditable!

  3. Guest

    Screaming at the top of your voice. You are agressive in your argument, and your langiage harsh because you’re a thug. You’re here to disrupt the conversation, no more.

    Then you deny your political stance (trying to suppress debate), and your absolute panic at the thought of allowing paying students and businessmen on work visits into the country is entirely typical.

    You want to smash all immigration from the 99%, I get it, skilled and unskilled. And you hate your family, well, your issues.

    And I see, you’re so rich you employ bankers. Well. No, you don’t contribute (i.e. pay tax) and are not accountable. No surprise you’d deny the poor, however, changing the UK into a totalitarian state rather than pay tax.

    No surprise you’re also protectionist of your own industries, and hate democracy, the UKIP is about handing ever-more power to people like you, at the expense of Britain, as you rage against the existence of a middle class.

    I don’t want you to turn this country into a wasteland, with people like you, and then the 99% slaving away for very little money. Strangely enough.

    You’re a vulgar libertarian and anti-democrat.

  4. Guest

    How dare the truth be told!

  5. Guest

    Yes, you explain your issues. You keep living the good life. Making excuses, as you call the 99% stupid. Then you contradict yourself.

    Then you make more excuses.

  6. Sam_Beresford

    Yeah, well you are a rich aristo-Marxist, you think just because you can fly and you have blue wings that you can impose your views on the 99%.

    You are a xylophone, a cochon d’inde, an opportunist, a bashi bazook! You hate your distant relatives, and prefer tea to coffee because you are an imperialist.

    You scream about bankers, but you are without doubt the Governor of the Bank of England. The invasion of Iraq was your fault; so was the Irish Potato Famine.

    You want to turn this country into a Gulag run by your Management Consulting friends, where the poor suffer and die just so you can have a lilac coloured car rather than a red one.

    You are a sleazy anarcho-eco-fascist, and a Tsarist stooge. You faked the moon landing.

  7. Sam_Beresford

    TC is speaking the truth – you just can’t see it because you wear black socks with white shoes

  8. Sam_Beresford

    You criticise holidays, Guest, because the slaves in your plantation are forced to wear pink petticoats and sing the Marseillaise

  9. Sam_Beresford

    You love austerity, Guest, because it is the name of the summer camp where you train your pet dogs to tap dance

  10. Sam_Beresford

    You are a 5th columnist of the National Front, Guest, because you hope to turn Britain into AirShip One where you and your crazy friends insist that we all brush our teeth with Champagne, while you smash the workers with your feather duster, whistling.

  11. Sam_Beresford

    If it wasn’t for you, everyone would be ten feet tall

  12. Sam_Beresford

    You can’t even spell fallacy, Guest. You want to wipe out the tiger and the sparrow hawk – racist. If you had your way, you would invite Ed Miliband round for tea and force him to listen to a lengthy audiobook of Enoch Powell’s speeches. With you in charge, there would be a new ice age.

  13. wj

    SECONDED

  14. sarntcrip

    in local and euro elections granted tere is no evidence that aGE WILL SEE A GROUNDSWELL OF LABOUR SUPPORT WILL GO TO UKIPSOME MAYBE FOOLED BYTHE BEER SWILLING MILLIONAIRE FROM THE CITY WITH TE SILVER TONGUE BUT ONLY A HANDFUL IF ANY WILL BE LABOUR, DREAM ON KIPPERS

  15. sarntcrip

    KICK RACISTS OUT OF BRITAIN

  16. sarntcrip

    EVIDENCE WHERE’S YOURS FOR SUGGESTING LABOUR VOTERS AND MPS ARE MOVING TO UKP IT IS RUBBISH TODAY’S POLL PUTS LABOUR 6 POINTS AHEAD OF THE TORIES WHICH WOULD= AN OVERALL MAJORITY IN THE REGION OF 80

  17. sarntcrip

    PEOPLE OF WORKING CLASS STOCK, NO LONGER HAVE TO GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY MANY ARE SALES PEOPLE MILLIONS WORK IN OFFICESYOU FORGOT THATCHERITES LIKE FARAGE CLOSED TE MINES AND DESTROYED THEIR COMMUNITIES BY NOT REPLACING THE JOBS FIRSTTHIS SAW MANY’WORKING CLASS TORIES, WHO DID GET TEIR HANDS DIRTY REALISE THEY’D BEEN HOODWINKED INTO PRPOERTY OWNERSHIP AND MORTGAGES IN ORDERTO EMASCULATE THE UNIONS BECAUSE ALONG WITH STRANGLED WORJKERS RIGHTSWITH A MORTGAGE POTRACTEDSRIKE ACTIONEVEN WHEN UTTERLY JUSTIFIED COULD HAVE THOSE WORKERS LOSE THEIR HOMES WHICH MILLIONS DID IN THE 80s when tory incompetence again lead to a cras which saw te agony of reposession rightly once bitten twice shy many tory working class voters never did and never will go back tothemand as ukip are the same few will gotothem

  18. wj

    Do you really mark up your own posts – desperate stuff.

Leave a Reply