UKIP: The First 100 Days, Channel 4, review: it’s po-faced right-wing critics who look ridiculous

Channel 4’s latest ‘mockumentary’ has made the po-faced right very angry


The First 100 Days, a dystopian look by Channel 4 at life under a UKIP government, has prompted more than a thousand complaints to Ofcom since it was broadcast on Monday evening. It has also been thoroughly panned by the critics. “A sad, predictable, desperate hatchet job,” was how James Delingpole described it in the Spectator. The Daily Mail is even agitating for an Ofcom investigation into how the programme got made in the first place.

And so Channel 4’s latest ‘mockumentary’ has got the po-faced right sounding off like the po-faced left, which is itself quite an achievement. It is also probably what the makers of the programme had in mind from the start, for it is hard to believe that the programme was ever meant to be taken seriously: one of its vignettes has an imagined UKIP government making morris dancing compulsory. Calm down Mr Dellingpole; I believe they are ribbing you.

Though this is not one of the best, as with the best caricatures there is an element of truth beneath the way Channel 4 sends up of Nigel Farage’s so-called peoples’ army. Indeed, self-satisfied liberals though the makers of the programme probably are, you cannot help people being right for the wrong reasons. And right they are: the first 100 days of a UKIP government probably would be the shambolic and nasty affair as depicted by Channel 4.

UKIP supporters may sound like they want to take Britain back to a bygone era of tripe shops and bread and butter pudding, but really they long to return to a place which only ever existed in their own sepia-tinged imaginations. UKIP is attractive as a political project because it effectively summons an imaginary image of the legendary Golden Age. Not that this is unusual in politics. Even the Communism of Marx and Engels relies on the idea of a primitive communist society which existed at the beginning of the thread of the dialectic.

However in contrast to the far-left, UKIP’s battalion of angry little men appear to believe that one scheme of values and way of life really can last for ever. Such an outcome is obviously unattainable, and thus ‘Kippers’ invariably exist in a perpetual state of disappointment and frustration with the world.

Most people of liberal sentiment (and for obvious reasons most young people) see through this nonsense as automatically as a cow turns grass into milk. What they usually fail to grasp, however, is just how seductive the notion of stopping the world to get off is for those on society’s periphery. It is after all easy to sit at a desk in Islington, in a job you only got because you come from a good family and espouse conventional liberal opinions, and lecture people on council estates about the merits of cheap Polish labour and polygamy. From any coddled ivory tower it never takes long for the oppressed to begin to seem a little less oppressed.

But the most common response to The First 100 Days, emanating largely from the right, does what I have done in the paragraph above but takes things further; it sees the problem not as UKIP but as a ‘liberal metropolitan elite’. So Brendan O’Neill writes in Spiked that “Ukiphobia is fuelled by something utterly unprogressive in nature: a disdain, even a disgust, for the little people, for those who still wave the national flag and eat chips”.

In this universe, the problem is not so much the casual racism of UKIP as the sneering contempt shown toward the party by moneyed and cosmopolitan liberals. Once you strip away the veneer of anti-racism and internationalism from the contemporary progressive, all you have left is a visceral contempt for the corpulent and feckless white working class – a detestation which “makes every other prejudice in 21st century Britain pale into insignificance in comparison”, as O’Neill puts it.

One can certainly detect a whiff of snobbery in portrayals of UKIP as either uncouth white trash or the Conservative Party with the lid off. But there is an awful feeling that right-wing commentators such as Mr O’Neill (Douglas Murray and Julie Burchill also deploy this shtick) have suddenly discovered the working class only because its noisiest corners reflect back at them their own hostility toward both immigration and their liberal peers.

UKIP supporters have convincingly been described by academics Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford as the ‘left behind’ voters – white face, blue collar, grey hair; yet critics in the Brendan O’Neill mould show very little interest in how the white working class were left behind in the first place; instead the latter are treated as rhetorical devices to be deployed against the multiculturalist fancies of ‘affluent’ and ‘sneering’ north Londoners.

Since the 2008 financial crash, genuine friends of the so-called ‘left behind’ classes have been busy pushing back against the alienating economic orthodoxy of the past 30 years. And yet for right-wing writers who have made careers on the back of whipping up irrational fears of the nanny state this would be like chewing on broken glass, and so we end up with futile hand-wringing directed at frivolous liberals with their khaki sandals and hemp cardigans.

The First 100 Days is plainly intended as a not-very-serious send up of what a Britain ruled by a UKIP government would look like. The chastened response on the part of the right-wing commentariat is supposed to be something far more serious; yet it is the over-earnest critics who emerge looking ridiculous.

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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29 Responses to “UKIP: The First 100 Days, Channel 4, review: it’s po-faced right-wing critics who look ridiculous”

  1. mikems

    ‘Even Communism was intended by Marx and Engels to be a return to the
    primitive communist society which existed at the beginning of the thread
    of the dialectic.’

    Er, not quite. They described primitive communism but hardly aimed for it. Their communism was advanced, a form of freedom from wage slavery and material hardships.

  2. DexterGordon

    Brendan O’Neill & Julie Birchill, ‘right-wing’? C’mon James. Same smear that’s been used against Hitchens, Cohen and ironically you in the past. Dissapointing as you’re easily one of my favourite political commentators/writers, along with the above.
    Plus, I fail to see what the difference is in your tone to theirs. It’s just like you want to site of the fence that bit more.

  3. CGR

    UKIP have clearly hit the right spot to have this sort of TV programme made by the establishment trendy-lefties.

  4. Matthew Blott

    Rod Liddle also says he’s not right-wing. But if all you do is moan about foreigners, left-wingers and the BBC while using bigoted language in the process it’s a bit hard to draw any other conclusion.

  5. Guest

    Ah yes, hitting people, your obession, as you rage on at the left.

  6. CD13

    Had Channel 4 made the programme about the first 100 days of an Ed administration and shown food riots as the economy tanked and we turned into a poor relation of Greece, I suspect Mr Bloodsworth would have been a little less sanguine.

    Such is politics and why some despair of it.

  7. Leon Wolfeson

    Well yes, because there’s comedy then there’s stupid propaganda, the sort of serious stuff I’d expect from a soviet collectivist.

    The problem is the refusal to consider other types of thought, yes. Like, oh, leftist thought.

  8. Leon Wolfeson

    And that worked out so well didn’t it.

    Fortunately, there’s alternatives.
    The one I favour is a basic income.

    Suddenly, workers have the whip hand in negotiation with employers, people are free to form relationships based on preference and not need and nobody needs to go to bed hungry.

  9. DexterGordon

    Rod Liddle isn’t right-wing. He doesn’t moan about ‘foreigners’, he moans about ‘MASS immigration’, he does’t moan about ‘left-wingers’ he moans about a certain smug group of middle-class people who pretend to be ‘left-wing’. I’ve not read any of Mr Liddle’s gripes regarding the BBC, but I assume he’s complaining about the above group gaining influence in such institutions. I agree that sometimes he does go a step too far in terms of the language he uses, but I feel, whether rightly or wrongly, he’s more doing this to wind up bien-pensant people like you.

  10. Richard Honey

    Absolutely right about Julie Burchill. She’s been a constant ‘champion’ of the working class since her (brief) days as a Stalinist in the CPGB. But typical of our Julie she veers from ultra left lunacy to right wing bigotry. Well as far as I’m concerned she can stick her metropolitan chattering class contrarian opinions where the sun don’t shine. Meanwhile we’re out on the doorstep engaging with UKIP supporters up here in Yorkshire. Some abhorrent racists, some decent people with genuine concerns about jobs and services and a sense of abandonment. No supposed leftie ‘metropolitan snobbery’, no contempt, just honest and sometimes fascinating conversations about life in 21st century Britain for working class people. The issue isn’t white working class people feeling left out – we know that, but the Poujadists of Ukip confecting their ‘little people’ discourse to exploit this visceral sense of alienation. Surely even Pooter would have seen the comedy in Farage’s pretended ‘man of the people’ act.

  11. Ian Brannan

    What’s the big deal? Scotland has had to endure such crap for years for example –

  12. Guest

    Yes yes, it’s not right wing to go on about foreigners, immigrants, and try hard for anto-trade, isolationist policies as he decries anyone in the 99% who does not agree with him as left-wing.

    You keep whining about the BBC not being 100% a propaganda mouthpiece for your agenda, as you rejoice in attacking the “bien-pensant” – the British, who you dislike so much…

  13. Guest

    Oh yes, no comedy allowed in your NatSphere.

  14. Leon Wolfeson

    Don’t you be getting facts into this discussion. Why, next you’ll be refusing to say that there are Commies in Parliament.

  15. Matthew Blott

    I’m familiar with his defence – and I actually agree some of these views. But he doesn’t write like that, he always uses loaded language, no doubt to titillate the readers of the right wing publications he writes for (which if true makes it even worse). And when does he ever write about inequality, depressed wages, NHS waiting times? If you can find anything he’s written supporting centre left issues please feel free to post them here.

  16. DexterGordon

    As I’ve previously said, I see it more as a desire to wind-up the ‘faux-left’ than to ‘titillate’ right-wing readers. I think he despises the privately educated home county right-wing Tory as much as he does the privately educated bien-pensant London faux-lefty, aren’t they the same thing anyway?! However, which group do you think carries most ‘power’ and has the most influence nowadays, whether in the media, education system or arts etc? Personally, I think the later. His articles, like some of O’Neill’s, Burchill’s….and coincidently some of Bloodworth’s and Cohen’s etc, attack the ideas of spouted by this group – moral/cultural relativism, identity politics, PC garbage, multiculturalism, MASS immigration, anti free-speech, jumping into bed with brown-skinned fascists, ‘we’re all Hezbollah now’ bollocks etc…and not to mention a loathing of the working-class (especially white British and West-Indian). Very ‘left-wing’. I think the Laurie Penny’s, Mehdi Hasan’s and Owen Jones’s etc put ‘normal’ people off what is now perceived as ‘left-wing’ politics. Attacking, mocking, patronising and belittling UKIP and it’s supporters, many of whom are probably actually left-wing, has had and will continue to have a negative affect. So, you could argue that people like Rod Liddle (who identifies himself as left-wing and has encouraged people to support Labour) is doing more for genuine left-wing values by attacking and mocking in his articles the ‘faux-left’ who have hijacked left-wing politics. Pointing out to say the average Sun reader through his column that this group isn’t a true representative of left-wing views. Many I’ve had one too many whiskeys! It is a Friday evening.

  17. damon

    Brendan O’Neill right wing and against immigration?
    His magazine Spiked have championed completely unrestricted open door immigration.
    A little research would be in order before you smear people for the wrong reasons.

  18. damon

    If you want to understand why the Ukip menntality is the way it is, might I suggest a ten minute film about Croydon by the race equality think tank The Runnymede Trust?
    It’s on YouTube and it’s called ”Is Croydon Racist?”.

    A look at that will show you why some people look back to the past with ”sepia-tinged imaginations”.
    I grew up in Croydon, and whatever it was, it wasn’t like that.
    Note how they mention the different ethnic profiles of the different wards of the borough, and then how everyone admits that the place does have a bit of a bad reputation for being a dump.
    The people down in the whitest shouthern wards are the ones who would be most likely to be swayed by Ukip I’d say. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why.

    There’s an interface running through the borough. All middle class semi detached houses in the south, and street gang territory to the north. The centre of town being where everyone meets in the middle.

  19. Guest

    No, they’re not for people-smuggling, not for the slave trade, etc.

  20. make this country great once m

    The program was a total disgrace Design to destroy UKIP reputation as a Political party by making them look like evil racist Supported by the EDL . If this program was made about the conservative party or labour it would have never been aloud to be put on the tv this program was made to do Maximum harm to UKIP reputation by deterring people from voting UKIP its a disgrace

  21. damon

    Just read a bit before commenting Leon.

    ”One million new foreign workers? Three cheers!
    Down with the ‘cohesion killjoys’ who claim that mass immigration to Britain is causing social breakdown and environmental pollution.”

  22. Mikey B

    Channel 4’s “The Romanians Are Coming” was a VILE racist attack on impoverished and illiterate Romanians, biased, no balance and an awful programme. Imagine if they showed “Benefits Street” to New Yorkers, as life in London !! Even the title “The Romanians Are Coming” was like some threat ! Very nasty.

  23. Socialgood

    Love to see a version on the green cranks. It would be as mad as the Kippers.

  24. Alex McLeish

    We all wait with bated breath for BBC/Channel 4’s upcoming drama about Pakistani rape and pedo gangs being given free reign by Labour councils who are desperate to defend multiculturalism from criticism and keep the non white vote.

    Allison Pearson has already outlined a plot for said drama:

  25. Leon Wolfeson

    Oh yes, a free press is disgrace. And creative freedoms must not be allowed to touch The Party.

    There HAVE been programs made about the Tories and Labour in the past, of course, and your demand that your views be given a special platform, protected from debate and criticism shows your insecurity.

  26. Guest

    You keep on using that PC stereotyping!

    You attribute your views to everyone else, as usual, as you say it’s “normal” to have your kind of hate, as you claim that the far right are left wing, refusing to admit where you stand, indeed fighting honest in politics.

    Keep supporting right wingers claiming to be left-wing and attacking the left, as you love that sort of propaganda. Then you talk about the Neoliberal, right-wing Sun…

    Drinking is an excuse. Alcohol is an exacerbating factor, not a mitigating one…

  27. Guest

    Yes, down with you. And?

    My point remains, of course, as you make up lies about Spiked to justify your views.

  28. Guest

    So you want to incite hatred and cause deaths via propaganda. I see. You keep claiming it’s evil not to be like NK, as you demand only whites vote blah blah.

    You’re 100% serious, of course.

    No press freedoms in your world, no creative freedoms, facts only blah blah.

    As you try and use a rant against measured facts about the BBC.

  29. Samuel Hooper

    This is a reasonable critique of much of the right-wing reaction to UKIP: The First Hundred Days. And to an extent James is right, there are those on the right who have only “discovered” their concern for the white working class because suddenly they have found common cause. It is also true that the documentary is a satire, and can only be taken so seriously. And yet…

    The mockumentary tapped into a real anger about deliberate actions taken by “political elites” of both the left and right, with no consultation of the British people. Our present day democratic institutions are completely unequipped to govern this new globalised world, and while many people think their proscriptions are wrong, UKIP are the only show in town talking about how to meet the challenges:

    In short: there is more than enough blame to go around when analysing the rise of UKIP.

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