No, Nigel Farage, UKIP is not a ‘radical’ party – about immigration or anything else

Old soap in a new box won't make your clothes any whiter


Failed parliamentary candidate Nigel Farage carries forth his campaign against his party’s only MP today, accusing ex-Tory Douglas Carswell of opposing a ‘radical’ stance on immigration. He spake thus:

“There have been some in UKIP who want to turn us into a mainstream political party with very bland messages and I would say UKIP is a radical party or it is nothing.

Mr Toad is right about UKIP not being ‘bland’. One thing you can’t say about a party whose leader claimed Africans were bringing HIV into Britain during a general election debate is that such a party lacks flavour.

But there’s nothing ‘radical’ about UKIP or any of its policies.

The word radical has a very specific meaning in politics. It refers to the tradition of Whig reformists like John Wilkes in the late 18th century, of the Chartist movement in the 19th, and other left or progressive thrusts in world politics, from socialism to fabianism to the trade union movement.

UKIP quite obviously has nothing to do with this tradition. The party’s strange brew of Thatcherite socio-economics, high Tory law and order, cartoon patriotism, and late Weimar xenophobia are not even radical in a literal sense.

It’s not ‘cutting to the root’ of current arrangements to increase the power of the powerful and punish the vulnerable in the hope of restoring a mythical glorious past. At best it’s more of the same only worse, and at worst it’s flat out reactionary.

This was well put in a piece by David Osland for Left Foot Forward back in February 2015 about why British-born ISIS creep Mohammed ‘Jihadi John’ Emwazi should not be referred to as ‘radical’. Of Emwazi and co.’s murder campaign in Syria, Osland wrote:

“To brand such actions as ‘radical’ runs against every usual connotation of a word coined by a whig politician in 1797 to describe a demand for electoral reform.”

While the term ‘radical right’ is sometimes used for what we learnt last year (erroneously) to call ‘populism’ – the Front National in France, for example – it remains something of an oxymoron.

UKIP is and has always been a reactionary party, though, like so many nowadays, it likes to dress itself up in left-sounding rhetoric, trashing ‘elites’ (except the ones it likes) and lauding ‘ordinary people’ (except the ones who vote the wrong way, criticise the party, or otherwise dissent).

If UKIP is, as Farage says, ‘a radical party or it is nothing’, we could happily plump for the latter, though such a conclusion feels premature.

For the sake of clarity, it would be welcome if right-wingers would drop the ‘radical’ posturing and embrace the mantle of reaction. But then, if these reactionaries were really as straight-talking as they profess, their public appeal would be curbed rather sharply.

Sadly, they know people don’t want to buy old soap suds – especially the kind which are proven to rot your machine – and have to package themselves as the best brand for your children’s clothes, promising satisfaction in new and exciting colours.

One job of the left is to expose this little piece of consumer fraud for what it is, and subject these snake-oil salesmen to the ridicule and contempt they so roundly deserve.

Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13 

See: Anti-elitist UKIP leaders squabble over peerage, power and media profile

See: Trumpish populists are the snake oil salesmen of today

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