My Britain exists in a padded cell; where the walls are plastered with semi-digested tabloid editorials and the floor is dripping with a shallow layer of bile. Complicated nuanced issues can’t get into my Britain. Our borders are sealed and our indigenous parochial ignorance is free to indulge in deluded nostalgia for the 1950s; a time when things were so much better. Apart from all the things that weren’t.
Released the week before last, UKIP’s Party Political Broadcast (PPB) for the May local elections is an absolute cracker. The slightly paraphrased quote above more or less sums up the gist of it, but the original is definitely worth a watch.
Credit where credit is due to Farage – its exactly the kind of Party Political Broadcast PPB that will work best for them. The tone is vague, reasonable, and upbeat. The cast is broadly diverse, though bordering on cliché. There’s the angry xenophobic fisherman, the fruity posh farmer, the stern old lady, the thick-necked pub landlord, the texting teenager, the mockney grammar schoolboy, a token Asian businessman, and my personal favourite – a genuine London cabbie ranting about foreigners and criminals and foreign criminals. Everybody loves a good stereotype.
The true climax comes at the end, when
tedious pub bore UKIP party leader Nigel Farage reels of a list of silver bullet solutions to all of Britain’s problems: “Surely its just plain common sense?” is his inevitable rhetorical finale. Which loosely translates as “Our policies are so self-evidently correct that their mere assertion should be enough to convince you of their righteousness. We won’t trouble you with anything so sordid as reasoning or facts – just vote UKIP and let simplistic sound bites save Britain.”
What’s most insidious about this PPB however, is how initially inoffensive some of the propositions are: Better schools, jobs, looking after old people, making university affordable, being proud of the NHS. Policies like these certainly sound seductive, but they are what Americans refer to as “Motherhood and warm apple pie” statements; simple “feel good” platitudes. The “What” of these kind of propositions are generally things most people could support, the problem comes with the “How”. I agree that politicians should work for higher employment, and for a better funded NHS. I disagree when their means to these ends involve something about deporting brown people, or repealing employment rights, or stopping the gays from marrying.
At the moment there exists a great desire among the electorate for an “Alternative”. Arguably Labour as the main opposition party are not providing it. We saw this in Bradford last year, and in Eastleigh in February. There have always been protest voters of gossamer loyalty – between 2003 and 2010 they backed the Lib Dems, in other nations they’ve backed Social Credit, or Reform, or New Zealand First – but they are growing as cynicism and anti-politics sentiment rises. The tragedy for the Left would be if the main beneficiaries of this were to be a bunch of reactionaries who think that David Cameron is a softy left-wing pinko and who are both confused by and hostile to modernity.
Of course the PPB also has a fair dusting of strawmen and unsupported assertions – apparently it is illegal to be proud to be British (rather than just irrational), Human Rights are a great evil, and Keynesian stimulus never works. I hope its safe to leave these in the loony bin of tabloid editorial fodder.
UKIP represent a cheapening of our political discourse, a wave of anti-intellectualism which reduces complex problems to the level of monosyllabic rants, and then lambastes beleaguered politicians for being unable or unwilling to solve them through the party’s own simplistic single-issue solution. Don’t let them get away with it.