Posts Tagged ‘UKIP’

While politicos and pundits throw around statistics and debate policy, a great number of people are feeling right now the way I feel on match days – bored.

Photo: Bart Heird (www.flickr.com/photos/chicagobart)

Photo: Bart Heird (www.flickr.com/photos/chicagobart)

Every election I find myself trying to convince people I know to go out and vote, and every time I hear this argument: they’re all the same, none of them represent me.

At this point, some would try and push their party of choice, while others might try and give an unbiased account of each side. My problem is, I kind of get the argument.

In 2010, those who weren’t voting Labour or Conservative had a moderate third option in the Liberal Democrats and their centre-left manifesto.

But five years later, any Liberal manifesto is a risky proposition. Enacting higher tuition fees, party brass made clear that pre-election pledges count for nothing until Clegg gets a majority – a notion so far-fetched that the Dems can promise whatever they want.

Nor have teams red and blue become more attractive in the meantime. National debt, soaring under Labour, reached giddy new heights under the Coalition and though the economy is growing, so is wealth inequality, foodbank use and insecure employment.

Small parties offer one alternative, but each has its electoral baggage – from bigots to hippies – and you can only do so much to separate the two.

In any case, all options would require me to settle. Where I agree with a party on one thing, it’s negated by disagreement elsewhere. Besides, my vote makes precisely no difference in my staunchly Tory constituency.

If all this seems to be building to some puerile argument for refusing to take part altogether, rest assured it’s not, I’m simply saying we should vote for Batman.

A self-starter, the aforementioned Bruce Wayne recovered from personal tragedy and built a business empire, he recognises the value of investing in technology and takes a hardline on crime. He’s community minded.

I mean, I only saw the films, but that’s what I got from it.

Granted, he’s a fictional character – one that’s ominously quiet about the deficit and foreign policy – yet if I’m wasting my vote anyway, why not make a point of it?

With any other approach, it’s an all-or-nothing game. Don’t vote and you appear not to care, however principled your abstention. Vote for a party and you may as well support it heart and soul.

In my university days, there was a way to take part in student democracy without voting for the self-important twerps who’d plastered their faces on every building.

His name was RON, meaning re-open nominations, and every year he ran for every position. He never won, but I liked his resilience and, like Batman, he had a use.

Those in power don’t concern themselves with non-voters. It’s no coincidence that so much policy is geared towards older people, who hit the polling booths in big numbers, while so little is aimed at young people, who don’t.

Snub the polls and they’ll govern like you aren’t watching, snub the parties and they’ll know that you are.

By voting for Batman – or more accurately, by scrawling the bat logo over the whole paper – you say: “Yes, I’ll vote, but not for any of this lot.”

The details are hazy; I forget the reason for the party or how the conversation had turned to my education, but what I remember is the interruption – or at least the gist of it. From across the room came the semi-inebriated voice, “well what good is an English degree?”

Art and literature

Photo: Beki Dambrauskas

The speaker, a law student whose mouth would share its last load of bile with the toilet, continued: “All I ever see English students doing is reading books.”

Just one reply occurred to me, “and what did anyone ever learn from those?”

In hindsight, only a bad or hypocritical law student could have made the criticism in the first place, but the original point – however clumsily made – is not an uncommon one: that some educations are not worth having.

This week, Nigel Farage has announced a new UKIP policy. If elected, his party would ensure those studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) do not pay tuition fees.

One could argue that students of these subjects have all the financial incentive they need. Popular perception says that they go into gold-plated careers while those in humanities become starving artists, unhappy teachers or McDonald’s employees.

This view is, of course, wrong – most UK leaders were students of humanities, the arts or social sciences – but even if it wasn’t that wouldn’t make it wise to value STEM subjects more highly.

Asked to assess the worth of William Wordsworth or Samuel Taylor Coleridge, you would be thought to have missed the point if your first concern was with how many copies of Lyrical Ballads they had shifted.

The worth of these works – or of Shakespeare or Beethoven – is not measured in dollars and cents, but through their contributions to world culture. If we are to disparage the artistic endeavours of failed painters, penniless hacks or graduates we should at least apply the same standard.

Good creative work has a real and lasting value all its own. Name some ancient philosophers and odds are you’ll come up with a few names whose ideas are still being discussed today. Try and do the same with ancient engineers and the average person would have a tougher time.

I don’t say this to trivialise the importance of STEM subjects, but to ask why we encourage one over the other. Can you name a healthy state where culture is forsaken in the name of science or maths?

How much poorer would we be if every playwright, poet and composer without immediate or apparent commercial prospects moved on to a more realistic career?

The loss isn’t just one of the mind, but one with real world implications. Look at Zola and J’accuse or Solzhenitsyn and The Gulag Archipelago. These works, as governments knew, had explosive power.

The irony of all this is that the cultural exports of the UK are worth their weight in gold anyway. We are punching well above our weight here.

At time of writing, three of the top ten places in the American Billboard Chart (including numbers one and two) are held by British acts. Authors like the inescapable J.K. Rowling are read by paying readers the world over. Are these exports of so little value at home?

It’s true to say that great works aren’t dependent on a university education, but the whole field of culture is cheapened for those trying to find their direction when a state shows it will only invest in other fields of learning.

Banksy graffiti in Clacton-on-Sea. Photo: Duncan Hull (www.flickr.com/photos/dullhunk)

Banksy graffiti in Clacton-on-Sea. Photo: Duncan Hull (www.flickr.com/photos/dullhunk)

I once saw a Chihuahua – a male Chihuahua, no less – attempt to have sex with a man’s leg. I daresay you’ve seen something similar, but the conclusion you drew was probably quite different from that which John Rees-Evans, the UKIP candidate for Cardiff South, might draw. He finds such scenarios good evidence of a latent preference for bestiality in the homosexual community.

The inconsistencies with his reasoning are too numerous to explore in any depth, but suffice to say that a self-aware human homosexual and an amorous donkey are two separate things. Also, whilst we’re at it, the ass would technically be illustrating a sexual preference for animals by going after any quadruped, donkey or otherwise.

Anyway, if this past month is anything to go by, there’s nothing unusual in a UKIP member going off the reservation with their remarks. Candidate Kerry Smith last week quit after reportedly using colourful language like ‘poofter’ and ‘chinky’ while Councillor Rozanne Duncan was expelled from the party at the weekend for bringing it “into disrepute.”

Typically, the mitigation offered for such offences – be it by UKIP officials or supporters – is that members of all parties make similarly outrageous remarks, but the establishment media moguls will only pick on the plucky upstarts in their party.

According to this worldview, the media – as in the minds of the most paranoid conspiracy theorists – is a homogenous group, happily ignoring the indiscretions of mainstream parties and politicians. Yet we know this is not true. Last year, we saw a paper so eager to take a potshot at Ed Miliband that it dredged up the adolescent diary entries of his dead father, citing them as evidence of the deceased’s hatred of Britain. When it was alleged that former chief whip, Andrew Mitchell, used some colourful language of his own in Downing Street, the media frenzy was so intense that – even while protesting his innocence – Mitchell resigned, citing “damaging publicity.” Nor was the coverage limited to left-leaning media. These are not isolated examples.

Ours is one of the most competitive media markets in the world. News providers don’t run these stories as if grudgingly conceding that one of their own has been caught out – they fall over each other to be first to embarrass  our politicians. No establishment politician could whip out a word like ‘chinkey’ and expect to walk away unscathed because they lack a purple rosette.

True, these are not the parish councillors or paper candidates whose babble has drawn UKIP such unwanted attention recently, but then controversial comments are not limited to the party fringes. It was Godfrey Bloom, one of the party’s MEPs, who used the phrase ‘bongo bongo land’ to refer to other nations. He also yelled ‘Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer’ at a fellow Parliamentarian from Germany. I could go on, but suffice to say he and UKIP went their separate ways last year.

Another UKIP MEP, Gerard Batten, said he would ask British Muslims to sign a charter rejecting violence while another, Roger Helmer, called homosexuality “abnormal” and “undesirable” in remarks since disowned. Both men are still party members and, in fact, party spokesmen.

Even Nigel Farage flirted with disaster when he said to one interviewer in a wink-wink nudge-nudge fashion that ‘you know the difference’ which makes Romanians such concerning neighbours. He was also among the many party members who spoke up in defence of an anti-immigration song written and later withdrawn by Mike Read, recorded – tastelessly – in a faux Jamaican accent. The blowback from the song, said Farage after its withdrawal, was the sort of “confected outrage” only UKIP get. Does anyone seriously believe that the Tories are so short on critics that they could record a song which was only one stop short of blackface without getting called out on it?

A friend of mine once said that UKIP wasn’t a racist party, but it attracted racist supporters. As if to concede the point, the party chairman has warned Kippers off Twitter and revoked unauthorised use of the party logo by supporters, members and officials. It’s a move which says ‘of course the anti-immigrant hysteria is justified, but for god’s sake don’t go telling everyone about it.’ It’s true the party gets plenty of press for colourful comments, but there’s a reason for that and this time it’s not the fault of the establishment.