The rise of UKIP in this country has made us ask ourselves a lot of questions, is this country inherently anti-immigration and anti-Europe? Or are these parts of a wider problem? With UKIP in the headlines again due to Douglas Carswell’s defection it is time to ask ourselves some deeper questions about the current state of British politics.
Why are UKIP doing so well and why does it appear that the left has been utterly out manoeuvred? It is of course a very difficult question to answer. Surely when the financial crisis started in 2008 many (myself included) believed this was the left’s moment; there seemed to be real evidence that the neoliberal economic model we have pursued in the west for the last thirty years had failed. But this anger and frustration never developed into a coherent political movement.
It was UKIP that have since the crash really made inroads into changing the state of the British political establishment and there does not seem to have been much of a response from the left. The reason that UKIP have done so well is a question of narrative; they are able to answer people questions and concerns with a coherent story about why they have the issues they do. If you listen to most of UKIP’s rhetoric is can basically but summed up in one sentence ‘The EU is responsible for all our major problems, immigration being the biggest, if we leave many problems will be instantly solved’ it is as simple as that.
This of course is, as many believe would agree, a vast oversimplification of the problems we face as a country. But people like simple answers. What is also concerning is that one would believe that as parties that disagree with UKIP’s narrative such as the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats they would have made some sort of effort to challenge this narrative. Unfortunately they have instead decided to chase the UKIP vote by appeasing it – this has been a disastrous move.
Instead of taking UKIP on, they have instead watered down their own positions to appeal to would be UKIP voters. It seems strange to me that two parties left of the Tories would do this, surely they would realise that the proportion of the electorate that find UKIP reprehensible as a party would be put off? It seems they have not. So this leaves the would-be Labour or Lib Dem supporter in a bit of a pickle – who can they know vote for? As there does not seems to be a UKIP of the left. But there is another option – It’s called the Green Party.
Now many commentators including Helen Lewis who writes here that the Green Party are not the UKIP of the left as they do not have the popularity or the momentum, seem to believe that a UKIP of the left would have to look more like a new Labour party. Although I am sympathetic towards those who wish for the Labour party to once again represent working people – or a new Labour party to form – the Green Party has become the main opposition towards UKIP’s ideas for one reason: they actually challenge UKIP’s narrative.
As someone who really doesn’t agree with 99% of the positions UKIP takes it is important to me that the party I support challenges these positions. I do not hear Green politicians appeasing the disgusting demonisation of benefit claimants for their own poverty or the blaming of immigrants for a government that is unable to create sufficient employment for the country.
If you support the Labour party because you believe that they are not as bad as the Tories then I urge you to switch to vote Green.
We have since the impact that the UKIP vote has had. It has shifted the Labour and Lib Dems positions over immigration, the EU, energy policy and welfare cuts. To restore any kind of balance or better to put more social democratic proposals back on the political agenda you must vote Green. The Green’s are not the UKIP of the left because they are not reactionary, they were there before UKIP and their policies are based on shared values not a few single issues. Personally I find this reassuring but if you don’t, until a ‘UKIP of the left’ emerges the Green party is the best we have.