Posts Tagged ‘Referendum Party’

Vox Political: Zac Goldsmith Defends Benefit Cuts after Being Thrown Off Charity

March 30, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece reporting that Zac Goldsmith has appeared in the pages of the Richmond and Twickenham Times, defending his voting for the £30 cut in ESA. He was the patron of a local charity for the disabled, Richmond AID, which stands for Richmond Advice and Information on Disability. After he voted for the cuts, however, he resigned after he was criticised by the charity’s chief executive, Lucy Byrne, for the severe and detrimental effect the cuts would have on disabled people’s lives. Now he’s got into the pages of his local paper to try and justify himself.

He states that the government believes that people are best helped by being ‘enabled’ to get back into work. He states that it isn’t just a cut, and that there is a £100 million fund for disabled people. And then goes on to the make the populist argument that people are coming to him, concerned that people, who aren’t fit for work, are being seen as fit for work. It is his job as an MP to use his judgement to make sure this doesn’t happen.

It’s the usual rubbish, uttered by someone, who really hasn’t a clue how the other half live. His father was the millionaire James Goldsmith, or as Private Eye used to call him, Sir Jammy Fishpaste the Referendumfuhrer (he was head of the Referendum Party, UKIP’s rivals at the time for the Eurosceptic vote). He has no more idea of the lives of the poor than Matthew Freud did when he declared that poor people should be more flexible, as they have less to lose than the rich during economic depression.

Now let’s critique what he actually says. First of all, he states that he’s somehow against getting the genuinely ill thrown off benefits. But that is exactly what the benefit cut threatens to do. He’s right that there is subjective judgement involved, but his subjective judgement seems very firmly in the New Labour and Tory camp that essentially most of it is just malingering.

As for ‘enabling’ people to get back into work, this is pretty much a shorthand for ‘less eligibility’ – the idea that you make state support difficult and degrading to force people to get jobs. Which is all right, coming from an extremely rich ex-public schoolboy, who will probably never have to worry about joining the dole queue in the morning, thanks to the old school tie.

The statement about ‘enabling’ people back into work can be taken in a variety of ways. You could enable people back into work by offering a range of state benefits to help people with special needs get appropriate jobs or training. For example, paying for taxis or other transport if there are mobility issues. Or actually setting up workshops for the disabled where they can have genuine productive careers, like, oh, I don’t know, perhaps Remploy before they closed it down. Or even setting up schemes within firms to encourage them to take on disabled staff, perhaps helping with the costs through grants or tax cuts. I used to work in an office a long time ago with someone who had severe back problems. The firm had arranged for her to have an orthopaedic chair. Now that would also enable those with medical problems to get back into work. But all this has been cut, to save the government money and give lots of money back to people of Zac’s class in tax cuts.

As for the £100 million fund, I have no idea what he’s talking about here. PIP perhaps? Probably, not even that. It’s the usual Tory flannel of, yes, we’re cutting benefits, but look, we’re setting up this brave, new benefit system, which will target benefits to where it’s really need. The implication being that nobody will lose out, when the whole point of the system’s reform is to make sure that many more will do just that.

In short, it’s the usual specious Tory double-talk to hide the disgraceful actions of a spoilt, over-privileged public school brat, who clearly believes in punishing the disabled simply for being the disabled, and not rich like him or his dad.

Explaining the Rise of UKIP

May 12, 2014

UKIP Book pic

Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support For The Radical Right in Britain, by Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin (Abingdon: Routledge 2014) traces the history and changing fortune of UKIP from its foundation in 1991 as the Ant-Federalist League to today, when the party appears to have overtaken the Lib Dems to take its place as one of Britain’s leading the parties. It’s part of a series of texts published by Routledge on the theme of ‘extremism and democracy’. Most of these books are devoted to the Fascist and racist Right, though it also includes a book on Left-wing terrorism, general political extremism, and studies of terrorism in America, from the KKK to al-Qaeda. A fair bit of the book is statistics taken from sociological and political surveys, dealing with political, social and economic attitudes and electoral performance. Most of these are straightforward, but not exactly easy or riveting reading. Much more interesting is the history of the party itself. It also includes sample quotations from UKIP supporters explaining their reasons for supporting the party, and rejection of the three others.

Leadership Challenges and the Referendum Party

It covers the various leadership struggles, including perma-tanned talk show host Robert Kilroy-Silk joining the party, only to leave after failing to take control. It also suffered in its early days from competition from James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party, a true single-issue party that solely existed to campaign for a referendum on Europe. With the advantage of Goldsmith’s considerable fortune behind it, UKIP was very much the poor relative, lagging behind the Referendum Party in both funding and publicity.

UKIP, the BNP and the Conservatives

It also looks at the way UKIP has changed its name and identity as it has tried to differentiate itself both from the BNP and, rather more gradually, the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative party. It’s founder, Dr Alan Sked, was a Liberal and historian at the London School of Economics. He became a Eurosceptic during the 1980s when running the European Studies course at the LSE. Sked stated that ‘I just kept meeting all these bureaucrats and other Euro-fanatical academics who came to give papers, politicians from different parts of Europe, and reading endless MA theses on the EU. I just came to the conclusion that the whole thing was mad.’ (p. 21). Sked was influenced by Thatcher’s ‘Bruges speech’, in which she attacked the dangers of Euro federalism, and joined the Bruges group. The authors describe this as ‘a right-wing think tank that received financial backing from Sir James Goldsmith’. Sked called the new group the Anti-Federalist League as he intended it to follow in the footsteps of Cobden and Bright’s anti-Corn Law league in the 19th century. Sked states ‘I thought it would be the equivalent of the anti-Corn Law League. Just as the anti-Corn Law League converted [Robert] Peel to free trade, the anti-Federalist league would convert the Tory Party to Euroscepticism and British independence.’

As an anti-EU, anti-immigrant, but ostensibly not a Fascist party, UKIP’s progress has been overshadowed by the BNP. After the League’s failure in the 1992 elections, it was re-launched with its present name. The ‘UK’ was chosen instead of ‘British’ in order to differentiate it from the British National Party, who had just captured council seats in London’s East End. Since then the party has suffered a series of controversies over the activities of racial extremists in its ranks, one of whom was a mole for the BNP. Sked himself left the party he founded because he believed it had been heavily infiltrated by the Nazi Far Right. In the 2009 European elections Farage himself admits he was under pressure from a faction in the party, including members of the National Executive Committee, led by the tennis player, Buster Mottram, and by some Conservative MEPs to do a deal with the BNP. UKIP had suffered badly from competition with the BNP. The deal would preserve the party from competition and defeat by the BNP by dividing the country between them. UKIP would have free reign in the south, while the BNP would concentrate on the north of England. In fact part of UKIP’s success since 2010 has come from their active competition for votes from the BNP. In Oldham Paul Nuttall targeted the members of the White working class, who were not racist, but voted for the BNP because no-one else was representing them. Farage said of this strategy:

We [said] on the doorstep: ‘If you’re a BNP voter cause you’re a skilled/ semi-skilled worker who thinks his job has been seriously impinged upon, his income’s gone down, his local community’s changed and he’s not happy with the make-up of the local primary school, whatever it may be. If you are a BNP voter for those reasons but you don’t support the BNP’s racist manifesto and you are effectively holding your nose at voting BNP, don’t vote for them, vote for us. We are a non-racist, non-sectarian alternative to the British National Party.’ It was the first time that we ever said to BNP voters: ‘Come and vote for us.’

It could be said of this approach that the BNP was approaching the White voters, whose attitude is ‘I’m not racist, but …’

Lord Pearson and Anti-Islam

Pearson of Rannoch, the party’s leader in 2010, was also known for his vitriolic views against Islam, which he sees as fundamentally incompatible with the British tradition of gender equality and democracy. He invited Geert Wilders to Britain to present his film, Fitna, to parliament. The book discusses these views, and the impact they had on the party.

UKIP’s Neoliberal and Anti-Socialist Domestic Policies

The party has also had to struggle to forge its own identity rather than act as an off-shoot of the Tories. Sked founded it to act as a pressure group on the Conservatives, and at various times the party’s election strategy has been strongly geared towards influencing them. Under Pearson, the party deliberately did not contest seats where there was a Eurosceptic Conservative candidate, and a full-fledged alliance with the Tories was mooted. The book’s authors consider that it was finally in their election manifesto of 2010, where the party outlined their domestic policies, that UKIP became a radical right party in its own right. The authors write

For the first time they went into a general election with relatively detailed proposals on domestic and foreign policy and a costed economic programme, all of which were organised around four central principles: personal freedom; democracy at the national and local level; small government; and tax reduction. UKIP were pushing ahead with a clear attempt to rally a coalition of socially conservative and financially insecure working-class voters, offering them tough opposition to the EU and immigration, but threatening also a range of measures designed to appeal to their economic needs and right-wing ideological preferences: a flat-tax to help the lowest paid workers, investment in the manufacturing sector, new jobs for manual workers, more police on the streets, stronger prison sentences for criminals, grammar schools, an end to political correctness, Swiss-style referenda, a more proportional election system and the restoration of British values. UKIP were no longer the single-issue, anti-EU pressure group: they had become a fully-fledged radical right party. (pp. 84-5).

Although these policies were designed to appeal to a working class electorate, UKIP is a party of the Libertarian Right. This emerged in the years from 2005-10 under the leadership of their chairman, David Campbell-Bannerman. The book states that he was

tasked with leading a policy review, designed to rebrand UKIP as campaigning for independence from the established political class, whether in Brussels or Westminster. Activists talked of presenting the disgruntled electorate with a ‘radical libertarian alternative’ to the ‘social democratic consensus’. (p. 71).

UKIP are populist Neoliberals, like the rest of the contemporary political parties. They are not moderates, and as the rejection of the ‘social democratic consensus’ indicates, are anti-socialist. It was also in this period that UKIP’s electoral base shifted. UKIP began receiving increased support in areas with a higher proportion of working class voters than average, with poor education and health. They lost support in in areas with larger than average proportion of middle class professionals and university graduates.

Blue-Collar Support for Radical Right and Growing Middle Class Influence in Left-Wing Parties in Europe

In fact the changes in the composition of UKIP’s supporters and constituency mirrors that of the other radical right parties across Europe, from Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France to Jorg Haider’s Freedom Party in Austria, the Northern League in Italy, and the People’s Party in Denmark. These expanded into the working class voters, who were left behind as the manufacturing sector of the European economy shrank, and the Social Democratic parties that were originally founded to defend them shifted instead to appealing to the middle class. These were far more liberal and cosmopolitan in outlook than their fellows in the lower classes. The book describes this situation thus

As the financially more secure and socially more liberal middle classes in Europe continued to grow, so their influence on electoral competition and centre-left politics became ever stronger. These new groups brought a distinct set of values and priorities to the left-wing parties they joined. Their ‘post-material’ agenda prioritised issues like the environment, civil liberties, global social justice and human rights, prompting centre-left parties to overhaul their strategy to win them over. Socialist economic ideas of a planned economy and strong state intervention were downplayed, and replaced by an acceptance of a strong role for free markets and a globally integrated economy. Redistribution and workers’ rights were also given less emphasis, with a greater focus on improving public services, a cause which united both ‘new’ and ‘old’ left, and on efforts to boost opportunities rather than equalise access to resources. Across Europe, the centre-left also shifted more firmly in favour of European integration. Whereas previously some social democrats had been openly hostile towards the Europe project, viewing it as a capitalist club that opposed socialism, from the 1980s they became more supportive, viewing the EU instead as a valuable mechanism through which they could tame capitalism and entrench social democratic principles at the supranational level.

But as Przeworski predicted, these changes came with a cost: the new middle-class agenda marginalised the left’s traditional voters. Their old working-class electorates became dissatisfied with a political system where their traditional voice appeared to have been lost and showed a growing willingness to back more radical parties that articulate their sense of abandonment from the mainstream and responded to their concerns about issues that aroused little interest among new left elites: immigration; national identity; the perceived threat from the EU; and rapid social change more generally.

Alienation of Working Class British Voters from Labour Party

In Britain many White working class voters became increasingly alienated from Labour because of its attempts to retain the loyalty of the ethnic minorities. These had become a significant part of the electorate by the turn of the millennium, and their support for Labour was no longer guaranteed. Many Muslims, for example, had expressed their opposition to the invasion of Iraq by joining the Lib Dems or Respect. Labour attempted to win their support through a liberalisation of the immigration system, tougher legislation against racial discrimination and the promotion of more Black and Asian candidates for parliament. The result of this was that many of the disadvantaged White voters felt that Labour cared more about immigrants than them. Furthermore, the party’s promotion of laissez-faire economic liberalisation also alienated many of the same voters, who now believed that the party was only concerned for the rich. Previously the voters alienated by Labour’s anti-racism would have voted Conservative, but they were also alienated from Cameron’s party by his adoption of the same attitudes to race and multiculturalism as Blair. The result has been that these voters turned to UKIP.

UKIP and the Contrasting Fortunes of the SDP

The book notes that UKIP’s apparent breakthrough into mainstream electoral politics is very recent. Even in the middle of the last decade the party was gaining only 1-2 per cent of the vote on average. For most of the party’s history, very few of their candidates ever even gained enough votes to retain their deposit. They also compare the party’s rise with that of the SDP. When this split from the Labour party, it had a fair size of the vote and was expected to break the mould of the two-party system. Instead it eventually collapsed and was merged with the Liberals. The authors see its failure, compared with the apparent success of UKIP, as due to the origins of the SDP in a split at the top of politics, rather than arising from the electorate itself.

UKIP and Future Labour Electoral Strategy

The book also has a section considering what UKIP’s success means for the other parties, including Labour. They say about this

The dilemma Labour face is between short-term and long-term strategy. In the short term, the strong temptation for Labour will be to sit back and let UKIP divide the Conservative vote at the next general election, thereby lowering the bar for their own victory and a return to power. Some Labour commentators have taken pleasure in the irony of an electoral split undoing the right in the same way as the left has been undone many times in the past. Yet such as ‘laisser faire’ approach to UKIP comes with serious longer-term risks. As we saw in chapters 3 and 4, the UKIP vote comes primarily from ‘left behind’ social groups who were once solidly Labour. UKIP have driven a wedge between the struggling, blue-collar ‘Old Left’, who once supported Labour on economic grounds, and the educated, white-collar ‘new Left’ who often back them on the basis of social values. If they allow UKIP to become established as part of the mainstream political conversation, either with MPs at Westminster or a strong presence in labour heartlands, the centre-left risks making that divide permanent. It will be much harder for Ed Miliband and his party to win back working-class voters with Ukippers running continuous and high profile campaigns on Europe, immigration and traditional British values. Labour also need to remember that UKIP’s rise has been driven as much by populist hostility to the political establishment as by ideology or policy. This does not hurt them much at present, as they are in opposition and therefore not the main focus of anti-system feeling. If they were to win the next elect, they would find UKIP’s populist barbs directed at them. A failure to combat UKIP before 2015 will result in a stronger populist opponent to future Labour governments.

UKIP: Neoliberal Party Exploiting Working Class Support

The book describes UKIP as a paradox. This is absolutely correct. They are a working class party, whose leadership has adopted all the Neoliberal policies of the Conservative Right. Despite their demands for more democracy, they are very strongly anti-working class. if you want examples, go over and look at the Angry Yorkshireman’s discussion of their domestic policies over at Another Angry Voice. And their deputy leader, Paul Nuttall, has stated that he wishes to privatise the NHS. The right-wing, Eurosceptic, anti-NHS Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan has also suggested that the Tories should form an alliance with UKIP. If UKIP did gain power, either by itself or in coalition with the Tories, it would be the working class that would suffer immensely. UKIP have raised and brought to prominence a number of pressing and vital issues – like the continuing role of race and ethnicity in politics, the need to protect an increasingly alienated working class, but they themselves are no solution to these problems.

Another Angry Voice Urges UKIP Voters to Go Green

March 23, 2014

Rail Nationalisation Green

The Angry Yorkshireman has posted up yet another excellent, provocative piece. Entitled ‘Why 73% of UKIP supporters should actually vote Green’, the Angry One from the county of great cricket shows that the majority of UKIP supporters would be far better off voting for the Green party than with UKIP. Why? As I believe the Angry Northerner has already pointed out, the rank and file UKIP supporters have economic views that are the direct opposite of those of the party’s leadership. 78 per cent of them want the energy companies renationalised and 73 per cent want the rail service renationalised, according to a Yougov poll.

UKIP’s leadership, on the other hand, are more in favour of privatisation and Neo-liberal economics than the Tories. In fact one blogger – possibly the Angry One again in a previous article – referred to their policies as the Tories on stilts. If UKIP gets into power, then it really will mean the complete privatisation of the last remnants of the NHS and the education system, and the destruction of whatever’s left of the welfare state. This is basically what you’d expect from a party, many of whose politicians defected from the Right-wing of the Tory party, and which is funded by Tory donors. And, it might be added, whose predecessors include the Referendum Party of the obscenely rich and sinister James Goldsmith.

Most UKIP supporters reject their economic views. They only vote UKIP because they want Britain out of Europe.

And, as the Yorkshireman shows, the Green Party shares their scepticism. The Party has been an opponent of the Eurozone because of the way it forces a single economic policy on very different countries with very different economies. They also support a referendum on Europe because of the ‘democratic deficit’ at the heart of the EU. Legislation comes from the Commissioners, for example. It cannot come from the EU parliament itself. He supplies a series of quotes from the Greens which amply show their opposition to the EU, its Neo-Liberal economic policies, and its authoritarian, anti-democratic legislative policies. These quotations include this statement:

“Whilst the Green Party is opposed to the objectives, structure and policies of the EU as currently constituted, as long as the U.K. remains a member of the EU the Green Party will stand in elections to the European Parliament and elected Green MEPs will work for fundamental reform of the EU from within.”

He therefore recommends anyone serious about opposing the EU and ending the dominance of Neo-liberal orthodoxy over the current political consensus should vote for the Greens in the coming European elections in May 2014. These elections are held according to proportional representation, so there are no wasted votes. It’ll also be an excellent way to punish the Lib-Dems. At the moment the Greens are behind them with 6 per cent of the vote to the EU, while the Lib Dems have 8 per cent. If the Left-wing majority within UKIP, or even a few of them, switch to Green, this could end and the Lib-Dems be kicked into fifth place. On the other hand, he warns that if more people vote UKIP instead, we’ll have one or two more UKIP MEPs, who’ll either defect to the Tories like Marta Andreassen, or get kicked out of the party for spewing sexist bilge like Godfrey Bloom.

The article’s at: http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/73-ukip-voters-green-party.html.

Go and read it. And if you want to send a clear message to the political class of Westminster that you are sick and fed up of Neo-Liberalism, and cannot see any point in voting Labour, then I would certainly recommend voting Green, or including the Green party as your second preference.