"I'm the only politician keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive." - Nigel Farage
The night of Thursday 22nd of May I got a phone call from my nana. She told me, "I was going to vote UKIP, but then I read what they were for..." She referred to a spread in The Daily Mirror where the party's positions on issues other than immigration were presented. Farage was much less appealing as a Thatcherite, who wants the privatisation of the NHS, the abolition of maternity leave, sick pay, and redundancy pay. Tooth and nail libertarian ideas hardly appeal to a bread base of voters and for good reason. In the end my nana voted Labour, saying "I always used to vote Labour..." and adding "they used to be for the workers". That's the crux of the matter.
My nana was interested in voting for UKIP because she wants a referendum on EU membership and, in her own words, UKIP are "against asylum seekers". This is where the party appeals to a broad base of voters. Only on these grounds could an ex-banker and former Tory, like Farage, market himself as a man of the people. Relatives of mine have voted UKIP in the past out of opposition to the European Union and mass-immigration. But these are former Labour supporters. The media closes in on issues like immigration, benefits, and the EU, to steal away the core support for social democratic measures. It has been a successful campaign in many ways - there is widespread opposition to immigration and widespread support for benefit cuts - while failing in other ways - opposition to universal health-care remains insignificant.
How can people who have voted Labour all of their lives, and in the case of my relatives, even voted Green in the past, turn to a party of right-wing spivs. The extent to which UKIP has succeeded in stealing Labour voters is debatable, but it is the key to any long-term electoral strategy. It is not enough to compete with the Conservatives. Even though the raison d'etre of Faragisme is to force the Conservative leadership further rightwards. The current austerity isn't enough. The stealth privatisation of the NHS isn't enough. Anti-immigrant campaign vans aren't enough. Cuts to disability benefits aren't enough. The tax-cuts for the rich aren't enough either. It should be clear what these people are about.
The facts of UKIP's prejudices are not amazing to anyone on the liberal-Left. Never mind the core base of support for anti-immigrant policies. What does amaze people are the policies which Farage would implement if he had real power in this country. When asked by Norman Smith whether he would ringfence the NHS the UKIP leader said "No, I want to see us getting better value for money." Need I say anymore? Yet that wasn't plastered on every headline throughout the country. The media demands the debate on immigration because it can only move between two poles: liberal internationalism in one corner and populist nationalism in the other. It's convenient for a discourse which doesn't do serious politics and peddles easy answers to complex problems.