30 May 2014
Very appropriately I was in Brussels on the Sunday that most of the rest of Europe voted in the EU elections (only Britain, the Netherlands, Latvia and I think Croatia having voted during the preceding three days).
The one positive to take from watching the full horror of the rampage of the far right parties was that for the first time ever my husband and I were united politically! Not in our partisan views of course, but in the agreement that each of us would far rather accept a moderate left or right government or coalition than the prospect of UKIP holding the balance of power.
At least there is no chance of UKIP forming a government, whereas, terrifyingly, the picture in France is less certain. 25% of the vote for Marine le Pen’s Fronte Nationale, in the face of a deeply unpopular socialist government, does not preclude the FN playing a significant part in the next French government.
There have been pages and pages of newspapers, and hours of TV and radio commentary devoted to exploring the rise of UKIP, both before and since the election. Indeed, from my own very unscientific observation, it seemed that the BBC promoted Nigel Farage at every opportunity, giving him disproportionate airtime, particularly in comparison with the Green Party (who do actually have an elected MP). I have no doubt that Farage is well aware of the adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity.
Political analysis has shown that UKIP support is strong amongst less well educated, white working class people. By stark contrast, cosmopolitan, multicultural and well educated inner London rejects UKIP’s nationalist, protectionist and retrograde agenda.
I am particularly interested in women who support UKIP. Although it is quite difficult to join down the UKIP manifesto, or their core beliefs beyond getting out of Europe, when it comes to women’s rights they appear to have views that sit happily with the Edwardian era. They would like to stop maternity leave, which would effectively stop most women who wish to have children from working.
For those women who do work, UKIP would repeal laws making employment discrimination on grounds of gender or race illegal, and would also repeal laws that try (not always successfully) to protect women from sexual harassment. Just to put the icing on the cake they do not believe that all rape is equally culpable, nor that a man can rape his wife.
I have little doubt that some of the more outspoken UKIP men would like to remove women’s suffrage if they could.
Given all this, what sort of woman can support UKIP, let alone stand as an MEP candidate? Even Margaret Thatcher, no supporter of her own gender, did not hate them this much. She certainly oppressed through lack of positive action, but did not repeal the minor advances towards equality that had been made.
The success of UKIP and other European far right groups may be largely attributable to austerity, and a mistaken belief that austerity would be relieved by increased nationalism. However, the anti immigration agenda masks an even more sinister agenda. In times of plenty tolerance is more easy. When money and food are limited inequality grows. The wealth gap widens (as it has in the past 5 years) and those that have feel no guilt for their wealth, and no responsibility for those that have little or nothing. Intolerance of difference becomes greater, and the weak and vulnerable are increasingly persecuted. This includes women, the chronically ill (especially the mentally ill), and the disabled.
It is time that all voters woke up to the realities of the societies in which we are living. Quite apart from the question of Scottish independence, we need to face the fact that England is composed of multiple societies. London, Birmingham, Manchester and our other large cities all have many different and separate societies within them. Rural England is different again. People feel disenfranchised, that there is nobody who understands or speaks for them.
We should learn from history; conflict arises from inequality and disenfranchisement.
30 May 2014