UKIP? Oh Grow Up

It’s a strange time. A man who preaches the politics of fear has achieved creditable results in both the local and European elections. Across Europe the far right has done well. Racist, xenophobic, homophobic just-about-any-phobic parties have received lots of votes. Though not, sigh of relief and some pride, here in London, where we know a thing or three about living in ethnically, sexually diverse communities made up of people of all colours, creeds and nationalities. And hey, you know what? We like it. We don’t feel threatened. We reforge our national identities all the time as new influences enrich our lives.

The idea that Englishness is somehow immutable is a nonsense. It doesn’t take much understanding of history to know that.

I looked at my fellow passengers on the bus the other day after hearing yet another speech about how how national identity was threatened and I felt proud. The two women sitting front of me were in their early sixties, obviously friends, chatting about their families, their homes. One black, and from her accent from west Africa, the other south London to her core. There were school girls of different races, some wearing the hijab, giggling and jostling each other just as remember doing with my friends decades ago. Tuning into other conversations, there were a number I couldn’t understand. The languages sounded eastern European, but I wouldn’t know what they were.

So I don’t really understand why our politicians, instead of challenging UKIP’s vision of a very little Britain, set sometime in the early 50s but without the Teddy boys, are kowtowing to this nationalist agenda and talking about tightening immigrant controls, reducing the benefits rights of migrant workers left right and centre.

This year we are commemorating the start of the First World War. Propaganda about the Germans saying they ate children and all that sort of nonsense wasn’t really so different from what these nationalist parties are peddling.

Tonight there has been a one off special of Goodness Gracious Me a programme which began on Radio 4 and transferred to television. I think we could do with a new series now. They are targeting UKIP ideas, and raising awareness through comedy. Fabulous. If you have not had the pleasure, click this link. You might want to try The Kumars at Number 42 as well. I’m sure you’ll find some clips on YouTube.

Anyone who doesn’t think that our culture hasn’t been enriched by this diversity has not been in a bookshop or art gallery in a while. Actually, check those double negatives, as I may have got one too many. Newer arrivals, including Nigel Farage’s hated Romanians, have yet to make a mark on the literary and art scene, but it’s only a matter of time.

My own Huguenot ancestors weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms at the end of the seventeenth century, but today one in three of us here in the UK has Huguenot ancestry.

It’s quite something when Michael ‘Tarzan’ Heseltine says he winces at UKIP’s speeches. But the picture is wider. Maybe it’s the origins of the Second World War that we should be studying, how Hitler rose to power on a tidal wave of nationalism and the terrible consequences of Germans’ hope that he would restore their pride. After the Second World War people said ‘never again’ but our politicians fawning desire for votes means more and more mainstream politicians are borrowing UKIP’s clothes.

Be afraid, be very afraid. But above all, be active. Reject this vision of a insular, simplistic society, and have faith in the future of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Britain which will not be the Britain we know today, but something as new and exciting as our society is as excitingly different from what was before. Remember, women only have the vote in the UK since 1918; homosexuality was illegal until the 1980s; we recently celebrated twenty years since women could be ordained in the Church of England. All these are changes which would have appalled the reactionary elements of our society in times past. But would you want to turn the clock back? I shouldn’t. Immigration has been hugely beneficial to this country. And, I would imagine, to every country.

Celebrate diversity, don’t fear it. United we stand, divided we fall.

12 thoughts on “UKIP? Oh Grow Up

  1. Excellent post, Isobel. I, too, find the fear that is being spread on many subjects to be appalling. And what bothers me even more or the people who don’t want to be confused with the facts. They want to believe lies that are spread by the far right. Could we be moving towards another black ages?

    • It is striking how this same voting pattern is repeated across Europe. You would think we would learn how dangerous it is to view others as less valuable than ourselves. History is full of atrocities committed against groups and individuals who were in some way other.
      I do hoe we are not going to go into a period of more repressive politics and rampant nationalism. It is a frightening prospect.

  2. As a child in the 60s and 70s I experienced racism here in my home town, I really don’t want those days to return – if they’ve ever gone away here in the back of beyond – and don’t want other children to have to cope with it.

    • Nor would I. I believe we have come a long way since the sixties and seventies, but there is no room for complacency. We seem programmed to look for someone to blame when things do not go our way, and people who are in any way different often attract hostility. Farage’s Romanian neighbours remark is a clear echo of people who used to say if a black or Asian family moved into the street they would want to move out.

  3. I think it’s very sad when a man is called a racist just because he has differing political views to other people and, in fact, almost all of his policies match up to those of other parties, just worded differently. I’m not going to get into a political debate because I know people are perfectly entitled to their own opinions but I think you need to do a little more research before making accusations.

    And no, I did not vote UKIP

    • The politics of divide and rule practised by the other parties – deserving and undeserving poor, benefits scroungers etc – are equally loathesome. UKIP has amplified those politics. I should like to see some leadership from our politicians that is not about fear or the desire to return to some rosy glowed vision of the past that never existed.

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