It’s fair to say there are not many who would simply dismiss UKIP as just “fruitcakes and loonies” any more as David Cameron once put it. They are a serious political threat to the three main established parties. With their anti-immigration policies and perceived dislike of foreigners, their policies are also of concern for Black and minority ethnic communities.
Here are some things to consider about the rise and rise of UKIP.
- They are going for the popularist vote
An overburdened NHS, more jobs for British people, student grants, even keeping GP surgeries open for longer, UKIP have simply identified the things that get us all riled up- and built a shopping list of policies around them.
Though they are yet to fully form the platform on which they will fight next year’s general election, in the past they were really known for a few key political issues, including seeing Britain withdraw from the EU and an end to “mass uncontrolled immigration.” The rest of their policies now seem to be simply picking up on our discontent over a range of socio-economic issues. This is partly why they have been criticised by the main political parties as having no real policies. And interestingly whilst they position themselves as returning to right wing policies, their stance on student grants is a typical left wing policy, showing that they swing from the political right to left to suit public opinion.
- Some immigrants support them
It’s completely counter-intuitive for someone who has benefited from the UK’s immigration laws to support a party who seeks to seriously curb immigration. And yet those supporters do exist.
UKIP wants all immigrants trying to enter the UK to be able to speak English, have NHS approved, private healthcare in place, and must have a job already in place. It would seem that they are looking to put as many restrictions in place as possible for foreigners to enter the UK. So why would ethnic minorities support their immigration policies?
One theory put forward is that new immigrants entering the UK would threaten the employment prospects of the existing migrant community. Another is the ‘little islander’ mentality: once you’re in, you want to keep others out who would tarnish the reputation of all immigrant communities as well as take jobs and housing and so on. Whatever the reason, don’t be fooled into thinking that UKIP supporters are all Tory, BNP and EDL defectors or any other right wing British people. It seems that UKIP supporters do come in all colours.
- They could usher in a whole new language
Do you remember in the 80’s when it was acceptable to call disabled people ‘spastics’? There were playground jokes about them, there was even a bona fide charity called the Spastics Society. (They have since changed their name to Scope). The term was discarded in the late 90’s as it was seen as unkind and not politically correct.
UKIP don’t believe in political correctness, arguing that it hinders freedom of speech. They are appealing to those who feel political correctness has gone mad. What does this mean for race relations? What language and terminology around Black and Asian people, women, the disabled, the gay community to name just a few minority groups will once again be acceptable under a UKIP government?
- The bigger threat is the growing number of UKIP supporters
While their policies are worrying, infuriating, perhaps even offensive to some, the bigger worry I believe is the growing amount of support that UKIP has garnered. I find it hard to believe that there are people I come into contact with every day that would support UKIP. But there are. The party’s appeal is growing, and aside from their grassroots supporters, many of these people are those who have either been swept up by their popularist approach to politics or a dissatisfaction with the main political parties. Whatever we might say about their shopping list of policies there’s no doubt that they’ve tapped into public feeling in our midst- and that worries me more than UKIP itself.