This book is a horrific reminder – if anyone needs reminding – of just how foul UKIP is. Paterson traces its development from its origins in 1992 as the tiny Anti-Federalist League to a party which, on the eve of the 2015 General Election, boasts two MPs, three members of the House of Lords, 24 MEPs, some 300 local councillors and a membership of 40,000. In the course of the book Paterson reminds us that UKIP is a racist party whose one clear, unwavering principle is its hostility towards immigrants. He cites Nigel Farage’s relentless attacks on Romanians and east Europeans, his Islamophobia, his hostility to multiculturalism and to hearing foreign languages spoken on trains. Paterson recalls the host of UKIP members who have flaunted their racism even as Farage repeatedly insisted that UKIP was “not a racist party”.
Andre Lampitt, for example, UKIP’s poster boy for their 2014 television campaign, had to be suspended from the party for numerous racist tweets which included the assertion that “most Nigerians are bad people”. Former UKIP councillor Rozanne Duncan lost her place in the party for declaring “I really do have a problem with people with negroid features” whilst Anna-Marie Crampton embarrassed the party by posting that “The Second World War was engineered by the Zionist Jews”. But UKIP’s reaction doesn’t stop at racism. Julia Gasper was propelled out of the party following her assertion that “Some homosexuals prefer sex with animals” and her insistence on the so-called “links between homosexuality and paedophilia”.She is far from the only UKIP member to express these warped ideas.
UKIP is also a party of misogyny. The party accepts substantial funds from Demetri Marchessini, a man who wants to ban women wearing trousers so their “essentially sexy” legs are on permanent display. Farage’s own outburst against “ostentatious” breast-feeding is also well known. But how has a party with electoral candidates of the calibre of John Rees-Evans, who claimed a “Gay donkey tried to rape my horse”, grown so quickly?
Paterson convincingly argues that UKIP has benefited from a general disillusion with mainstream politics. The expenses scandal, the cash-for-questions disgrace and the general sleaze associated with mainstream politics have sent people looking for an alternative. In addition the Labour Party’s capitulation to free market economics means it can offer its core voters little beyond a ‘nicer’ version of Tory austerity.
The fact that UKIP are tainted by the same political scandals that have rocked Westminster in recent years has not prevented them building out of political disillusion. UKIP’s MEPs “claimed an average of £35,635 in ‘general expenditure allowances in 2012” and Farage estimates his own expenses as an MEP to be over £2 million. Paterson defines UKIP as “a pro-capitalist, anti-state, anti-immigrant right-libertarian formation…a curious blend of xenophobia and paranoia”. The paradox is that UKIP is picking up votes from people who have been hurt by austerity despite being a party that supports policies that will deliver still more austerity. Farage has called for “shock and awe” public spending cuts and for the privatisation of the NHS.
One of the book’s weaknesses is that Paterson argues UKIP’s continued growth is inevitable. He finds a little comfort in the recent election of the anti-austerity Syriza in Greece but assumes a British version to be an impossibility. He scorns attempts to build left-wing electoral alternatives such as TUSC and Left Unity (of which Paterson is a member). He correctly criticises Labour for its commitment to neo-liberalism, ‘austerity’ and its shameful capitulation to anti-immigrant racism but sees no appetite in British politics to build a left alternative.
Paterson ignores the impressive mobilisations against the open fascists of the BNP and EDL in recent years and the fact that the last two years have seen thousands march against racism in both London and Glasgow. If racism has grown in UK society over recent years, there is also a substantial part of British society that remains committedly anti-racist.
As a result this is a very pessimistic book. Paterson concludes that UKIP “are here to stay”. It’s undeniable that the rise of UKIP has dragged English politics to the Right especially over immigration and race. What Paterson ignores is that even in the UK austerity hasn’t just fed the likes of UKIP. The SNP in Scotland look set to dominate the post-election political landscape by promising a set of progressive social democratic policies that the Labour Party has long abandoned. Such policies could be just as effective south of the border and could offer a genuine alternative to austerity which UKIP only pretend to offer.
Paterson also downplays the role campaigning can play against UKIP specifically, and racism in general. He rightly acknowledges that fascist groups like the BNP, EDL and Britain First welcome the rise of UKIP. He doesn’t recognise that this is because their brand of open fascism and naked racism has been relegated to the fringes of the political arena by mass mobilisation and campaigning. Decades of struggle against racism have not been in vain. “Why do racists object so vehemently to being called racists? I genuinely don’t get it.” asked Telegraph columnist Dan Hodges earlier this year. It’s because anti-racist activism stretching back to the 70s and beyond has made unvarnished racism politically unacceptable. We can take heart from that victory and build on the achievements of the anti-racism movement to push UKIP back. This is a useful book to remind us where UKIP came from and what it is. But it fails to notice that we can fight UKIP – and we can win.
Review by Sasha Simic
Making Plans for Nigel – A Beginner’s Guide to Farage & UKIP by Harry Paterson Five Leaves ISBN: 9781910170199, 160 pages £7.99