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October 10, 2014



Am not sure Chris is right to exonerate Labour.

The Labour party is fully behind Universal Credit, a means testing, penny pinching, paternalistic, intrusive, and rather nasty scheme designed to push claimants into low paying insecure jobs under threat of benefit withdrawal.

Labour is not alone. Even the so-called poverty relief charities (eg JRF) back it.

But yes, I believe Chris is correct when he says,

"A politics that was seriously concerned for the worst off would address these issues, rather than treat migrants as a threat."

The failure to address poverty is pushing those at the bottom into the arms of those who offer scapegoats.

We've seen this movie before, haven't we?

Luis Enrique

it's not just congenitally disorganized, it is repulsive. Most people really do not like preachy radical-left personality types.


Because you are making the same mistake as much of the media and political pollsters; it's not about Left and Right but about Up and Down.


Agreed AllanW - left/right constructs are just not helpful, especially when applied as Labour-left, Tory-right.

It's basically split into people who are bastards and the rest. Here's my venn diagram:

Bastards: tory, labour, ukip, maybe libdem


ps tried to find a more mellow word but I think the above is spot on.

An Alien Visitor

You are clearly waiting for this:

"Do such people also feel uncomfortable watching Ola Jordan and Kristina Rihanoff"

I feel something when watching Ola and Kristina but I wouldn't say it is uncomfortable.

The revelation that UKIP voters massively back public ownership of utilities tells us that they are simple minded. Not because they support public ownership of utilities you understand but because they can't see the nature of UKIP, all they see is what UKIP want them to see, nasty, smelly immigrants and scroungers.

many of the left have consistently downplayed UKIP as a party for old white men (as if they don't count), are they now rethinking that idea?

Igor Belanov

The problem is that the 'establishment' parties have very little to offer that would inspire anyone to vote for them, while, at the same time, societal changes have steadily eroded many of their natural bases of support. There are still residual sections of the population that hold to established social and political voting patterns, but they are less than before. When you combine this with the fact that our electoral system focuses attention on a tiny minority of 'swing' voters, then this dealignment is reinforced.
Ultimately UKIP are 'out-bigoting' the Tories, who have been forced to suggest that 'a vote for UKIP is a vote for Ed Miliband'. Apart from the ridiculous suggestion implicit in this statement that somehow Ed Miliband is equivalent to Stalin, it is despicably anti-democratic. I find UKIP repellant, but people have their reasons for voting for them, and that is all part of politics.

Igor Belanov

Also, why the surprise that Clacton voted for UKIP but contains few immigrants? In Leeds most of the areas with the highest UKIP/BNP votes over the past 15 years have been areas that have small non white-British populations. The problem is more that these people have little contact with 'real' ethnic minorities and immigrants, and tend to believe all the stereotypes and myths about them, causing them to retreat into a kind of siege mentality, even when the 'threat' is hardly in evidence.

Icarus Green

Fairly obvious to me whats going on. All across the Western world, conservatives are becoming more and more extreme in their visions and ideals, not just in the UK. Let me make this statement of fact: It has literally gotten to the point where people think David Cameron is not conservative enough. Think about that. So whether its the tea party in America or UKIP, the madness will continue.

There are roughly 3 underlying reasons for this:

1. Some of these people/their parents were once working class people open to left wing policies in the early 20th century. Everyone knew who the rich were and the privileges associated with that. It was easy to demarcate class, if not economically, then culturally and socially. As the success of these policies like free secondary education, 40 hour work week, minimum wage, public housing, universal healthcare, dole etc pushed these people and their children into what we would now call a mass middle class (and not just the isolated professions and merchants of yesteryear that once filled this category), some of these people assumed a different voter profile, further to the right and 'forgot' about what got them there. They are now self concerned about preserving wealth, removing the ladder for younger people or immigrants and attributing their inflating house prices and 'success' to their 'hard work'.

2. The media has splintered into ideological camps in the Anglo Saxon world. Various media laws in the West that used to ensure a basic journalistic standard that what had to be reported was verified by fact and sources got repealed due to conservative elite pressure. Conservatives know as well as you or I know, they can't win in an arena where facts are the weapons. Thus this opened a hole in the wall for conjecture, fear mongering, propaganda, and emotional reporting leading to the likes of the Daily Mail and Fox News. Studies show the consumers of these media are the most uninformed of all media consumers, and thus excellent recruits for extremist conservative movements.

3. Ironically the Fall of Communism. Why did our beloved aristocrats give us free education, the welfare state and healthcare? Simply put - they were scared of extreme left wing ideas taking root in the West and so had to pre-empt similar movements from taking place here by bribing people. Without that countervailing global force, the right now feels free to hilariously convince people that cutting workers wages is the route to prosperity and that trade union members's are living high on the hog in presumably their swiss chateaus sipping their merlot.


"why has disquiet with the Establishment led to support for a rightist party rather than the left?"

Simple answer: Because the left is now part of the Establishment

Churm Rincewind

"You might reply that I'm missing the point." Yes, I think you are. There's no contradiction between people feeling "uncomfortable" about immigrant culture, whilst also feeling there's no problem with immigrants in their own area.

As I've posted before, female genital mutilation is reasonably common in my neck of the woods. I feel uncomfortable about that. But do I feel there's an overall problem with immigrants in my area? In general, no.

gastro george

"Studies show the consumers of these media are the most uninformed of all media consumers ..."

Actually, I think that they are well informed, it's just that they are well informed by lies (which is probably what you mean).

"Because the left is now part of the Establishment."

You might want to define "left" in that statment. If you're talking about Labour, their leftness is highly contentious.

"On both grounds, the Left could mobilize such voters. But it hasn't. Why?"

Because it hasn't repented the drift to neo-liberalism initiated by Blair. It's transparent to any sensible person that there is little difference between the economic policies of the the three "main" parties, because politicians like Balls continually assert it. So if you're fed up with poor or no pay, then why would you vote for any of them, as they are all "no change" parties.

Given that, it's almost remarkable that the Labour vote is actually standing up, despite the reporting from the media bubble.


Seems to me that the issue is the basic split between which identity one favors.

UKIP voters want solidarity, but one built upon shared ethno-cultural makers (English speaking, English values, English ethnicity), not shared economic interests (all the workers of the world unite).

Ken Adams

It is not the UKIP question, you are worrying about the result and not the cause, UKIPs rise is caused by the mainstream parties, it is they who have moved away from their core vote. The result is the rise of UKIP, thus by trying to find out what it is about UKIP that entices people to vote for them, (as if a little bit of re-jigging here or there will bring them back to the fold) is to totally miss the point, UKIP voters know they are not wanted in the main parties.

The Tories in particular have made is quite clear there is no place for either traditional Tory values or voters in the modern party. Labour are attempting to break away from control of the unions, as both parties claim they are inhabiting some mythical centre ground, but they both stand for the same cooperate style of management.

This is why the Tories will find their "vote UKIP and get Miliband" slogan has no resonance with those likely to vote UKIP, they see no difference between either party. The list of areas that are removed from political debate and control by voting is growing almost daily, from the green agenda to HR2, from immigration to Re-nationalisation of our utilities, we the voters are being denied the opportunity to voice our opinions in a manner that has any affect on the way we are governed. We are no longer offered debate on these issues but bombarded with false proof that something or other is the right thing to do and anyone who does not agree in some way deficient.

As someone on Thursday night said, the main parties say they are listening, well it is time they started hearing.

Igor Belanov

It does annoy me that UKIP are described as an 'anti-establishment' party. They don't advocate abolition of the monarchy or unilateral nuclear disarmament, and they certainly don't stand up for the socially and politically excluded. Their 'unique selling point' is that they reject traditional electoral strategies of trying to entice small sections of the 'middle ground' in favour of coming out and saying what they think. Radical, eh? Essentially, this is one of the few things that differentiates them from wide swathes of the Tories, much of whose policy and opinions UKIP share as a party (if not all their voters).


The evidence may show that immigration is good for us but when was the last time we had a serious politician making that claim and arguing it in public? I take more than a passing interest in politics and don't remember it happening. I don't even remember it happening at a Labour conference, but that could be because of the lack of decent reporting.

Maybe it's the fault of the media and politicians fear being hounded, in which case they don't deserve to be in positions of leadership and do deserve to be scorned.

I don't believe people are as intolerant as is being made out. They turned to UKIP, and previously the BNP, because every time immigration policy was questioned they were shouted down as racists and bigots. Gordon Brown had the ideal opportunity and blew it, instead adding to the sense that nobody wanted to listen to "ordinary" people.

Asking if what appears to be unlimited immigration is sensible when we have rationed health care, welfare and housing is not an unreasonable question to ask. It certainly isn't racist and deserves and answer from political leaders.

Until the supporters of immigration are prepared to stand up in public and engage in the debate instead of allowing people to be labelled racist for questioning immigration policy then the right wing conservative part of UKIP will grow in fertile ground.

Dave Timoney

Very few people are thoroughgoing racists because it is hard work to view the world entirely through the prism of ethnicity. You are either defeated by reality or go quietly mad. Immigration is clearly a proxy for anxiety about wider socio-economic change, not the dilution of the race, and thus not a specifically rightist issue.

The tendency of the media to yoke immigration to racism is part of an ideological stance that questions the legitimacy of democracy - i.e. the right of the common sort to vote on matters of public policy (the death penalty used to have much the same role). There is a reason why the media prefers to talk about voters deserting the main parties rather than the other way round, and why they emphasise both voter "anger" and the incoherent impossibilism of the anti-establishment opposition.

Similarly, noting popular support for the NHS (and describing it as "love"), while regretting the people's ignorance of the necessity of "reform" due to demographic change (which "we" know to be inescapable, apparently), is intended to highilght the essential unreasonableness and emotionalism of the people. Likewise, the hypereality of the economy, and specifically the focus on the fabulous beast that is the deficit, serves the elite belief that the people are incapable of understanding economics and must be taught responsible behaviour through parables lest they vote to loot the public purse.

The story of the last 40 years is of the gradual retrenchment of representative democracy. We have been converted from voters to consumers whose preferences are increasingly weighted by property. As Scotland hinted, the left's prospects depend on the degree to which it can become the champion of democracy. What this week's byelections show is that the people haven't yet been persuaded to give up on "the goold old cause".


@Icarus Green

I totally agree. But the coin has another side: now that all these things are changing, we are returning to the early 20th century: it's bye bye to middle-class, welcome back to the rabble.

The final outcome could well depend on whether extreme-rightwingers are able to fool us forever.

Steve Beaton

The psychology behind populism is always fairly straightforward. Populist appeals generally don't offer a set of policies to solve existing problems (they do offer policies, but that's simply window dressing). Instead they offer a target group to blame for existing problems - and merely getting rid of this group's influence is therefore assumed to magically improve society via addition by subtraction.

The reason why populism increases in a crisis is because society's problems increase, thereby making blame politics more appealing. It doesn't matter what the practical link between the group being blamed and the problem is. It's largely irrelevant to the appeal of populism whether immigrants actually benefit the country, whether leaving the EU would make our situation worse, or whether the natives feel uncomfortable on the bus.

It's not a practical argument in the first place so you can't defeat it with appeals to objective reasoning - no more than you can convince a Spurs fan they should support Arsenal by citing some objective evidence they play more entertaining football.

We need to start thinking of UKIP's populism primarily in psychological terms. When times are tough people look for someone to blame - people like Farage (and indeed Salmond, a more palatable version who simply blames London rather than foreigners) have always been on the sidelines ready to jump on that bandwagon. The politics of blame (of politicians mobilising existing grievances for their own ends) has been one of the real constants throughout all political history so we shouldn't be surprised to see it emerge now.

Jacques René Giguère

As the manual working class began to isappear to be replaced by an "intellectual" middle-class, the Left parties beagn to abandon the unwashed mases as not thinking enough. The cure for their "simplemindedness" was to force them to confront their "ignorance" bycalling them racist and forcing them to accept the "Other" as the fount of everything that is righ and themselves as the source of all evil. That the Other (the immigrants) disagree with thos point of viwe is not an hindrance to the bobo thesis. In my neck of Canada, my muslim colleagues and family are totally againt burka wearing, which is promoted by the media to their frightened dismay.

George Carty

Are you sure that the media was actually promoting the wearing of the niqab*, rather than just opposing its prohibition by law?

*The niqab (veil with slit for the eyes) is the most common form of face veiling that is often misnamed "burqa" in the West. Actual burqas have only a grid mesh for the woman to see through, and are worn almost exclusively in Afghanistan and bordering regions of Pakistan.

An Alien Visitor

"In my neck of Canada, my muslim colleagues and family are totally againt burka wearing, which is promoted by the media to their frightened dismay."

It is different here, here Muslims tend to stand up when they are being singled out and persecuted, for example with the media demonisation of Muslims and government banning what they choose to wear. In Canade it appears Muslims are more submissive. I guess that is just how the media and government want them!


Getting back to your original question, I think the answer lies in the way the Left has responded to the defeats the working class has suffered, particularly since the Miners Strike.

Apart from the key role played by Militant in the anti-Poll Tax movement, the Left has been marginalised and has reinforced this marginalisation by retreating into ossified political groups with little contact with the day to day concerns of people and is therefore attracting fewer and fewer 'normal' people. Their political practice has become that of religious sects - even to the point of aping those by selling newspapers and having a stall in the High Street on a Saturday (which they actually consider the most important political activities). People who join are expected to have a ridiculous level of dedication, so people who have family responsibilities and/or other interests, eventually drop out.
The sad thing is where local groups of organisations like TUSC actually talk to people and get involved in or instigate campaigns locally, they actually get the credibility and half decent votes in elections (I speak from personal experience). There's an audience for Left wing ideas but no decent national organisation full of ordinary people to build on that.
Most of the existing Left ouside the Labour Party is stuck in a timewarp and is led by self-perpetuating cliques whose main raison d'etre is merely surviving and ensuring enough money comes in to fund bloated full time bureaucracies. As for the Left in the Labour Party, well the question is, 'Why, FFS, are you wasting your life there?!'

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