Thursday, 22 May 2014

I would vote UKIP, but it is not libertarian

I want to vote UKIP in the European Parliamentary elections today.  There have been and are a lot of reasons to commend UKIP, but despite a plaintiff claim by Nigel Farage on Conservative Home, I am strongly inclined to not put a cross beside UKIP - because UKIP is no longer the libertarian-inclined party I warmed to, and was a member of for a year.  I say this with great hesitation, because I passionately believe the UK needs a party that is led and populated by people who want much less government, I believe exit from the European Union is, unfortunately, essential to achieve this, and I also think, fundamentally, Nigel Farage errs on the side of less intervention. 

What's the problem?  Well it's all about Romanians.  Yes there have been plenty of instances of Romanian gangs engaging in criminal activity in the UK, but you can talk about disproportionate numbers of crimes committed by race in several other dimensions as well.  Had Nigel Farage said "you know the difference between a group of black men moving next door and a German family", then he wouldn't and couldn't have got out of it by saying "well the crime statistics show a disproportionate number of prisoners are black".  It isn't just taboo because it is politically incorrect, it is because the implication that everyone else should look upon people of a certain ethnicity with suspicion that they could be criminal because of their ethnicity leads you down a path that is utterly reprehensible.

For in that are the seeds of collective guilt, the seeds of racial discrimination and hatred.

So whilst Farage initially wrote off his radio comment as just being because he was "tired", this press release killed my vote for UKIP. 

Blame whoever wrote the headline to it, because I don't need to quote from the press release to "get it".  In my office I work with a Romanian woman, who is hard working, diligent and conscientious and who arrived in the UK legally before the "doors were opened".  I don't believe she was after "my job" and I also don't believe I'd have reason to be concerned if her and her friends or family moved in next door by merely the fact that they are Romanian.

Had Farage come out and said his concern was about open borders allowing criminals to live in the UK unchecked from other countries, not just Romanians and that it was highly inappropriate and wrong to appear to single them out, he might have saved it.  However he didn't, he and the party, engaged in the sort of slimy two-faced contradictions it accuses the others of undertaking.

The press release said "Police figures are quite clear that there is a high level of criminality within the Romanian community in Britain. This is not to say for a moment that all or even most Romanian people living in the UK are criminals."

"Lots of black people commit crime, but most of them don't."  Imagine that statement, for it could be said to be true, but how is it treating people as individuals?  On their deeds not their background?
I'm not one to throw about the "racist" insult as is the tactic of all too many on the left, and by no means do I think UKIP is anything approaching the BNP.  Indeed, by wanting a common approach to immigration from all countries, it resists this, but it is absolutely true that UKIP's campaign this year hasn't been about liberating the UK from the EU primarily, it has been about scaremongering about immigration.  As one wit quipped, "if you are scared that a poorly educated, non-English speaking eastern European is going to take your job, then maybe you might just be quite shit at it".

There was a lot that could have been focused on more, like the contribution the EU has to the cost of living, but instead it focused on this:


We believe in the right of the people of the UK to govern ourselves, rather than be governed by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels (and, increasingly, in London and even your local town hall). 

We believe in the minimum necessary government which defends individual freedom, supports those in real need, takes as little of our money as possible and doesn’t interfere in our lives.

What libertarian would find that to not be in the right direction, with the only slip to freedom being a reference to what would be a basic welfare state, but which would be a revolutionary change from the socialism of Red Ed's Labour, the do-gooding enviro-statism of the Liberal Democrats, to the diluted, Green-tinged, petty statist Conservatives?

Sure there were some signs that the instincts of some in the party were wrong.  Some defended the NHS, some argued against liberalising planning laws.  In fact the party's local government policy says that it would stop housing development on green space, even though the primary cause of the housing crisis is the neo-Stalinist planning system that locks up half of the land in London in less than pristine greenbelt land (and a quarter of that land would supply London's housing needs for a generation).

Then the EU was blamed for HS2, the privatisation of Royal Mail, the privatisation of the NHS and more latterly the crisis in Ukraine.  There are enough reasons to criticise the EU for its wasteful subsidies and fetish for regulation without making up conspiracy theories about how the EU changes policies that are outside its remit, or making excuses for corrupt kleptocratic revanchist thugs. I've argued vehemently with several UKIPpers on these points, using facts and quoting European legislation (see I know this stuff!), and they either fold quickly and say it doesn't matter or claim I've been duped because somehow I can read legislation and understand it with a law degree.

A party that proudly can't be bothered to use reason in its arguments, and more recently blames Russian irredentism on the EU, is not just getting it wrong, but is damaging the cause.

Now Romanians have been scapegoated, and there isn't really any shame about it.

When he sticks to that subject, he's an excellent proponent of the argument. But when he brings Romanians into it, when he smears an entire nation to make the case against immigration, he's clearly doing the cause more harm than good. You can sense more moderate voters recoiling every time he strays into this territory. It's as if the Ukip leader is confirming the caricature of Euroscepticism that the BBC, the FT, the Independent and the Guardian have been trying to paint for the past 30 years – the Eurosceptic as swivel-eyed loon, as Little Englander, as closet racist. People like me have always claimed that's a straw man. But Nigel Farage is that straw man. 

In the local election my choice is clear.  My borough is Labour dominated, in my ward there are three Conservative councillors, and one UKIP candidate, who hasn't bothered to distribute a leaflet outlining his views on council spending, housing, roads and schools (council issues), so he doesn't deserve my vote (especially given UKIP's opposition to new housing on the greenbelt).  I'll vote for the Conservative councillors on their individual merits.

I have a mild tribal instinct to treat UKIP as Thatcherite Conservatives, but it isn't - despite Labour's protestations, it isn't by a mile.  I detest the simpering, ecologist felching, gutless cowardice of some of the Conservative leadership, albeit this has changed somewhat in government, but give the choice I have decided to vote Conservative.  Not because it will make a difference, but because I cannot give moral agency to UKIP campaigning as it has done, and because polling indicates that UKIP may win, with Labour second and the Conservatives a close third.  I'd much rather give the Conservatives a chance of beating Labour, than give my moral endorsement to UKIP's campaign.

UKIP is proudly seeking working class Labour voters.  Good on it, I'd be thrilled to see Labour terrified in the heartlands it has so cynically taken for granted.  However, that isn't me, and I would much rather that a reasoned debate be had about the European Union and what the UK could be like without it, than scaremongering about an entire nation and evoking "understanding" for Vladimir Putin.

Quite simply, despite much that is good about UKIP, it is now poisoned, and I can't bring myself to endorse a party that tolerates that poison.  I'll vote Conservative because the European Parliament itself is not that important, and because the candidates themselves are fighting for less control from Brussels, and include some rather fine individuals (e.g. Daniel Hannan) who consistently argue against environmentalism, socialism and the travesties of the Common Agricultural Policy and EU waste.   It's not the UKIP I wished I could have voted for, but it's in the right direction, its professional and it doesn't besmirch individual nationalities.


  1. Damn shame UKIP has taken that tack. Your reasoning is right. I too detest pc bs, and think the racist tag is used as a useful weapon, not from much sincerity or grasp of things. I wanted UKIP & Farage to do well and do well by making the targets the Brit establishment & running renegade to raise the flag of Brit independence & liberty high again. Bugger.

  2. Sadly, you're quite right Scott. Though I find Nigel Farage enormously entertaining, UKIP are not libertarian - but I can sympathise with their core policy of Brexit.