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UKIP - a pro-cuts party for the 1%
Ukip leader Nigel Farage has his eyes on the prize. On 22 May, he hopes to see his party romp home to victory in the European elections and finish up with a healthy smattering of brand new councillors. Should he be successful, this will be the first time a party other than Labour or Conservative has won a countrywide election since World War One.
But does a vote cast Ukip's way bring with it a better chance of improved lives for the 'British workers' whose side they claim to be on?
As Farage plans to exploit the gaping vacuum that exists in British politics in May, Claire Laker-Mansfield looks behind the bluster at what Ukip really stands for.
Ukip is attempting to win over working class voters in what are traditionally Labour areas. It was clearly a very conscious decision to launch Ukip's millionaire-bankrolled billboards and election campaign in Yorkshire. One billboard features a gigantic pointing finger beside the words: "26 million people in Europe are looking for work. And whose jobs are they after?"
The campaign is designed to cynically exploit the understandable anxieties of many workers - concern about the lack of jobs, cut-to-the-bone public services, anger at corrupt politicians and the super-rich elite, and betrayal by Labour.
Farage has said he is going after Labour voters and non-voters, claiming one in five Ukip votes come from those who wouldn't otherwise bother. Ukip beermats attempt to appeal to disillusioned voters in pubs across the north of England. And with hours and hours of TV and media coverage, Ukip is widely presented as the best stick to beat the Con-Dems and Labour.
But while Ukip's politics place it to the right of the Conservative party, when asked, its voters often stand to the left of the three main capitalist parties. The majority of Ukip's supporters are in favour of higher public spending; almost 80% express support for nationalising the energy companies; 57% want a ban on zero-hour contracts and 73% would like to see the railways back under public ownership.
When asked what issues motivated people to vote Ukip, the European Union came fifth. More prominent concerns include healthcare, the economy and immigration. It is with these voters in mind that Ukip is combining its inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric on immigration with posing to the left on some economic issues.
Farage has made recent headlines calling for 'curbs' on zero-hour contracts - although he was keen to caution he had no truck with 'militant trade unionism' which might actually improve the lot of these workers. Meanwhile Ukip's enormously regressive and utterly out of touch flat-rate tax policy has been quietly dropped for the time-being.
During the Wythenshawe byelection in February, Ukip even went as far as producing leaflets with the headline 'Vote Ukip, protect your benefits'. Ukip's semi-left posturing is beyond cynical, but they are allowed to get away with it by a Labour party which is fully signed up to the agenda of austerity.
How can Labour attack Ukip for not seriously wanting to defend benefits when its leaders have pledged to be 'tougher than the Tories on welfare'?
The truth is that Ukip will not be any defence against cuts for working people. Its leaders and key donors are rabidly right-wing free market fundamentalists, who would implement even more brutal cut-backs and anti-working class policies than the Tories if they could.
£77 billion cuts
Ukip may have been forced to disown its 2010 general election manifesto (which Farage now refers to as 'drivel'), but it gives you a taste of the carnage that it would unleash if given half a chance.
Not content with the slash and burn approach of the Tories, it pledged to go even further, reducing public spending to 1997's levels and slashing two million public sector jobs. Ukip may want to win voters struggling under the cruelty of benefit cuts in Wythenshawe now, but in 2010, it pledged to abolish incapacity benefit completely.
What's more, only months ago Farage was decrying the Tories' failure to 'deal with the deficit' and claiming only Ukip would be bold enough to 'properly' cut the NHS and pensions, pledging an additional £77 billion of cuts. Now, when he's asked about policies on welfare, education and public spending, Farage refuses to talk about domestic policies until after 22 May.
However, in the few places Ukip has councillors they have often voted for cuts - even while in opposition. In Suffolk one Ukip councillor even went to the lengths of using the voting card of his absent colleague to 'vote twice' for a Conservative cuts budget (now the subject of an investigation).
Farage's popular image is itself a carefully constructed lie: A straight-talking 'everyman', complete with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, he apparently relishes the chance to stick it to the political and social elites. Commenting on Ukip's mission, Farage recently claimed: "My priority is a new political party and movement in this country that wants to stand up for the interests of ordinary people".
But 'ordinary' would be an inappropriate adjective to apply to Nigel. This privately educated (Dulwich College) millionaire is a former stockbroker, and is himself very much a member of the privileged elite. He was a Tory throughout Margaret Thatcher's war on the working class, only leaving in protest at the John Major government's signing of the Treaty on European Union at Maastricht.
While Farage is keen to decry 'Eurocrats' he neglects to mention that he has been stuffing his pockets with over £60,000 worth of expenses. Unabashed by Leveson and revelations about phone hacking, Nigel Farage recently accepted an invitation to a fancy dinner with Rupert Murdoch.
Perhaps that partly explains the mountains of favourable coverage Ukip has been receiving in the Sun!
The Ukip National Executive also includes disgraced ex-Tory MP Neil Hamilton, of 'cash for questions' fame. So any profession by Ukip to represent a clean break from corrupt politicians is laughable.
Moreover, despite the party's deputy leader Paul Nuttall harking back to the days when "Labour MPs came from the mills and the mines", his party has no interest in giving the working class any say in the policies of his party. It is one thing to claim working class support, but quite another to allow organised workers to have 'ownership' of a political organisation.
The reason Labour once had MPs from the mills and the mines, was that it had the democratic participation of millions of working class people through the trade unions. The only political organisation today that allows trade unions and workers a genuine say, and direct democratic control, is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
What Ukip really stands for is the politics of despair. Millions of those who vote for Ukip will do so out of a desire to 'stick two fingers up' to the main parties in protest. This instinct is more than justified. But Ukip has no solutions. Far from genuinely threatening the establishment, Ukip is playing an important role in protecting them.
Instead of encouraging workers to organise to fight the austerity which enriches the 1% at the expense of the 99%, Ukip aims to foster division between ordinary workers and sow the seeds of hatred. Rather than pledging to vote against cuts, Ukip duplicitously 'talks the talk' on the doorstep while voting for cuts carnage in the town halls.
With further revelations of outright racism among Ukip's council candidates, any claim to simply be 'saying what ordinary people really think' is shown to be false. The best way to protest in May is to vote for an organisation that supports a united struggle of workers of all backgrounds against cuts - an organisation that won't betray us in the town hall and won't abandon us in the workplaces and on the streets.
If you want to register your discontent on 22 May vote TUSC against cuts, and fight to build a party of and for working people.
- While TUSC is standing in the local elections, for the European elections the Socialist Party is supporting No2EU - Yes To Workers' Rights, which is led by the RMT union.
As Bob Crow, No2EU and TUSC co-founder said:
"Ukip is neither in favour of workers' rights, public services or welfare. If people are looking for an alternative, Ukip isn't it."
Who's bankrolling Ukip?
Between 2001 and 2013 Ukip received over £7 million in donations, according to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission.
Its donors include:
- Julian Blackwell, owner of Blackwell's, the publishing group: £175k
- Sir John Craven, former chairman of mining group Lonmin (Lonmin workers were massacred in Marikana, South Africa in 2012): £12,500
- James Donald Charteris, or Lord Neidpath, a former close friend of the Queen Mother: £54k
- Viscount Michael Cowdray, member of the Pearson publishing family and Britain's tenth largest landowner: £35,000
- Lady Yvonne Vinson, wife of Nigel Vinson, or Baron Vinson, a former deputy chairman of the Confederation of British Industry bosses' union, and a regular attendee at the House of Lords: £10k
Not so much a party of the downtrodden as one of press barons and actual knights!
In the wake of the 26 March 2011 TUC march against austerity, the biggest trade union and working class-led demonstration in British history, Ukip supporters attempted to organise a counter 'rally against debt' in May 2011.
The organiser, Annabelle Fuller, a Ukip spin-doctor recently rumoured to be having an affair with Farage, initiated the pro-cuts protest after being "completely appalled" by the TUC demonstration (The Guardian, 14 May 2011).
Amid excited talk about a US Tea Party-style 'mass movement' beginning in Britain, a bare handful turned up, bearing 'Stop spending my money', and 'What cuts? When will they start?' placards.
Farage spoke alongside 'Euro-sceptic' Tory MPs, Priti Patel and Bill Cash, and other right-wing luminaries. This was the real measure of where the balance of forces lay.
From Socialism Today, June 2013 by Clive Heemskerk:
In The Socialist 30 April 2014:
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