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By Jason Michael
WHEN NIGEL LAWSON said in the House of Lords that there is a “real danger that undesirable, but very often understandable, insurrectionary forces will feel they cannot trust the British parliament” if a hard Brexit is avoided, and that as a result “a very ugly situation could well arise,” he wasn’t exaggerating. Generally speaking, the mood across Britain’s populist hard-right has been darkening since June 2016 – and that’s a temperature shift that has continued to cool even after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a right-wing activist eight days before the Brexit referendum. The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union has emboldened the British far-right, and from the start this has been a process marked by xenophobia, racism, hatred, and murder. Let us not then make the mistake of thinking that Brexit is anything less than a revolutionary moment for the right, every bit as much as the election of Donald Trump was in the United States. Insurrectionary forces have pushed on the door of democracy and it has opened for them.
Imbecilic characters like Nigel Farage, Steven Wolfe, and Mike Hookem have contributed to the popular image of UKIP as a political joke, a monster raving loony outfit of misfits on the extreme edge of British political life. But this is a mistake. Albeit small and at present incapable of securing seats in the Commons under the Westminster majoritarian model, the UK Independence Party has a growing constituency. Analysis of the 2015 general election indicates that between 2010 and 2015 – that is before Brexit – UKIP increased its share of the vote by 9.5 per cent, winning 12.6 per cent of the vote with 3.9 million people voting for the party. Steven Ayres, a former Economics and Development Consultant with the United Nations, points to a more concerning trend; that while it failed to come second in any constituency in 2010, it came second in 120 Westminster constituencies just five years later. The political right is gaining ground.
Alex Wedlake (@AlexWedlake) April 16, 2019
UKIP, in fairness, is not the far-right. While racist opinions are well known in the party, the leadership has been careful to distance itself from the racism of the British National Party and the English Defence League. But this does not mean UKIP is not a populist party and a threat to democracy. At first, it is not the social thinking of UKIP that poses a problem, it is its economic thinking. This is a libertarian party, advocating what some libertarians describe as anarcho-capitalism; that is the maximum amount of freedom to the markets with the least amount of government regulation and interference. It is a party for the rich advancing a political agenda that will only ever benefit the rich at the cost of taxation, public spending, and welfare. This economic vision is what links UKIP to the right of the Republican Party in the US and to Trump.
Alone, libertarianism is what it is. The “billionaire class” – as a socio-economic class – will always seek to look after its own interests. In healthier democracies, which the United Kingdom certainly is not, this is generally balanced by the combined weight of the centre and the left. In Britain, however, even the mainstream political left – the Labour Party (or the “pink socialists” as John Mclean described it) – has veered to the right in a quixotic effort to reclaim votes from the right and even the far-right. The result of this, from the creation of Tony Blair’s “New Labour,” has been a progressive slide to the right across the whole of English politics. That today Labour, the Conservatives, and UKIP are preaching the same gospel of curbs on immigration and “independence” from Europe illustrates this slide to the right. Britain has no effective counterbalance to the right.
What we have, then, is an entire political system dancing to the tune being played by a relatively small number of economic libertarians. The issue that this creates is obvious; as the larger parties continue to chase the right, the right gains – in the eyes of the electorate – legitimacy. It is perceived to be the leader in the field – which it is, and so gains more votes. YouGov’s most recent poll on the European parliamentary elections shows Farage’s Brexit Party sitting pretty with a five-point lead on the Conservatives, making it England’s favourite at 27 per cent.
New YouGov Euro2019 poll has Brexit party in the lead BRX 27% LAB 22% CON 15% GRN 10% LD 9% UKIP 7% CHUK 6%—
Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) April 17, 2019
Our concerns don’t end here. UKIP has welcomed into its fold a number of highly influential “alt-right” – that is the racist far-right – social media personalities from the Twitter and YouTube platforms. With a combined following of 1.16 million on Twitter and 3 million on YouTube, Paul Joseph Watson, Mark Meechan (AKA “Count Dankula”), and Carl Benjamin (AKA “Sargon of Akkad”) represent on social media the advance guard of anti-socialist, anti-immigrant, and Islamophobic opinion in the UK. Like in the United States, the British alt-right studiously avoids the labels of ‘racism’ and ‘far-right’ by framing their racism and far-right politics as “free speech” and by hiding behind quasi-intellectual arguments, rapidly changing terminologies, and a barrage of dog-whistles and loaded memes – but make no bones about it, this is the racist far-right.
Alarmingly, this fusion of libertarianism and the social media front of the far-right was exactly the pony on which Donald Trump rode to victory in the States. The construction of a libertarian-to-alt-right tunnel was a central feature of Steve Bannon’s strategy, and so this move by UKIP – at the very least – can be seen as an emulation of that strategy. It is straight from the Robert Mercer/Steve Bannon playbook, and has proven its effectiveness at the highest level of international politics. Worst case scenario, as may be supported by the continued contact between English libertarians and Bannon, this move may point to an actual connection between its US architects and UKIP.
Recent events in the United States and in the United Kingdom have shown us that libertarian parties like UKIP and Farage’s Brexit Party do not have to be led by smart people. Both the Conservatives and Labour have demonstrated that governance and careful statesmanship are things of the past. The UK has – politically speaking – spun into a perfect storm of instability and anger. Brexit has proven beyond all doubt that the politics of fear-mongering, jingoism, and faux patriotism do well in times of chaos and uncertainty – but we knew this; this has happened before in one Latin American country after another, in Italy, in Spain, and in Germany. The parallels between Brexit Britain and Weimar Germany are sobering, and it should come as no surprise that the right is experiencing a surge.
Sargon of akkad and dankula - one selected as a UKIP MEP candidate and the other almost certainly will be. This co… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Fiona Robertson (@FionaSnp) April 13, 2019
Even without smart people, with enough financial backing from the anarcho-capitalists of the international billionaire class, and with the right people working the system of social media, there is no reason why UKIP or the Brexit Party cannot rise to power in Britain. All over the UK, as Nigel Lawson noted, people are losing faith in parliament, in democracy. It is “understandable” that, stuck in this predicament, people will look for a strongman – and that is exactly where we are headed.
The economic philosophy of the libertarians, as UKIP has long understood, does not win elections. Ordinary voters are not interested in economic arguments. They are even less impressed with men in suits who remind them too much of “the establishment.” Successful libertarian parties quickly adopt populist arguments; they single out scapegoats, they manufacture fake narratives, and they offer easy and deceitful answers to complex problems. This was precisely what UKIP and the Leave campaign did during the Brexit referendum campaign – and they won. Thus, without a coherent and appealing narrative of its own, UKIP has turned to the alt-right – which does have an appealing narrative of xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, and hate.
As happened in the United States, as happened in Weimar German, the tail will always wag the dog. Relying on the racist rhetoric of the alt-right, Britain’s libertarians will be pulled quickly down the rabbit hole, taking them from the economic right to the racist far-right. The introduction of alt-right influencers to UKIP will act as the same gateway for libertarianism in the UK to the far-right as it did in Germany in the 1920s and 30s, and as it did in the US in the run-up to the election of Trump – bringing us to what we must fear the most, a powerful and appealing racist narrative, coupled with the desire for strongman politics, in the midst of social and economic chaos. What we are looking at in this development is the advent of true fascism and tyranny in the United Kingdom. These are the insurrectionary forces the British establishment now fears, and these forces are riding to power with a winning political formula.
It is clear that we – in both the centre and the left – can no longer afford to be complacent. UKIP and the Brexit Party are not the joke we thought they were. Fronted, as they are by bampots and idiots, the libertarian parties know exactly what they are doing. In fact, with the exception of the SNP, Sinn Féin, and Plaid Cymru, these may be the only people in British politics who know what they are about. They have a plan, they have the funds and the right strategy, and they have powerful friends. We can all see the storm clouds gathering and we know that time is running out. With Labour and the Conservatives polling today at a combined 37 per cent and Farage’s Brexit Party and UKIP holding 34 per cent – and growing, it is clear the writing is on the wall. The old normal is giving way to something worse.
How Ukip normalised far-right politics