As the media has inflated UKIP’s popularity, all analyses should come with a series of clarifications. The party is the fourth in the country in terms of council seats won, but it lags far behind in terms of parliamentary seats. The main gains have been in the European Parliament thanks to low turnout and a proportional electoral system. Farage has been cautious in picking his battles. He could have put himself up for a run last year, but he left that to Roger Helmer. The two seats, which UKIP has secured, belong to the Tory defectors Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless.
It’s an almost fail-safe strategy to take seats by defection. Most by-elections are secure just by the record and personality of the MP. Of course, there are exceptions. One such case was the Labour MP Bruce Douglas-Man, who joined the SDP defections. Unlike the other defectors, Douglas-Man stood for re-election during the white heat of the Falklands war. He was trounced by the Conservative candidate. The main question now is whether or not UKIP can capitalise on the gains it has made.
The battle for South Thanet could, make or break UKIP. Early in the race, the polls have found only slight differences in support for the Conservative candidate, Craig Mackinlay, (himself a former UKIP activist) and Nigel Farage (himself a former Conservative). The ComRes poll found the Conservative candidate, Craig Mackinlay, a former UKIP activist, on 30%, Farage on 29% and Labour on 28%. The latest poll now finds Farage in the lead with 39% on Mackinlay’s 30%.
Bids for Power
In the instance of defeat, Farage has said he will resign as party leader. This could be read as confidence in his chances, or as hubris before the fall, as the polls could well shift again. Senior UKIP member Diane James, another former Conservative, has said that the party is ready for a leadership contest. Obvious potential challengers include the reactionary Liverpudlian Paul Nuttall, Daily Express journalist Patrick O’Flynn, and Suzanne Evans, just another Tory refugee.
Fortunately none of these prospective candidates have the same level of public recognition and appeal as Farage. The possibility of a leadership contest could rip apart UKIP, just as it did the BNP, particularly if the incumbent remains intransigent to all opposition. At the same time, it remains possible that the ultra-rightist party will be able to transform saturated media coverage into an electoral bloc in key areas. UKIP could expand its parliamentary gains from two seats to four or five seats. But it’s still a long-term game for Nigel Farage.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives are facing the very real possibility of defeat, minority rule or another more peculiar coalition. The liberal commentariat rightly fears UKIP will be in a position to play kingmaker, but it’s more likely that the real threat will come from outside the fiefdoms of English nationalism. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, led by Peter Robinson, is in a much stronger position to play coalition partner to David Cameron. This would be a great irony for a Prime Minister currently fear-mongering about Scots taking over Whitehall.
The Financial Times estimated that there is an 11.15% chance of a Conservative, Liberal Democrat and DUP coalition. This is the biggest chance for David Cameron to extend his tenure. Of course, this would presume the survival of a certain number of Liberal Democrats, as the chance for a Conservative-DUP government comes to 0.69%. Even a Conservative-DUP-UKIP coalition only has a 0.64% chance of taking shape. All of this is oddly apt for the Cameron government and the rightward trajectory of UK politics.
White Identity Politics
The unionist settlement in Northern Ireland emerges out of the cycle of settler-colonialism by the British state. It’s the DUP that embodies the reactionary side of oppression in Ireland, particularly the cultivation of an Anglo-Irish Protestant identity, which itself helped to constitute the development of white identity in Britain. UKIP now buttresses itself as the politically incorrect party of the ‘white’ working-class fighting against the establishment. As Theodore W. Allen and Noel Ignatiev will attest, the racial oppression of the Irish by the English gave arise to the early forms of race consciousness.
The renegade forces of Protestant loyalism stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the thugs of British nationalism. Together with the loyalists, so-called for their absolute fidelity to the crown and the cross, rather than the decaying institutions of the UK, groups like Britain First and the English Defence League see themselves at war with ‘foreigners’ and the Left. The radical Right see the tentacles of a vast and ravenous leviathan everywhere. It’s the conspiracy, which they see, lurking behind Muslim immigration, liberal multiculturalism, feminism and gay equality.
It is too often forgotten that the Six Counties stood as a gerrymandered outpost, in which literacy tests were used to limit the Catholic vote, while British troops fired water cannons and rubber bullets (sometimes stuffed with razor blades) at the unruly masses. The British para-state is now known to have taken sides in the spirals of sectarian bloodletting. The Force Research Unit colluded with Ulster loyalists in killing Republicans and Catholic civilians. Undeniably, the scars of imperialism remain in the streets of Belfast to this day.
The colonial and racial oppression of the Irish provided the impetus to presuppose a ‘common interest’ among English people that may circumvent class antagonism and even render it harmonious. This is why Karl Marx was right to situate the struggle for Irish national liberation against the English ruling-class, as a space to shake off the chains of class oppression. Allen and Ignatiev would later extend and deepen this analysis to US race relations.
Now Nigel Farage leads the call to white identity in Britain, as he bemoans the losses of the ‘white’ working-class, and equates immigrants with job shortages, wage stagnation and disease. The whole point is to displace the class antagonism: no more rich and poor, just white and non-white. The relative advantages of white privilege are meant to elevate the lower orders just enough for them to make peace with the system. UKIP stands at the end of the process that gave birth to the DUP.
Photographs courtesy of Ian Burt and edis08. Published under a Creative Commons license.