The Stoke-on-Trent by-election has gifted UKIP another opportunity to peddle the lie that they are in some way representing the interest of the British working class. It is laughable to suggest that the UK Independence Party can have some connection to the hard working British people as not only do they present policies that actively harm this part of society, but this facade is being diminished every day.
UKIP started as a small party, developed to a lobbying opposition to the EU, then became a larger force within British party politics and European Parliament (ironically) before of course the central role they took in the referendum. This short history is context to their place in British politics, which is somewhat undecided. With one MP and MEP’s going to become a thing of the past, what will UKIP have to offer the British public. A re-band was needed.
Hence the run of leadership races in which nobody, let alone UKIP members, knew what was going on. After a short rein, a re-run and a punch up, Paul Nuttall became UKIP’s new leader. I knew little about Paul Nuttall other than three things.
- He wanted to privatise the NHS.
- He was a member of UKIP.
- Stuart Lee did one of the funniest comedy sketches I’ve ever heard on him. (link attached) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EHT6rNpABA
During the campaign Nuttall told the crowd of almost entirely white, predominantly male, and mostly retirement-age residents: “I am facing down a Labour party that has more in common with Stoke Newington than Stoke-on-Trent.”
Farage said, to cheers from the audience, that only Nuttall, a “genuine working-class candidate”, would be able to “expose the fact that the Labour party is not the party it was for the past 100 years”. “It has been hijacked by the Corbynistas, by Islington intellectuals and by a man who refuses to sing the national anthem,” he said.
These nationalist utterances are a confused mix of ideological representation, tactical campaigning and rhetoric of separation and division which UKIP have used throughout the referendum campaigning. Stoke voted by almost 70% in favour of leave in the referendum; Nuttall described the area as the “capital of Brexit”. Labour candidate Gareth Snell, who is fighting to maintain the 2015 Labour lead of 5,000 votes, has been a vocal remain supporter; UKIP hopes that this discrepancy will act in their favour. Although Labour has controlled Stoke-on-Trent Central since 1950, its popularity has been declining since 1997, when the party won two-thirds of the vote; in 2015 it won 39.3%, while UKIP finished second, taking 22.7% of the vote.
It has been a tough week for Paul Nuttall. Firstly he was condemned for supporting Donald Trumps stance on water-boarding, then there were questions raised over whether he is living in the house he has listed. It then emerged Farage and Nuttall and six other MEPs are being investigated to determine whether they had misused EU funds to pay assistants who were doing political rather than parliamentary work. Interesting tactics to appeal to the working classes.
Of course immigration is a social problem, but not the fault of immigrants or those who feel left out because of towns, cities loosing their identity, but the fault of the government. When are people going to start blaming those we elect as opposed to those who want to come and contribute to this country?
UKIP is using this new image of supporting the working class in an effort to prompt a greater divide than we already see. The EU referendum was always going to result in winners and losers. Opinions don’t change and morals don’t waver. This divide although inevitable can be dealt with in a democratic, ethical way. The current government has done its best to ignore this and instead victimises whichever side suits them.
What is dangerous however is the manipulation of this divide by UKIP. Something I hope I have highlighted.