By winning the European election outright UKIP have certainly come of age, and they can now justifiably claim to be serious contenders for government rather than just fringe players picking up protest votes. The reaction to UKIP’s victory has been predictable, with the usual allegations of racism and personal attacks on Nigel Farage and other UKIP members, being bolstered with various allegations of corruption and incompetence. It’s also amusing that over the last few weeks the media has done its utmost to attack Farage and UKIP to try and bring them down, but since that policy backfired so terribly, UKIP’s opponents are now claiming all the publicity they got gave them an unfair advantage. They can’t have it both ways!
Critics of UKIP fall broadly into two camps: Labour/Conservative supporters who are absolutely terrified that their decades of political dominance is about to end; and radicals on the Left who see in UKIP (and the other European right wing parties who did so well in the elections), some kind of rerun of 1930’s Fascism which can only end in disaster. The Labour/Conservative axis deserve everything they get, because it’s their Free Market Capitalist policies which caused the economic crisis in the first place, and their adherence to the corrupt first-past-the-post voting system which has led to such widespread voter discontent with the existing political classes. The sooner those two parties are gone the better.
For the rest, there are undoubted parallels with the 1930’s, but we shouldn’t get too carried away – the world is a very, very different place now from what it was then. Fundamentally what has happened is that for the last 70 years people have been terrified of Nationalism, as the last time Europe went on a Nationalist frenzy we had two World Wars and tens of millions of people died. In the intervening period the EU has basically been a political project to try and stop such things ever happening again, and Nationalist tendencies have largely been suppressed in favour of ‘Europeanism’. But you can’t force change on people against their will, eventually things revert to type, and now the pendulum is swinging back and people are losing their fear of openly expressing pride in their country. Nationalism is returning, and whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing is irrelevant: it’s a fact and we’re all going to have to work with it.
It’s very difficult to predict where all this will end up, but I for one don’t believe it’s true that pride in your country means you have to be racist, and nor do I believe that war is the inevitable consequence of Nationalist movements. What is clear is that the EU has become an out-of-control Free Market Capitalist project, and issues of uncontrolled immigration are just one of the many problems it has caused for its member states. With the rapid rise of Eurosceptic Nationalist parties the EU is going to have to reform itself pretty quickly, otherwise it will soon be breaking up. Likewise the political elites around Europe, who for so long have done what they like regardless of public opinion, are also going to have to change their ways otherwise they too will soon be swept away.
Right wing parties like UKIP may not be the answer (and in the case of UKIP specifically, their support of Free Market Capitalism means they most definitely aren’t the answer) but for now they’re the ones making all the running in bringing political change, and unless and until any other political groups can get their act together, it’ll be the Nationalist parties that continue to lead the charge in bringing down our rotten and corrupt political system.