BSJ

The Butler Scholarly Journal

Do we really want a ‘UKIP of the left’?

By Kieran Devlin

Following Douglas Carswell’s victory in the Clacton by-election (with an astonishing 59.7%), more serious questions are being raised about the legitimacy of UKIP’s threat to the three core parties in Britain. UKIP is incontrovertibly developing as an established figure in British politics with its mild successes in the May 2014 European elections and more recently, their first ever elected MP. With many right-leaning voters struggling to distinguish between Labour, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats, UKIP is offering a viable alternative. So, as many writers have asked, why isn’t there the option of a ‘UKIP of the left?’ Personally, I wouldn’t vote for one.

Before I explain my diffidence towards this concept, it is best to clarify what UKIP, to me, represent. Firstly and most obviously, they are, for many, a protest vote. UKIP have expertly capitalised on national socio-political disillusionment, and, corroborated by disproportionate media coverage, have provided physical scapegoats for the electorate; namely, the EU and immigrants. A vote for UKIP is a vote against Westminster’s myopic self-centrism. They are new, different and exciting. They are anti-establishment. According to one of the fathers on psychological telestudy Gogglebox, they ‘get’ the working class. They project themselves as the party to shake up Britain’s pedestrian political systems. Secondly, UKIP is a dynamic, libertarian right-wing party which appeals to people across the political spectrum because it subtly appeals to British nationalism, a concept which transcends political leanings. The party’s manifesto champions independence from the EU because the economic, legal and immigration policies allegedly undermine our own policies. The question as to whether UKIP has anything else substantial to offer other than a hypothetical referendum on EU membership has really yet to be publically asked, never mind answered. There have been vague whisperings of a flat tax rate, a 40% increase on defence spending, the scrapping of the ‘misconceived’ Human Rights Act, and halting ‘unjustified’ funding in renewable energies. However, there are frequent excerpts of their manifesto that I cannot comprehend. For instance, I cannot grasp their stance on international interventionism or on international relations generally. In power, they would be a completely unknown quantity. The only thing we definitely know about UKIP is its EU MacGuffin and that they are loud, polarising, and potentially very dangerous.

A ‘UKIP of the Left’ would in all probability be just as loud, polarising and dangerous. Such a party would attract the borderline-extremists which analogously populate UKIP; there would be social democrats of course, particularly Labour and Green Party defectors, but there would also be Marxists, Trotskyites, and anarchists. There would be members happy to have their radical ideals gentrified, at least superficially, in order to exploit what would essentially amount to a leftist protest vote. In the same way UKIP have subliminally blended conservative policies with more extreme dogmas, this hypothetical party would flirt with aggressive egalitarian reform strategies; UKIP’s implications of laissez-faire capitalism could be paralleled with hints of Lange-Lerner neoclassical economics. It would be a fundamentally illogical manifesto, one defined by its inconsistencies and disunion. Furthermore, by its very nature as a protest it would be a fallacy rather than a legitimate party – a desperate, posturing tool of reaction.

In the short term, however, there is little chance of a prototypical, perfectly executed social democracy party; one with a cohesive manifesto and a united front in intra-party politics. So what should be the alternative? The Greens are my personal choice but will realistically never challenge the primary duopoly of Labour and the Conservatives. The Respect Party looks promising on paper but will always divide opinion fronted by the reckless egomaniac George Galloway; furthermore, the party is ideologically incongruous in an international free-market context. Or, is it only truly viable for supporters of the left to vote for Labour and hope for the best? This seems to be the tactic Ed Miliband is relying on for the election next May. Perhaps I was a little hasty in criticising the idea of a left protest party after all.

References:
http://www.general-election-2010.co.uk/2010-general-election-manifestos/UKIP-Party-Manifesto-2010.pdf

  • Guest

    Surely the SNP are already a protest party of the left? Like UKIP they were originally a single-issue party, and like UKIP they are eating into the voter base of one of the two main parties. They are forecast to take as many as thirty seats from Labour in 2015, significantly affecting the make-up of Parliament and eroding Ed Miliband’s hope of a majority, because traditional Labour voters feel the party no longer represents their views.

  • Naomi Smith

    RE: the last paragraph- the Respect Party polled at 0% of the vote recently, the Green Party at 7%, which means they are currently tying with the Liberal Democrats.

    In the last election, the Liberal Democrats were, essentially, the protest party of the Left; we need something to take their place and the Greens are the highest polling left wing party of which the majority of the public has actually heard. If everyone takes the attitude that they’re never going to present a workable challenge to the current establishment- namely, Labour and the Conservatives- then they won’t.

    What we should be focusing on is changing that; if those of us who would vote Green if we thought they had a chance, actually did, then they could become a serious contender. If we keep dismissing them, then they definitely won’t. Few of us believed that the Liberal Democrats would ever manage to develop any real foothold in mainstream politics and yet here they are (although not for much longer, evidently).

    We know from recent surveys that if people voted based on issues, rather than party loyalties, tactics or anger towards the status quo, then the Green Party would in fact poll the highest (although it would still be unable to achieve a majority) with 26.75% of the vote. Perhaps we should in fact be talking about the actual issues involved rather than whether or not a party has succeeded in any measurable way in past general elections.

    Sources:

    http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/2qik25ohr5/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-121214.pdf

    http://voteforpolicies.org.uk/