By Bradley Allsop
The fact that my newsfeed and television screen are increasingly taken up by Nigel Farage’s smiling, smug face enrages me for so many reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason though, is that he’s parading himself as a panacea for societal woes, when really he’s just another facet of the problem, cut from the same mould as the rest of the political elite, albeit with a bit of added venom.
So why is he seemingly doing so well, and what should the left be learning from this?
The Tories are partly to blame of course, for different reasons, but so are the Left. The Tories have forced people into more desperation than ever with stagnating wages and crippling welfare cuts, heralding the problems as the cure and proving to be far more interested in corporate and financial chums than “hard-working people”.
This has left people angry- we’ve been told by the Tories that an inept Labour and a bulging governmental budget has caused our problems, but now they’ve dealt with that, things don’t seem to be any better- in fact they’re worse. The suggested remedies of the Tories, now that they have been given their chance, have been seen to be naught but hollow, and so people conclude the problem must lie elsewhere… Labour on the other hand, have done an absolutely atrocious job in opposition.
With “Red Ed” ever so tentatively dipping his toe in the left side of the pool, but his party managing an all round bad show, they’re not exactly inspiring hope in any solutions offered by the left. With a vicious Tory cabinet that seems to have Miliband and co. for breakfast, the Tories have done a pretty decent job of dismissing any sort of left agenda.
So people are led to believe that the solutions must lie elsewhere… Up springs Fix-it Farage, with a cheeky smile and a simplistic, economically illiterate solution to save the day. The first thing the left need to do is what the public seem to be increasingly doing- take UKIP seriously. Their votes have risen by hundreds of thousands every general election since 1997, with them coming out with just under a million in 2010- nearly four times that of the Greens, and they are now the only political party in over a hundred years to win a national election that isn’t Labour or Conservative.
This is not just a sudden, short-lived surge in popularity- and until we realise that we’ll never stop him. We cannot afford to be complacent. I was depressed to hear the other day that in my home town Coventry, Greens stood against Socialists in every seat of the local elections on May 22nd. At a time when we have such a right-wing orientated press and polity, the last thing we need to be doing is splitting the left vote down the middle in every ward of a major city.
Yes there are differences between Greens and Socialists and Left Unity, and we can argue until we’re blue in the face about which is better, but perhaps that’s how our country has ended up just that colour. What is needed now is greater co-operation between the left, and putting aside our noble tradition of in-fighting. When the left has once again carved itself a substantial place back into British politics, then we can compete and stand against each other, but for now the stakes are too high. We cannot fight the real problems if we’re too busy fighting each other.
I do believe that there is a place for both right and left in politics- they fight for different things but they are both important- they’re needed to balance one another. The current sweeping food poverty, crippling austerity and widening inequality are the consequences of a country that do not have both sides of the story. Because the left has such a fractured voice at the moment, people aren’t hearing the real solutions, but they are hearing oh so loudly the voice of Nigel Farage and his merry band of racists and homophobes.
If we are to stop UKIP and fix British politics, the left needs to unite. The right have convinced many of the public that we cannot afford a strong welfare state, that rising wages damage the economy, and that immigration is harming us. Yet despite this I believe the majority in their hearts still want to be able to care for the most vulnerable, earn a living wage, and have a diverse and open society- they’ve just been duped into believing it’s not possible.
A united left needs to carry on spreading our anti-austerity, pro-immigration message, but also convince the public that it’s not idealism that will hurt them, but logic and compassion that will help them. I’m not calling for a one-party “Left Unity” kind of stance. A vibrant and diverse left that has numerous parties is healthy and productive. Constructive debate and critiques between parties is both necessary and useful.
This is a call for us not to be standing against each other in areas where we need to be fighting the right more than each other. This is a call for a unified left, working with rather than against each other to bring balance back to British politics. This is a call to arms against the austerity, xenophobia, and ideological vacuum at the heart of our politics at the moment. Let the Left be heard once more.