UKIP’s parody problem

By Darragh Roche

Schoolchildren are the latest to ridicule UKIP, and the parody keeps on coming.

Nigel Farage now has a virtual alter ego as violent racist Nicholas Fromage, star of  a new mobile game. ‘UKik’ invites players to kick foreigners out of the UK (literally) and send racial stereotypes flying over the decidedly white cliffs of Dover. The Android app was developed by sixth form pupils, but its description page would make any newspaper satirist proud: “Do foreign voices on trains scare you? Can you handle a European living next door?” and “These people [immigrants] might improve our economy, contribute to our culture and make Britain great but they are different to us so let’s kick them all out.” UKIP’s reaction was predictably swift and overblown. It seems Nigel Farage is sensitive to satire, and Ukik isn’t the only parody exercising UKIP HQ.

“After the recent defection of the Mayor of Trumpton this is the new home of UKIP tweets from Trumptonshire. We are a parody account – though its hard to tell” reads the description of UKIP Trumpton, perhaps the most successful UKIP branch Twitter account in the country. Trumpton is a little town peopled by 1960s characters powered by stop motion animation. There was (and is) something quintessentially Little England about the antiquated TV show, which explains why it was chosen ahead of other potential parody UKIP branches. Though it’s hard to imagine a successful branch in Pontypandy, the Midsomer party is probably doing very well. What exactly makes UKIP so easy to ridicule, and does it matter?

UKIP itself is largely to blame. Farage is a walking caricature. He has attempted to cast himself as the English everyman, and for many a chain-smoking, beer-swilling bloke with a healthy disrespect for ‘poncey’ politicians, Farage hits the spot. In Will Self’s novel The Book of Dave, Self describes the life of a hateful, poorly informed, deeply prejudiced and arrogant taxi driver named Dave. Dave’s warped moral compass would appeal to many UKIP supporters. Farage must have skipped Self’s description of a future where Dave’s ideas run society, with chilling results. But that’s the UKIP demographic – the so-called average British tar. He’s hard-headed, hard drinking and doesn’t trust money grubbing politicians. But Nigel is different.

Nigel Farage is the special one, the saviour of middle England, the only man jack of them who understands the lads down the pub. That’s what makes him so easy to parody yet so hard to dismiss. Parties and politicians who sell themselves as the ‘only ones who get it’ are dangerous. They’re dangerous because voters start to believe it. A lot of liberals sitting around laughing at UKIP won’t hurt them. It might even help them. The more the ‘new media’ attacks UKIP for representing old fashioned England, the more UKIP will come to represent that very thing. That is what they want – to appeal to voters who would like England to be more like Trumpton. Voters who see Twitter and immigrants as part of the same problem are the very people Farage wants and needs to recruit. Britain has changed and they don’t like it. If UKIP can offer a return to the mythical England of old, they might have the breakthrough they’ve been looking for. Satirising their old world, narrow minded views only serves to re-enforce them.

1 Response

  1. Tom Wilde

    In this article, this is the sentence that gives the game away:

    “But that’s the UKIP demographic – the so-called average British tar.”

    British tar? Where on earth did you get that quaint phrase from? I haven’t seen it in print in anything published more recently than about 1960, and back when it was used, it meant “British sailor”. Are you really claiming that UKIP’s demographic consists only of sailors?

    This pretty much confirms my impression of the article as a whole, namely that it is written by somebody who has only patchy knowledge of British culture and British political life. For instance, the author draws an opposition between many UKIP supporters and liberals (“A lot of liberals sitting around laughing at UKIP won’t hurt them.”) Yet quite a sizeable percentage of UKIP supporters count themselves as liberals, and many of those were previously voters, members or even councillors of the Liberal Democrat party. Some UKIP supporters are indeed motivated mainly by a desire to cap immigration, though the party says it wants to allow a net immigration of 50,000 per year, equating in a typical year to gross immigration of around 300,000 people – so UKIP is hardly an anti-immigration party, except by contrast with its opponents! Many other UKIP supporters are energised not by immigration concerns but by concerns about the lack of democratic accountability within the EU. This is something not even mentioned by the author, whose information about UKIP appears to come from Conservative/Labour party briefing notices, filtered through the medium of the many UK newspapers tied to those parties.

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