Another election, another round of Nigel Farage hype, with no lessons learned

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Image of Nigel Farage
Image of Nigel Farage

Aurelien Mondon, University of Bath

Nigel Farage, a man who has never been elected to the House of Commons despite years of trying, has again been allowed to set the agenda in the UK.

Ten years after Ukip won the European parliament elections, throwing the Conservative party into turmoil and leading David Cameron to promise a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, Farage is at it again. Or more precisely, he is being allowed to go at it again.

The mainstream elite in the media and in politics who claim to oppose Farage, and who pretend to stand as a bulwark against far-right politics, are again duly buying into the hype he has created for himself.

We could already feel that hype bubbling as Farage took over as leader of Reform. He’d seen the party’s fortunes rising and started to think there could be something in it for him to step into the campaign.

We could see it in the coverage of every move he made thereafter – every milkshake thrown, every inflammatory quip quoted and beer drunk, snapped and plastered all over the news as some kind of morbid excitement set in among the media. Finally, something exciting is happening in this otherwise rather dull campaign, where offers of “change” and pledges to be “bold” are hollow slogans for the sides of battle buses.

To understand how a party which only received 2% of the registered votes in the 2019 general election, failing to get even one MP elected, can get such attention, we must travel back in time.

Ukip was a party created by a eurosceptic elite, for a eurosceptic elite, to put pressure on the Conservatives via the EU elections. It all seemed a rather desperate move at the time, as the issue was marginal at best.

The party received 15.6% of the vote in the 2004 European elections and 16% in 2009. But these are second order elections, prone to low turnout and high protest vote. In these settings, Ukip really only received a mere 6% and 5.6% of the registered vote, once turnout was taken into account. Hardly the voice of the “silent majority”.

The 2005 and 2010 general elections clearly showed the limits of Ukip’s appeal. In 2005, the party received 1.4% of the vote and in 2010, it took 2%.

Ukip’s election vote share

A chart showing the performance of Ukip across general and European elections and what proportion that represented of the overall registered vote.
Ukip results in general elections (GE) and European elections (EU).
A Mondon., CC BY-ND

Still, the first “breakthrough” was in 2014 when Ukip won the EU elections with 26.6%. An “earthquake”, we were told. This was the start of the “left behind” myth which served Farage well as it diverted attention away from his elitist stance. The fantasised “white working class” would come to play a key role in shaping the narrative after the victories of both Donald Trump in the US and Brexit. Proper scrutiny of Ukip’s (and Reform’s) programmes (or Trump’s for that matter) would have also shown that beyond typical far-right measures and other gimmicks, their project was always deeply skewed in favour of the wealthy.

Yet even though Ukip really only received the support of one out of ten registered voters (9.5%) in 2014, in particularly favourable circumstances, the mainstream elite could not get enough of Farage. Finally, the UK had a “populist” contender worthy of the name. They too could feel the same voyeuristic thrills as their European counterparts, watching the “irresistible” rise of the far right (or “populism” to be politically correct, as we would not want to offend the far right, no matter how clear Farage has made his views).

What is striking is that it is this election which set in motion the 2016 referendum, even though Ukip was the only party running on a platform demanding that the UK leave the EU. For all the talk of “taking back control” and “sovereignty”, this reactionary experiment was decided based on the support of less than 10% of voters. Even in terms of votes cast, the referendum was forced onto almost three out of four voters who had decided to vote for parties who were not formally demanding the country leave the EU.

In case you missed it… Alamy/Urban images
In case you missed it… Alamy/Urban images

 

All this is to say, Farage has simply never been that popular. This is despite him campaigning in incredibly fertile environments in which parts of the media are dedicated to propping him up, and where even those who seemingly oppose his politics cannot get enough of him – as demonstrated by his record number of appearances on the BBC or the countless articles on “populism” in the Guardian.

Just look at how much coverage a press conference given after one single poll has received, when other parties fail to get issues such as climate change, poverty or social care on the agenda.

And if you think this is because immigration is people’s key concern, think again. Indeed, as I explored with Lancaster university’s Aaron Winter in a report for the Runnymede Trust, the “immigration issue” is one that is clearly constructed in a top-down manner. Unsurprisingly, when people are asked about the key concerns in their personal lives, immigration doesn’t rate. Ironically, the exaggerated focus on immigration could be argued to be elite manipulation rather than the other way around.

So, what’s behind the rise of Farage? Well, the same processes which have been at play across much of Europe: the hyping of far-right politics as a diversion. As has become abundantly clear, there is no mainstreaming or rise of far-right politics without the active involvement of mainstream forces who normalise and platform them.


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The far right then plays a convenient role, serving to scare the electorate at a time when distrust in governing parties is sky high. The message is: “we are bad but they are worse”.

Yet this strategy is exhausted. Patience has run out and the far right is no longer as repulsive as it once was, now that most mainstream parties mimic its discourse.

The solution is simple. Stop fighting it on its turf. Instead, turn to issues which are not only core to people’s concerns, but far less amenable to far right hijacking. This takes bold actions and real change though – both being in short supply in our mainstream parties.The Conversation

Aurelien Mondon, Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Bath

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Continue ReadingAnother election, another round of Nigel Farage hype, with no lessons learned

Greens warn that the Labour manifesto represents a diagnosis of doom for our NHS

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Green Party Co-leader Adrian Ramsay. Wikipedia CC.
Green Party Co-leader Adrian Ramsay. Wikipedia CC.

Responding to the publication of the Labour Party’s Manifesto that promises an “unprecedented slowdown” in NHS finances, Green Party Co-Leader Adrian Ramsay said:

“This Labour Party manifesto is a diagnosis of doom for our NHS and other frontline services.

“After 14 years of mismanagement and underfunding our health service is severely overstretched and crying out for real investment.

“Instead, the Labour Party has today promised investment of just 1.1% increase according to the Nuffield Trust, an “unprecedented slowdown in NHS finances”.

He continued, “Greens understand the severity of the crisis the NHS and have a plan to nurse it back to health.

“We are proposing a £50bn investment per year by 2030 alongside an additional £20bn capital investment fund.

“To quote the IFS “Labour continues in a conspiracy of silence on the difficulties they would face”.

“It’s time they were honest with the public.

“Our frontline services can’t keep limping on without real investment from real tax reform.”

Continue ReadingGreens warn that the Labour manifesto represents a diagnosis of doom for our NHS

Ed Miliband and the Labour party full of shit on climate.

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Just Stop Oil protesting in London 6 December 2022.
Just Stop Oil protesting in London 6 December 2022.

Ed Miliband has inspired an article in today’s Guardian: Just Stop Oil ‘alienates people’ from its cause, says Ed Miliband

I’m not concerned with the headline topic but Miliband makes claims that need to be fact checked:

“If every country in the world adopted Labour’s position [on deciding not to issue new oil and gas licences] it would have a transformative effect on the debate,” he said.

Is it Labour’s position not to issue new oil and gas licences? If it is, are they likely to abandon that position since the Labour Party seems to abandon every policy to be more Tory? Why position instead of policy? Because position can be abandoned easier?

Miliband said the party’s plans to ban new oil and gas licences are “the most progressive position of any major country in the world” but that the transition in the North Sea has to be properly managed to protect those working in existing fields.

So, it’s already qualified by Miliband in the very next paragraph? “… the transition in the North Sea has to be properly managed to protect those working in existing fields.” sounds like you and the Labour party are full of shit Ed.

later edit: What about Rosebank? Are the Labour party going to stop Rosebank? The Labour party are definately full of shit on climate if they’re going to let Rosebank continue.

Rishi Sunak on stopping Rosebank says that any chancellor can stop his huge 91% subsidy to build Rosebank, that Keir Starmer is as bad as him for sucking up to Murdoch and other plutocrats and that we (the plebs) need to get organised to elect MPs that will stop Rosebank.
Rishi Sunak on stopping Rosebank says that any chancellor can stop his huge 91% subsidy to build Rosebank, that Keir Starmer is as bad as him for sucking up to Murdoch and other plutocrats and that we (the plebs) need to get organised to elect MPs that will stop Rosebank.
Continue ReadingEd Miliband and the Labour party full of shit on climate.