#24. What should we make of UKIP?


When UKIP (the UK Independence Party) secured 27.5% of the vote in the European elections, it was the first time in more than a century that any party, other than Labour and the Conservatives, had won a nationwide election in Britain.

Quite intentionally, I’ve taken a week to respond to the European election results, because what we need is a deeper analysis instead of the kind of knee-jerk response that has characterised much of the mainstream media’s reaction.

Some of the parties that triumphed in these elections might indeed be “right wing”, “left wing” or less than mature and professional in their conduct of politics, but this is to miss the point, which is that the European electorate has delivered a damning verdict on the established parties and, by extension, an equally damning verdict on our economic and social systems.

Very simply, this is the revolt of the disaffected. Whilst the EU and immigration have been flagship issues, the substance of the electoral “earthquake” has been a backlash against a globalised, corporate-dominated economic system that seems to favour an affluent, politically-connected elite at the expense of everyone else.

Many in the mainstream political and media world have sought to belittle the surge in support for UKIP. Some say that the party is irrelevant, because our first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system makes it all but impossible for UKIP to secure a significant presence in the House of Commons. Others have argued that UKIP is a single-issue protest group rather than a political party as such, and still others have derided UKIP as (in the words of Tony Blair) “nasty and unpleasant”.

To dismiss the surge in support for UKIP in this way, and to assume that its voters’ only (or even primary) concern is the European Union (EU), is to make a grave mistake. UKIP represents a political position which, even if it is less than fully coherent, commands widespread support. Moreover, even a British exit (“Brexit”) from the EU would not assuage the anger that motivates UKIP voters.

To understand why, we need to see UKIP in a pan-European context.

* * * * *

The result in France, where the Front National (FN) topped the poll with 25% of the vote, is arguably the single most important outcome in the 2014 European Elections. The surge in support for the FN imperils the European Union (EU), because Germany cannot carry the European project alone. If Britain were to leave, the EU would probably survive, but a French pull-out would kill the EU stone dead.

Critics who deride the FN as “extremist” and “racist” are missing the point. Though opposition to immigration is part of the FN’s platform, its appeal is far broader. Essentially, the FN has become the preferred vehicle for the disaffected, people who probably account for two-thirds of the French electorate. The analysis here is that globalisation has benefited two groups – immigrants, and a wealthy cosmopolitan elite – at the expense of everyone else.

Those who have read Life After Growth will know that I’m highly critical of globalisation. In pursuit of micro-economic (corporate) gain, the West has undermined its macroeconomic position by outsourcing production to cheaper markets whilst expecting to go on consuming at ever increasing levels. Activities such as manufacturing, farming and mining – which, collectively, I categorise as “globally marketable output” – have been replaced by services which we provide to each other, either directly or via the state. Inevitably, globalisation has been accompanied by an escalation in state and private debt as we endeavour to maintain our consumption even though our marketable production has declined.

We seem to have forgotten that you cannot indefinitely consume if you do not produce, and services that we can only sell to each other hardly cut it in a global economy. Western economies have been deskilled, and globalisation has eroded real wages for a substantial majority of the workforce.

This disaffection with a globalised, pro-corporate and pro-rich economic system is exacerbated by a lack of faith in institutions. Many French people view the mainstream political establishment with contempt, which is hardly surprising given the extremely low quality of the French national leadership in recent years.

* * * * *

The bedrock disaffection which has driven the FN vote upwards has its parallels in the rise of support for UKIP in Britain. Though different in character, the division between “us” and “them” is every bit as serious here as it is in France.

Those who take a long-term view of national evolution have every cause for concern where British institutional life is concerned. Politicians’ standing has been undercut by the expenses scandal, phone-hacking revelations have discredited not just the media but the police as well, and the banking system has fallen into public discredit since the financial crisis, an impression exacerbated by a series of scandals.

Of course, most politicians do not fiddle expenses, most journalists do not tap phones, most policemen do not take bribes, and most bankers do not enrich themselves at the expense of customers and society, but it tends to be on the headline impression, rather than on the broader and more mundane substance, that the public reaches its verdict.
There is a widespread belief, too, that the political, administrative and business elite do not inhabit the same world of accountability as the rest of us. Expense-fiddling politicians seem to get off lightly compared to benefits cheats, few if any heads rolled over the Stafford NHS disaster, wealthy foreigners are allowed to live in Britain virtually tax-free, we still do not have the full story on Iraq, and the widespread assumption of symbiosis between government and finance has been worsened by the (disastrous) decision to rescue the bankers at the same time as rescuing the banks.

Of course, this anger might have been less acute if the economy was doing better, and the steady decline in real incomes – especially in relation to the escalation in the cost of essentials – has made matters much worse. Widespread hardship, and continuing ultra-high levels of household debt, undoubtedly make the affluence of the elite harder to stomach.

Most Europeans, of course, have further grounds for complaint, in that the single currency has been a disaster for almost every Eurozone country other than Germany. Even a first-year student of economics could have told the EU that you cannot combine a single currency with a multiplicity of budget processes, because monetary and fiscal policy need to be complementary. Denied the normal devaluation route, countries such as Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece have had to deal with competitive weaknesses through an extremely painful process of internal devaluation, with predictably nasty (and largely avoidable) consequences for living standards.

* * * * *

The political establishment, whether in Britain or in Europe more broadly, will not understand the electoral upheaval until it stops bandying pejorative terms (such as “right wing”, “single issue” and “protest vote”) and starts to understand that what we are witnessing is the start of a revolt by the disaffected.

What these disaffected voters, in their tens of millions, are telling us is that an economic system based on globalisation, deregulation, corporate self-interest and elitism has failed.

My point, from an economic perspective, is that globalisation has become a debt-creating machine, the European single currency has been a disaster, and the widening gap between the rich and everyone else is economically as well as socially damaging.

9 thoughts on “#24. What should we make of UKIP?

  1. A precise & concise summary of Europe’s political situation.
    Thank you Dr. Tim.

    The EU looks extremely unsustainable to me.

    It’s regulating itself out of global competitiveness in a competitive world.
    It’s beneficial only to its rubber stamp politicians, its law & regulation factory of unelected bureaucrats, & the large corporations, whilst inflicting inhuman “Austerity” upon the middle majority.

    All supervised by the Banskter IMF

    The EU has gone to war on Carbon, the foundation stone of all life, attacking the gas most essential to plant & human life, CO2, Carbon Dioxide, as a pollutant & the cause of global warming, sorry, climate change, sorry, weird weather. A slight inconvenience for the crazed EUsters, is that there has been no significant global warming now for 17 years 9 months, according to satellite data, the climate has been changing for approx 4.5 billion years & will continue to do so, & weather events such as hurricanes etc are at historic lows.

    It would seem the planet is not cooperating with the mad EUsters One World Govt ambitions. 🙂

    A different form of madness is the provocation of the Russian Bear over Ukraine.

    I could go on, but what’s the point?

    As you’ve identified, Tim, enriching the Bankster1%s & their political & bureaucratic flunkies,
    while oppressing & impoverishing the middle majority is to set the kindling for a revolt.
    It’s madness, & does not end prettily.


    • Thanks JD – as ever, you raise a series of thought-provoking topics here!

      On global warming/climate change, I must admit that I tend to duck this one. First, it’s not my specialty. Second, I don’t think we have enough fossil fuels left to destroy the climate – and, third, I take my stand not on climate change but on pollution instead, which is real, and kills people.

      But my general point in this article is that ordinary people have had enough. It’s even true in America, where the Republicans have become unelectable, demographic change having shifted the electorate against them.

    • It’s not just a paradox, Tim, it’s madness.

      Housebound through illness, I investigated global warming, & to cut a long story short, it’s a crock of sh1te, a mountainous pile of lies. Leading on from this, thinking: “Why is almost every country in the World selling its people a crock? If they wanted more taxes, they’d raise taxes, surely?
      There must be another agenda.”

      & found UN Agenda 21.

      On the surface, it’s about “Green Sustainability”, & the 1%s owned Wikipedia will feed you that line. In reality, it’s madness. What’s not sustainable? Dams, irrigation, golf courses, single family homes. “The Middle Class is not sustainable” Maurice Strong, UN Founder & Funder, currently hiding in China, after thieving a cheque for almost $1 million from the Iraqi Oil for Food scam.
      “95% of humanity is not sustainable” Ted Turner, CNN owner, & through his power to shape public opinion via his Media Empire, one of the most powerful men on this planet today.

      I’ll tell you what’s not sustainable.
      Our idiot boy politicians spending more than the tax take for 30 of the last 34 years,
      that’s not sustainable. The idiot boy Tory Twats, well on the way to doubling the debt in only 5 years, that the idiot boy Labour Loons built up in 10 years, that’s not sustainable.
      Our idiot boy politicians have built a debt that neither we, our children, nor our grandchildren will be able to repay, that’s not sustainable.When the Banksters went bust in 2008, our poxy politicians chained their debts around the necks of us, our children & grandchildren, that’s not sustainable.

      Our supine lickspittle politicians have turned us & our progeny into slaves of the banksters.
      That’s not sustainable.

      Our entire fiat currency based system, where money is created as debt, 97% of it at the click of a mouse, out of nowhere, as interest bearing debt, that’s not sustainable.
      The other 3% is notes & coins.
      Since the sneaky inception of the US Fed, Christmas Eve, 1913, the Mighty US $ Dollar has been debased to ~3 cents purchasing power, that’s not sustainable.
      Since the 70s, the UK £ has been devalued to ~ 7p., that’s not sustainable.

      Limitless immigration, for which we lack the finances, schools, housing, & hospitals, that’s not sustainable.

      For a dose of global reality, I started with global warming, so I’ll finish with this:

      The Mad 1%s owned Media pushes the Mad President of the Mad American Empire further down the Mad road to War.

      That’s madness, and that’s not sustainable.

    • “It’s even true in America, where the Republicans have become unelectable” –

      It really depends on where you live. I live in a state (Massachusetts) where Republicans are an afterthought. However, if you move to middle America, the opposite is true. In the end BOTH Party’s have sold out to special interests, they are one in the same, just as George Washington foretold would happen. We no longer have a functioning Republic, but activists ideologues on both sides, but on some issues, like Wall Street regulation, the two Party’s come together and hold hands – we see this especially when CONgress takes a “voice vote” where votes are not recorded.

      This American no longer believes or trusts anything coming from politicians, nor their mouth pieces in our media. I think someday, years from now, we’ll see a UKIP type moment, but that’s a ways off imo. We’re using our extraordinary social welfare benefits to keep the masses bellies full and a roof over their heads. So while politicians promise them everything one one side of their mouth, their policy, including our Federal Reserves policies, are in fact destroying them, lying with the other side.

      Until then, the secular changes happening in my country will continue. 2014 & 2016 “elections” won’t matter in the end because the politicians in reality are on the same side, bought and paid for by very powerful special interests. Maybe I’m overly cynical, but The American People imo are just too disinterested, or suffering from their own hubris, confirmation bias or cognitive dissonance – take your pick.

  2. Immigration ? The point of immigration, from the Globalist perspective, is to break down the sense of nationhood, as a step toward their ultimate dream of One World Govt.
    The Bankster1%s, the Globalists, for me the terms are interchangeable, have set their goal at impoverishing everybody bar only themselves & their flunkies, down to serf levels, with the middle majority taxed to oblivion.

    Anybody called “Nasty & Unpleasant” by Tony Bliar should immediately present him with a mirror.
    In a sane world, he’d be in the dock, for crimes against Humanity.
    Instead, last year he grossed £13 million.
    A picture of the madness of our political/economic system.
    We need a global reset button.

    Wouldn’t exist if the globalist elite weren’t set on a course 180 Degrees against the desires of the middle majority.
    Neil Hamilton? OMG.
    Its saving grace for me is the long term association of Lord Monckton, former Science Adviser to Mrs. Thatcher, & former Chief Policy Adviser to Nigel Farage, so there’s good intelligence & experience there.
    Nigel Farage comes across as that almost unique creature, an honest politician.
    UKIP? the least unattractive of 4 ugly sisters?
    Neatly put, I thought.

    Thanks again, Tim.

    • Thanks. Immigration is at least in part about driving wages down, I believe. Also, the British work ethic isn’t as robust as perhaps it should be.

      There’s an odd paradox here. If one employer succeeds in driving wages down, profits will improve. But if all employers reduce wages, profits suffer, because consumers have less to spend!

      Robots are good at making cars. But no robot has ever been known to buy a car. It’s that production vs consumption equation again…………..

  3. 2014is1984Woodrow: thanks, very interesting insight.

    What I was getting at in my comment was my understanding – correct me if I’m wrong – that the GOP constituency is predominantly white, predominantly male, predominantly fairly affluent and often middle-aged. The GOP seems (to this foreign observer) unable to appeal to black and hispanic voters, and also seems out of touch with younger voters, and yet seems unwilling to change.

    In my travels in the US, the widespread contempt for politicians impressed me. Here, we too often believe that a change of government will solve our problems – Americans seem to know that it won’t, so are more proactive in sorting out problems themselves.

    I wrote a report a couple of years ago with the (overstated!) title “Armageddon USA?”. My thesis was that debt (and quasi-debt, like OASDI commitments) is so huge that it could engulf federal finances. Add to that that GDP is overstated, about 16% of it being non-cash “imputations”. Unlike China, the US produces 41 law graduates for every 1 graduate engineer, and the US seems hooked on the globalisation model which China doesn’t really buy into.

    I concluded that things were fixable, but only with resolute leadership prepared to take unpopular decisions – pretty much what the Simpson-Bowles report said, I think.

    Lastly, one of my favourite US political thinkers is Kevin Phillips, whose “American Theocracy” is particularly enlightening.

    • “GOP constituency is predominantly white, predominantly male, predominantly fairly affluent and often middle-aged.” –

      Don’t be fooled. I worked at a wealth law firm (estate, tax & corporate), and the clientele were exactly as you described, but there were just as many Democrats as there were Republican aligned clients – some of them are household names. I think Blacks in particular are screwed, they are basically warehoused in “projects”/low income areas and get the worst services (i.e. education), they simply have no chance. The Hispanics, legal or otherwise, created their own grey economy and adapt within their own communities (I live just outside of Lawrence, MA which is almost all Hispanic and non-English speaking), and mostly stick to themselves. What I find is that they are traditional in nature regarding their own families, which makes me wonder why they don’t vote Republican. I simply don’t know. Propaganda?

      I agree, Republicans are way out of touch with the youth of this country, the exception being Ex-Congress Member Ron Paul (find him similar to Nigel Farage), who regularly tours colleges campuses. While some of his ideas are way “out there”, some of his message to the youth is true – especially regarding the debts of sovereign nations. I personally don’t think the debts of my nation will ever be paid, and at some point, the consequences of such will hurt us more.

      An interesting note regarding Social Security – The “notes” being issued for 2015 and beyond are at sub-2%, this year will be the last year those notes return 5%-7%, Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) was something our CBO did not account for, so that problem will get progressively worse.

      Bottom line is that our politicians can’t Legislate prosperity. I think all they have done is transferred wealth, leaving the scraps for our shrinking true middle class (me). I’m not looking for “social justice”, I just want to be on a fair and equal playing field, which we don’t have, Legislation and laws are unequal with preference given to those who handed over the biggest piles of cash. Simply a government no longer serving The People, but themselves and their crony pals.

      *“Armageddon USA?” – I think that is how I found your website, which is wonderful by the way, so thank you.

      This came out roughly at the same time, and it is amazing the foreshadowing of events of 5 years ago are coming true today – especially regarding oil (prices & earnings) & Russia:

      Click to access joe2010.pdf

    • Thank you. I’ve always understood (correct me if I’m wrong) that Hispanic Americans dislike the GOP because it’s seen as overwhelmingly white, and is anti-immigration – in other words, and rightly or wrongly, they think it’s patronising, and might have racist elements. Black Americans do indeed continue to get a raw deal, but at least the Democrats backed civil rights (Bobby K etc) and have put Obama in the White House.

      Kevin Phillips is a writer you might enjoy – a former Nixon strategist (he coined the term “Sun Belt”), he’s very anti-Bush, anti-debt and anti-extremism. He sees huge risks in the axis of debt, oil dependency and fundamentalist religion, and identifies the Bush dynasty with all three. In one book he argues that many working class Americans are locked in to something not dissimilar to indenture – totally in thrall to credit-providers.

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