Friday 17 May 2013

The Farage Farago

In terms of publicity, it is difficult to imagine how Nigel Farage's visit to Edinburgh yesterday could possibly have been more successful. What would almost certainly have been a brief photo-op that would have been lost in the middle pages of a local paper, if noted  at all, has been blown into an opportunity to play the victim of anti-English racism at the hands of Scots nationalist extremists shouting comically contradictory phrases like “You’re a racist, go home to England”.

For all the supposed differences of left and right, the similarities between Farage's right-wing UK Independence Party and the nominally left-wing Scottish nationalists hardly needs to pointed out: both are essentially single-issue campaigns that harness the prejudices held by at least some amongst their base, both believe that should we follow their preferred course of action our problems will be solved "because independence". There is more than a passing similarity between UKIP's rhetoric of recovering sovereignty from Brussels, and the Scottish Nationalist Party's talk of recovering sovereignty from London.

The interplay between them is also worthy of note - the SNP's Alex Salmond would not now be able to say that voting for independence is the "only way" of staying in the EU if it weren't for Farage's UKIP pressuring the Conservative party into agreeing to a referendum on UK membership of the EU in 2017. Of course, nothing would make such a result less likely than UKIP succeeding in convincing more British voters to vote for them - since this would split the Conservative vote - unless that is, the Conservatives are utterly discreditted by, say, a Scottish vote for independence, although this thankfully looks unlikely given the latest polling.

Can UKIP succeed in Scotland even with this additional publicity? It's reasonable to ask whether they can succeed anywhere in the UK, but as Alex Massie points out, there's nothing totally crazy about the idea of them winning votes north of the border if the SNP can:

"UKIP’s definitional policy – leaving the EU – would scarcely be considered controversial in Norway, a land the SNP frequently cite as an example of what an independent Scotland could and should aspire to be. Yet, in a Scottish or British context, this is considered the stuff of lunatic extremism.

The evidence available at this juncture suggests leaving the EU is a less popular notion in Scotland than it is in England. Nevertheless polls report that roughly one in three Scottish voters would opt to leave the EU. Observant psephologists will note that this is not wildly different to the proportion who favour withdrawing from the United Kingdom. It is not obvious that one of these ideas is a priori absurd and the other plainly common sense."
Personally, as a reluctant pro-European, I can't support UKIP even if I do sympathise with some of their goals - their anti-immigrant rhetoric aside. The influence UKIP has had over the Conservative party, forcing David Cameron to propose this very ill-thought-out poll on the EU now makes it very difficult for me to see myself voting for them either. So who's left?

[Nigel Farage, UKIP leader, for once caught without a pint in hand, via Wiki]