Monday, 11 March 2013

UKIP: A Rise That Stops At The Border?

Firstly, a bit of a rant.  It gives me no satisfaction to say that Labour Hame are at it again.  The latest post wonders where the UKIP constituency is in Scotland and comes to the ridiculous conclusion that Eurosceptic voters are voting for a party that would…  er…  take an Independent Scotland into the EU without consulting the Scottish people.

UKIP Leader Nigel Farage with the losing Eastleigh candidate Diane James
When I pointed out the gaping holes in this argument, I did query whether this post was a joke and brought up that the one party that subscribed to the Michael Howard doctrine that prison works was…  er…  “Scottish” Labour, the comment was not published, with the moderators obviously taking offence at their spin being shown up.  Such a badly thought out piece does obscure an interesting question, why are Scots so immune to the charms of UKIP?

The main reason appears to be that the issue that is at the heart of UKIP’s current rise – immigration – has never appeared at the top of many Scot’s pressing issues list.  It’ts not just that immigration has not had the same impact on people’s lives here that it has down south its also that the perception that immigration deprives people of work has never taken root.  Of course part of that is, like it or not, down to the failure of the BNP to make in-roads to the Scottish electorate so that kind of spin has never found an audience here.

The other reason is that UKIP’s attacks on the EU have been spun with middle England heavily in mind.  Hence the spin about “Criminal gangs from Bulgaria & Romania coming to our country for benefits  UKIP’s spin about EU regulations is also aimed at Middle England playing to employers.  However, none of these reasons are cause to be as smug as Nicola Sturgeon has been by saying that UKIP “has never moved beyond the far fringes of Scottish Politics”

Another of UKIP’s selling points has been opposition to “Gay Marrage”.  Nowhere in the UK has there been as strident an opposition to “Gay Marrage” as there has been in Scotland, with various fundamentalist Christian groups organising demonstrations.  Sturgeon herself was at the centre of one such Demonstration when the Scottish cabinet met in Renfrew last summer.  Were UKIP to turn their attention to Scotland – and lets be honest there are a lot of ex-Conservative votes to be had up here – Gay Marrage would be an ideal starting point for them.

Similarly, I’m not sure that the SNP synopsis of Eurosepticism being equal to the “Little Englander” syndrome holds up.  Remember that Labour were split in the 1970’s over entry to what was then called the EEC, while arguably the most influential Eurosceptic over the past 20 years has not been Bill Cash, Theresa Gormley or one of John Major’s cabinet “Bastards” but the former Financial Times journalist and current Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls – it was he who convinced Gordon Brown that the Euro in it’s current format wasn’t going to fly.

Sure UKIP have spoken the language of the “Little Englander” – in terms of regulations and the impact of “Open door immigration” (or freedom of movement).  It would however take a small re-calibration for UKIP to espouse left of centre concerns about the EU.  For example, the enforced “outsourcing” by the EU of Ferry services here in Scotland – this has seen Serco win the tender to provide services for the route from the mainland to Orkney & Shetland.

Personally though, I suspect that the perception gap will be just to big for UKIP to bridge for them to gain the polling success that have achieved so far in England – even if I think there is too much hype and not enough substance surrounding UKIP.  That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be complacent that UKIP could never gain popularity here.  Remember that Germany’s National Socialist party and Italy’s Fascist Parties were essentially the 1920’s versions of the “none of the above” parties.  Like down south, the immediate victims of any UKIP rise here would be the Conservatives.  Penny for the thoughts of those people who chose not to vote for Murdo Fraser to become Scottish Conservative leader then?