Last week, we were having dinner with three like-minded friends. We usually agree on most things, in particular where politics is concerned. Naturally, the conversation turned to the upcoming UK general election. One of our friends asked the general question of how we were thinking of voting on 7th May. This led to a general discussion about the dilemma many voters with a conscience face next month – do we vote with our hearts or do we vote tactically to keep the Conservatives out of government?
One friend (we’ll call him Matthew) then stunned us all by saying:
“I really want to shake up Westminster, it’s been a Tory/Labour stronghold for far too long; so I think I’m going to vote for UKIP.”
Matthew is exactly the sort of voter who is going to blindly lead us all into the hell that would be a large number of extreme right-wing MPs in Westminster. And I am not exaggerating here. Make no mistake, despite any appearances to the contrary, UKIP are an extreme right-wing party. Farage and his cronies may be very good at pulling the wool over voters’ eyes and coming up with what seem like refreshing sound-bites, but deep down beneath the veneer, they are as racist, homophobic and jingoistic as more open right-wing parties like the British National Party or the English Defence League.
Take Nigel Farage’s claims about “immigrants” with HIV and AIDS being a drain on the NHS, during last week’s ITV Leaders Debate. He claimed that 7,000 people per year were being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS who are not British nationals, costing the NHS £25,000 per patient per year for anti-retroviral drugs.
These claims were then systematically debunked by all the main public health bodies, reported here in the Guardian, amongst many other respected newspapers and online news outlets. Many of the other “statistics” he bandied about in the election campaign were also revealed as lies and deception the following day.
The problem is that Nigel Farage and his UKIP colleagues are very good orators and can spout spurious claims with alarming confidence, which appears as honesty and candour. They claim to be “saying what the main politicians won’t tell you” and “speaking for the people of this country”. Because they are all well-spoken, privately educated, rich white men (in the main) it’s very easy to believe them. We’ve been conditioned to believe people like them since birth.
Media outlets, in particular the BBC, would have you believe that UKIP are making real headway in Westminster. After all, they won two bi-elections in 2014, didn’t they? But both of their candidates in these bi-elections had stepped down as Conservative MPs in their constituencies after defecting to UKIP. The resulting bi-elections re-elected them as MPs in these constituencies. The voters were obviously wanting to keep the status quo. These were not bi-elections won from Labour or even the Conservatives. They were won by default.
This idea that UKIP are changing the Westminster landscape is as spurious as their statistics; but it’s reeling voters like Matthew in. He truly believes that if he votes UKIP then things will change in Westminster.
The likelihood is that they won’t, but his vote could possibly mean that Westminster swings to the extreme right, which would be disastrous for all of us. Just look at what happened in Germany in the 1930s and where that led.
If you want to make a protest or a stand against the way Westminster is currently run, then vote Liberal Democrat, or Green, or for the Monster Raving Loony Party. Or vote for the independent candidate in your constituency, if you have one. Better still, spoil your vote, write “none of the above” and stick it in the ballot box.
A vote for UKIP is a vote for intolerance, xenophobia and hypocrisy. None of these things should get a foothold in Westminster.