WEEKLY RANT: Ukip and the dangers of sophistication
There has been much in the media about why Ukip did well in last week’s elections elsewhere, but not in London. “London is out of touch with the rest of the country” is the claim. As if elections are not an aggregate result which consists of individual decisions capable of being affected by different circumstances in different areas.
Adjectives are being advanced to explain the conundrum: London is “sophisticated”, “cosmopolitan”, “media-savvy”, “bohemian”. They often drip with a venom that would suggest that these are all bad things to be. Someone even suggested during a papers review the next day that Londoners are “overeducated” – presumably this is what happens where one who had aimed for “just educated enough”, overshoots into some thoroughly ghastly state of being too well informed. Well, replacing The Crucible on the schools curriculum with Run For Your Wives should soon take care of that.
All these hypotheses ignore two important factors: First, if Ukip’s policies were thorough, well argued and coherent, presumably they would have been even more successful with the sophisticated and media-savvy. Second, Ukip achieved results below its national average in many other cities and also Scotland.
Another popular theory is that London is doing better in the economic recovery, so of course Londoners are less worried and selfish about it in the bargain. This is also misconceived. Recovery is an average. Kensington and The City may be doing incredibly well, but areas like Tottenham, Hackney or Ealing have some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. And, since London is much more expensive, poor people in London are suffering a much more dramatic squeeze than anyone else. The idea that the electorate in Tottenham rejected Ukip because they are more well-to-do than leafy villages in Oxfordshire where Ukip did well, is manifestly absurd.
The most obvious reason of all has been almost completely ignored. People who live in areas where those of different races, religions, nationalities and cultures live together in, broadly, mutually beneficial harmony, are more likely to see Ukip’s apocalyptic warnings for what they really are: an enormous pile of alarmist xenophobic horseshit.
The following statistic was mentioned during the BBC’s election night coverage: in areas where more than 75% all-white households, Ukip experienced a notably higher uplift. This is because fear as motivator works best when amorphous and diffuse. And people are much more likely to vote for measures which propose to victimise a general, anonymous group, rather than one which includes friends, colleagues, partners and neighbours whom they know and respect.
I am reminded of what Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis said:
“Nazism, fascism, racism and every other anti-social and anti-human mode of behavior are not products of ideology, do not contain ideology and neither do they constitute ideology. They’re the expression of the beast within all of us growing unchecked, when its barbaric and inhuman presence is aided, enhanced or facilitated by sociopolitical circumstance.
“The only antibiotic against this beast within, is education. I am talking about real education and not the irresponsible education of indiscriminate information which actually supresses restless and critical thinking. I am talking about education which does not rest on its laurels and does not create complacency in the student, but instead propagates questions and insecurity. This kind of education is not favored by political parties and governments, because it produces free-thinking and unruly citizens, who are of no use in the lowly game of politics.”
Perhaps that is what they mean by “overeducated”.