UKIP, everyone’s favourite talking point. They have managed to get millions of people involved in the political debate across the whole of the UK. Scotland was a single short term situation and yet it energized huge numbers of people, UKIP are doing the same long term. The reason for this is, to me, simple.
UKIP are the Marmite of the political world. They draw passionate supporters and they attract passionate enemies who frequently do not meet in the middle.
This makes debates a little difficult as both sides tend to be somewhat set in their ways.
The Kippers themselves are often fanatically loyal to the point where they refuse to consider anything else and those who oppose them often resort to insults and anger.
UKIP are often called far right. In purely economic terms and placing the scale from socialist as Left and capitalist as right then yes they are well across to the capitalist end of the line. But then in modern politics who isn’t, the Tories, Labour, the Lib Dems, all of them are simply varying shades of capitalist or right wing. These days in British politics, apart from the Greens, who isn't right wing?
The use of labels and generalisations also makes debates difficult. A common one being UKIP are racist. Mostly they are not, what they are is Isolationist, Nationalist, Thatcherite Capitalists.
A racist says X are dirty, shifty, benefit grabbing, thieving, coming over here to take our jobs. Where X = Black, Asian, Chinese, Pakistani etc. A racial group.
UKIP do not differentiate by race but far more by nationality, Poland is NOT a race, islam is NOT a race.
A UKIP person that is anti Immigrant because its bloody foreigners taking our jobs' is being Nationalist, Britain first and foremost, keep johnny frog in his own country.
A UKIP person that is anti EU is being Isolationist, and to a degree protectionist. We don't want them bloody Euro types making us follow their laws.
The thing with continuing to call anyone a racist for having a problem that is nothing to do with race is that we are weakening and changing the very nature of the accusation. The cry of racist is used so often these days that it no longer has the same impact and calling UKIP racist simply destroys any chance of actual discussion.
Perhaps the most high profile policy from UKIP is that immigrants are taking British Jobs. A great many people who find themselves struggling for work on minimum wages or zero hours contracts are fed up with the indifference of the Labour party and the borderline cruelty that the Tories treat anyone not a rich donor
Aside from the wealthy donors the majority of people who fall into the ‘I love marmite/UKIP’ group are at the low end of the income spectrum and generally the ones who suffer the most from one government or the other in our two party roundabout.
For months now the Tories have been trying to claw back votes that have gone to UKIP by talking a tougher line on Immigration and the EU. Restrictions on the length of time before immigrants can claim benefits, promises on a referendum. Tory after Tory has been promising the earth and pledging to be as tough or even tougher on immigrants than even the most ardent Kipper.
Labour has slowly come to realise that UKIP is not just a problem for the Tories, that the significant levels of unhappiness with politics that UKIP claims to oppose is not just a Conservative failure.
As Labour finally notices that they are just as disliked as the Tories and they are also losing votes in droves they are jumping on the band wagon.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves announced that the next Labour government will stop immigrants claiming jobless benefits until they have been in the UK for two years along with other restrictions.
The reality of the situation is that while many immigrant workers are able to survive better on minimum wages when their families are in countries with far cheaper costs of living than the families of UK workers the real problem is not immigrants but the entire system which has evolved to exploit the workforce.
Yet UKIP directs its anger against immigrant workers who are often as much exploited as the British workers rather than the system as a whole, limiting immigrant workers or imposing the kinds of controls that UKIP want will do very little to change the situation.
Likewise the two main political parties try to out Kip the Kippers by throwing in their own anti immigrant policies in an effort to attract back all of those voters who are leaving
Now that Labour is announcing its own policies against immigrants and its own restrictions on those who come to the UK for any reason all three of the main political parties are pushing anti immigrant attitudes. I say main three, I’m ignoring the other group, that fellow Clegg and his band of honourless rogues.
So given that both of the big parties are now claiming to follow the same anti immigrant agenda that UKIP calls for how can we now argue that UKIP are wrong on this one?
Given that both main parties are directly adopting UKIP policies and steadily lurching to the political right in a quest for faltering voter numbers its becoming harder and harder to spot the Kippers in the political crowd.
The problem is that focusing on immigrants and bringing in restrictions or laws that target immigrants is a distraction. It fails to address the actual problem, which is, why are so many British people living so close to the edge of poverty?
Blame the immigrants simply ignores the realities of low wages, zero hours contracts, part time jobs, exploitation of workers, poverty, hunger, a cruel and abusive government department doing its worst for the unemployed or unable to work and much more.
All of this anti immigrant rhetoric is a distraction. A way of diverting attention. A smoke screen that hides the real problem. Instead of complaining about workers coming into the UK to perform work that offers wages and conditions that British workers cannot live on we should be asking why there are a steadily increasing number of so called jobs that do not afford a living wage or even a survival level wage.
To risk jumping on a Kipper like agenda, to hell with the immigrants, let's start talking about why it is so hard for so many British people to live decent lives instead.