In the run up to the May European elections, UKIP have been getting a lot of attention.
A new book, Revolt on the Right, by academic Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford highlighted why the interest in UKIP. The book argues, more or less convincingly, that UKIP is now similar to, and as stable as other “radical right” populist parties around Europe (such as the Freedom Party of Austria, the Swiss Peoples Party or France’s Front National).
They have expanded their political base to take in older, precariously employed or unemployed working-class voters (mostly men) and broadened their appeal to become anti-immigration as well as Eurosceptic.
The left should take UKIP seriously. We need to combat their anti-immigration populism; we need to rebuild and create a labour movement which will fight for all precarious workers, migrants and UK-born. We need to win the arguments over how to fight for more jobs, homes and decent benefits for all.
But there is taking UKIP seriously, and giving it credence. Giving it uncritical airtime is what Channel Four’s documentary by Martin Durkin chose to do (‘Nigel Farage, Who are you?’ 31 March).
Durkin is a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, an organisation which disbanded in 1997. The RCP was a very strange group, which habitually took up pretentious or deliberately contrarian and sometimes offensive views (e.g. denying the imprisonment of Bosnian Muslims by Serbs in the Balkans).
Many ex-members of the RCP have done very well for themselves. Claire Fox is a regular “talking head” on BBC radio. Munira Mirza is Boris Johnson’s Director of Policy for Culture. And Martin Durkin? He is a film maker who’s ploughed the RCP-contrarian furrow (the dangers of silicone breast implants have been exaggerated, GM food is great, global warming may not be caused by human activity...). He says he has moved from the left towards the “straight liberatarian”, whatever that means.
It means lazy and dumb to judge by his approach to Nigel Farage. A posh bloke follows around another posh bloke for six months. Who is “the man behind the mayhem” according to Durkin?
UKIP is Britain’s favourite party! Farage talks from the gut! He’s a swaggering cowboy! What a trouble maker! He loves his beer and fags, just like working-class people! “I love Europe, me (its wine, its cheese, its beer)”.
Durkin’s script is non-existent. He just lets the man himself do the talking... and talk he does... and talk... and guffaw. What a lad this ex-City boy is? Bugger bureaucracy! Up free trade!
Cue the James Bond music....
Durkin probably thinks the kind of serious, historically situated, evidenced and careful analysis of Revolt on the Right is po-faced, “politically correct” or some kind of establishment conspiracy. If the last point is his point I suggest he looks in the mirror.
So why did Channel Four allow this Barbar-jacketed dilletante to make a political broadcast on behalf of the really nasty party?