Greens, UKIP and the politics of anti-politics

I have said it before and I will most likely say it again, politicians are at an all-time popularity low. People are cynical about all politicians but this cynicism is mainly directed at the three largest parties. UKIP has managed to gain prominence by riding a wave of anti-politics. Their pitch is that if you do not like the three dominant parties then vote UKIP. Strangely enough, as this anti-political feeling is present on both the left and the right, why isn’t there a left wing party taking advantage of this?

The Greens would be the obvious candidate, they have an MP and have been around longer but why are they not using anti-politics to attract disillusioned voters? Disillusion with Labour, Lib Dems and Tories then vote Green? Why is no one saying this? Why is their approach too polite, “excuse me, have you thought about voting Green? Oh no you haven’t. Well I want bother you anymore then”. It could reinvigorate the left and take some of the momentum out of UKIP. 

The Green Party are reluctant to aim UKIP-style vitriol at the current political establishment. This is partly because it could come across as hypocritical. The Green Party, being a middle class Guardian reading movement, is part of the establishment. UKIP, being mainly made up of rich white men, is also part of the establishment but pointing this out has not lessened their appeal. It is because of this that I feel that the Green Party’s concerns that this could backfire are misplaced.

The larger problem with tactics of the Green Party is that they are not acknowledging that the people who want to vote UKIP have valid complaints. It is easy to dismiss those who plan to vote UKIP as racists, Europhobes or just plain stupid. However, it cannot be overstated how angry the average voter is at the main three parties. People are tired of being angry at politicians and are tired of this anger being ignored and now they are going to send a message that cannot be ignored by voting UKIP.

It is hard to tell where this disillusionment with mainstream politics has come from. Was it Nick Clegg selling out on everything he promised? The expenses scandal? Tony Blair? Both parties moving towards the centre? Constant media scrutiny meaning only the blandest politicians can survive? The rising number of politicians from privileged backgrounds? The rising number of politicians who have never worked outside politics? It is difficult to say, all these factors and more have contributed to voter disillusionment. What is clear is that there is not an easy fix. The Green Party could build a campaign which focuses on giving people hope that a vote can change things for the better but that seems like a lot of hard work so the Green Party is not bothering.

There is a belief on the left that sunlight and scrutiny will destroy UKIP, that exposing their racist behaviour, their expense claiming and their cronyism will cause voters to turn against them. This has not happened because most voters do not care that UKIP are crooks. They see all politicians as crooks and UKIP as the only ones who are honest about it. The truth about UKIP will not encourage angry voters to go back to the establishment parties if the root cause of their voting UKIP has not been tackled.

The Green party’s reluctance to use anti-politics is partly because they want to appeal to voters for different reasons than “tired of all the above, then vote for us”. They do not want to take advantage of voters being angry about the political establishment, they want to take advantage of voters being angry about the environment.

It would be short sighted to take advantage of the current high popularity of anti-politics if your party is based around a specific idea (i.e. environmentalism) which could be popular in the future. Certainly with the global environmental outlook worsening, popular support could naturally swing towards the Green Party. However until there is a ground swell of support for environmental policies the Greens are currently missing out on the anti-politics bandwagon.

There are several valid reasons why the Green Party would not want to behave like UKIP and exploit the politics of anti-politics but, the biggest mistake the Green Party (and the left as a whole) is making is not acknowledge that people who vote UKIP have a valid grievance. Anti-politics maybe the flavour of the month but voter is disillusionment is a big problem which threatens our democracy.

Godfrey Bloom: the worst kind of bully

Being bullied in school is not something I choose to remember often. At the time it had to be endured until I had passed my GCSEs. Looking back at it now, there were broadly two types of bullies: there were the kids from the bad estates and the broken homes who lashed out seemingly at random, you could forgive them for their circumstance, never offered a chance at life, they did not know who or what they were angry at.

Then there was the other type. The posh, sporting alpha-male bullies, who even by their early teens knew that society existed for their benefit. They bullied because they could get away with it. I am sure their self-confidence, ability to intimate others and the fact that society is structured to progress them has allowed these bullies to become highly successful hedge fund managers.

Or they could have turned into politicians like Godfrey Bloom, a UKIP MEP who sees himself as a champion of the ordinary, powerless man in the street who has been disenfranchised by the liberal political elites. His view is that the sensible voice of the British public has been drowned out by a torrent of political correctness, EU regulation and feminism. Yet for all his claims to be a political outsider who fights for the voiceless of Britain, it is clear he is nothing more than a pro-establishment bully.

Like most bullies Bloom seems to enjoy picking on people weaker than him, not the physically weaker but the politically weaker, people in less developed nations. He caused serious offence by suggesting that the government should cut aid to ‘Bongo Bongo land’. He also clearly has little respect for women after writing on the website "Women, in spite of years of training in art and music - and significant leisure time in the 18th and 19th Centuries - have produced few great works." He goes on to claim that women are better in the pantry (what normal person has a pantry anymore) and that men are better at parallel parking. By using these offensive stereotypes he gathers support for his policies of protecting white male establishment at the expense of everyone else.

Life must have been pretty easy for Godfrey Bloom, being sporty, posh and confident. Success in life is generally graded against things he is good at. He succeeds in competitions, sporting and commercial, because the rules are fixed in his favour. However this process of fixing the rules of society in favour of rich white men is threatened by liberals and feminism which Bloom dislikes and takes every opportunity to insult. He wrote this confusing statement on men who support feminism: “They are … men who seem to have no link with the usual social and sporting male preserves, the slightly effete politically correct chaps who get sand kicked in their face on the beach.” I have read this over about ten times and I have no idea what it means. What I do know is that he is talking about me, someone who does not like sport or beaches. I am not sure why he thinks people kick sand in my face, but I think that Bloom implies that he is the one doing the kicking.

Well of course he is kicking sand into the faces of liberals. Why would such a person support an ideology that seeks to enfranchise others? Bloom stands to lose out from liberalism and feminism. Liberals and feminists stand directly opposed to a system rigged in Bloom's favour.

Bloom is the worst kind of bully. The one with the weight of society behind them. He claims to be a dissenting voice against the liberal establishment, but this is a lie. It is a lie he has told so many times he believes it himself, but it is still a lie. The truth is that Godfrey Bloom is the embodiment of the establishment and it is only because of the implicit support for establishment figures that anyone listens to him at all.

However, as school taught me, the one thing worse than the bullies were the kids who stood behind the bullies and jeered them along. The ones who gave the bullies the validation they need. These are the people who like Bloom's political incorrectness. These jeering lackeys are the white middle-class men who are so afraid of change because it will diminish their lot.

UKIP are playground bullies but their jeering supporters are those who are lazily pro-establishment. It is our simple minded dislike of Europe, of immigrants and belief in a fictional British history that gives power to UKIP. It also our belief that the poor are poor because they are lazy and that feminists are complaining about non-existent inequality that helps the bullies go stronger. As a nation we are the truly despicable ones, the ones who jeer as bullies like Godfrey Bloom pick on someone else.