The second of the “great” TV debates over Europe between Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, is now over. The result was depressing and predictable.
Depressing, because according to all the opinion polls, Farage won hands down.
An instant poll conducted by BBC2 found that 69% of viewers thought Farage had won the debate and only 31% thought Clegg was the victor. These findings were reinforced by a YouGov poll, which gave Farage 68% and Clegg just 27%.
Predictable, because Clegg was not exactly the best person to debate Farage on questions like immigration and racism.
For nearly four years he has sat at the side of Conservative prime minister David Cameron while the coalition government has denounced multiculturalism, victimised Muslims and put in place draconian measures against migrants.
UKIP will now try to ramp up the pressure to ensure it is included in the leadership TV debates that will take place before next year’s general election.
This will push the mainstream parties even further to the right.
Farage has now got the wind in his sails. At UKIP’s spring conference he outlined the party’s short and medium term strategy. He believes that UKIP has a good chance of coming first in May’s European elections and is set to break the political mould by becoming Britain’s fourth major political party.
These are not hollow words.
According to last month’s ComRes poll (commissioned by The Independent On Sunday and Sunday Mirror) on people’s voting intentions in the Euro elections, UKIP topped the poll with 30% of the vote. Second came Labour with 28%, the Tories languish in third with 21% and the Lib Dems and Greens come in fourth and fifth with 8% and 6% respectively.
Farage also made it clear that he wanted UKIP to use gains made in the Euro elections as a base for winning a handful of seats in parliament in 2015.
He believes it will then be just a matter of waiting for demoralisation to set in with what Farage expected to be the next Labour government. Chillingly, he then believes it will be UKIP’s turn next.
We have stated it before on Dream Deferred, but it is worth repeating: UKIP is not the authentic voice of the “white working class” and Farage is not a man of the people.
UKIP is an anti-working class, racist populist party led by an ex-city banker.
And UKIP is not a political aberration, as some commentators like to claim.
It is one of a number of right wing, racist, anti-European and – in some cases – openly fascist parties across Europe that are going to do well in next month’s Euro elections.
Pollwatch is publishing a series of Europe-wide fortnightly forecasts in the run-up the elections on 22-25 May.
The most recent poll puts Marine Le Pen’s Front National top in France on 23% and 20 seats. The poll shows strong figures for the parties of the far right in Belgium, Austria, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands.
Some of these organisations have pledged to set up a new far-right European parliament political group, with Le Pen and Netherlands’ PVV party leader Geert Wilders at its head.
The combined forces of the new alliance are set to take a total of 38 seats – well past the 25 seats needed to form an official group in the European Parliament.
UKIP does not formally belong to this coalition, but its policies are very similar.
But it’s not just racist populist parties making the running. Parties considered too “extreme” to belong to any far right alliance are also set to make electoral gains.
Hungary’s Nazi Jobbik party consistently polls around 15% – that kind of result would give the party three or four MEPs – while in Greece, the fascist Golden Dawn’s 10% would give it three seats. The Danish People’s Party is currently on 15% with another possible three seats.
The fascist parties and the racist populists are winning support with their anti-Europe stance and racism directed against migrants, Roma people and Muslims.
It is also important to note that in France, Hungary, Poland and Romania the fascists are linking up with right wing Catholic groups and running strong “pro family” campaigns, opposing LGBT rights and so-called “alternative” lifestyle choices.
UKIP has not shied away from opposing same sex marriage in Britain. And UKIP councillor David Silvester notoriously blamed the recent storms and heavy floods across Britain on the government’s decision to legalise same-sex marriage.
What should antiracists and anti-fascists in Britain look out for in the run-up to the Euro elections on Thursday 22 May?
First the good news. The English Defence League – which brought together racist and fascist street thugs – is now in tatters. Anti-fascist mobilisations have demoralised its supporters. Its leadership has imploded leaving a tiny rump of activists to stagger on.
In the electoral arena, the Nazi and former British National Party MEP Andrew Brons has announced that he will not be contesting his Yorkshire and Humber seat in May.
That’s one down – and with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work the BNP’s fuhrer, Nick Griffin, will lose his North West seat in May as well.However no one should be complacent: the lowering of the electoral threshold in the North West means Griffin could sneak in with a small percentage of the vote. That is why the excellent Nick Griffin Must Go campaign in the North West is important.
If Griffin is kicked out, the BNP will be reduced to just two councillors and we will see further splits and defections in their ranks.
But the BNP retains a core voting base of around 5%, or higher in some areas of the country. UKIP’s Nigel Farage understands this all too well: he is clearly appealing to disaffected BNP voters and supporters to back UKIP.
Farage calculates that if the BNP’s disillusioned voters come over to UKIP, they could make all the difference between victory and defeat in some seats.
Clearly UKIP is going to be the anti-racist movement’s next big challenge. That leaves the question: how do we tackle UKIP?
First, any left wing or socialist alternative to the austerity politics of the mainstream parties has to be welcomed.
Just opposing racism and fascism is like fighting with one hand tied behind your back – it does not tackle the anti-working class policies of the mainstream parties that drive disillusioned voters into the racists’ and fascists’ arms.
I don’t believe we will see the radical left do well in Britain this year. But hopefully in Greece, France, Germany and possibly Italy the left will make significant gains.
Second, the international demonstrations against racism on 22 March this year were an important antidote to the poisonous racist bile being pumped out daily by the political class and the media.
Hopefully this will be a launchpad for a Europe-wide campaign to undermine and defeat the new far right that is emerging.
But when it comes to tackling UKIP directly, disagreements have emerged. These are serious questions for anti-racists and anti-fascists
There are a number of MPs and trade unions who don’t want to see UKIP challenged. They believe – wrongly – that UKIP is only splitting the Tory vote.
YouGov published the combined results of polls it conducted in January 2014. It revealed the political loyalties of 37,000 electors including more than 4,000 UKIP voters.
Just under half of UKIP supporters (the equivalent of 1.6 million voters) voted Tory in the last election. But, on the basis of the YouGov data, UKIP has also won over approximately 400,000 Labour voters. This is not an insignificant number.
But even if UKIP didn’t win a single Labour vote, racist political parties have to be opposed. This is a matter of principle.
We must not let the racists divide us and we have to be clear, allowing UKIP to go unchallenged both increases the general levels of racism in society and drags the political debate to the right.
When those polled were asked which three issues “are the most important facing the country at this time”, the central importance of anti-immigrant racism to UKIP supporters becomes clear.
Unions Together is the campaigning voice of the 15 trade unions that are part of the Labour Party. It has launched an online petition campaign, Stand with us to stop UKIP.
Obviously this should be welcomed. But there is one big problem with it: the campaign only raises economic differences with UKIP.
It is important to expose UKIP’s anti-working class policies – in fact it has to be a key element in any anti-UKIP campaign – it is a serious mistake to ignore UKIP’s racist and anti-migrant message. It is, after all, the biggest concern of 83% of UKIP’s voters.
Sadly, Unions Together’s failure to challenge UKIP’s core racist message is not an oversight. The Labour leadership accepts much of UKIP’s anti-migrant and anti-Muslim propaganda.
This is why I believe Stand up to UKIP is such an important campaign.
It both challenges UKIP’s racism – and it is vital that we make clear that Farage and UKIP are racist – and it clearly nails UKIP as a bosses’ party.
There is no time to waste. UKIP has to be challenged. Activists should distribute the Stand up to UKIP leaflets and take up the arguments in their workplaces, communities and colleges.
Activists stopped the BNP and we defeated the EDL. Now we face a different kind of racist party and we are going to have to change our tactics to fit. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick, but UKIP can be stopped.