Well, if you haven’t already heard, the Liberal Democrats man Mike Thornton won the Eastleigh by election, with UKIP coming in a close second and the Tories Maria Hutchings (their very own version of Sarah Palin) trailing in at a miserable third.
Politicians, and I am sure they won’t get much sympathy here, haven’t had an easy ride of late. There is widespread dissatisfaction with the way the country is being run by the Coalition. The ‘Lib-Dems’ are fire-fighting allegations of sexual impropriety and mismanagement of complaints within their own party, the alternative of having Ed Milliband in power at a future date, when really we all preferred the other one (David) gives us the heeby-jeebies, and the Labour Party have had their own fair share of drama too! All this inevitably means there is a veritable smorgasbord of crapola within the political system. Where does it all end?
What does this mean for the ordinary man or woman on the street? Well, it certainly heightens old and ever present prejudices and tensions about immigration. According to the Office for National Statistics, there was a drop (that’s right) a drop in the numbers of immigrants coming to live in the UK this year (from 247,000 in 2011 to 163,000 in 2012). However around half of Britons according to a study by Oxford University (http://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/briefings/uk-public-opinion-toward-immigration-overall-attitudes-and-level-concern) find immigration to be unpopular, and three-quarters of us would prefer the Government to be tougher on immigration.
Which lands us with UKIP coming a close second in an area that is predominantly (92.7%) white. In this context you can see why UKIP may have been chosen as a ‘protest’ vote versus the other grey matter of the competition. If the same thing were to occur in the General Election then the Conservatives would have something to worry about as would presumably any future immigrants.
But as they say statistics can be used to justify absolutely anything. Whilst I think the British Public want to be tough on immigration, I don’t think this means that necessarily negative attitudes towards incumbent immigrants follow this trend of tough love. As we are increasingly living and working in a multicultural society immigration is a present fact that we all need to accept. It brings a number of benefits in the shape of attracting workers with unique skills that aren’t present in British society, allowing us to embrace different cultures and ways of living, making us more rounded and ultimately tolerant individuals, in my humble opinion.
This is why I worry that if UKIP ever get into power, that much like the BNP or other extreme right-wing parties, they will foist an agenda on the British people that they didn’t sign up for, and don’t realise the long-term negative implications of. Especially with respect to EU migration, if we stop/severely limit the flow, then we are nowhere near powerful enough financially to make it on our own, the books just don’t balance that way. That is why I wonder if Nigel Farage will moderate his rhetoric and provide a more nuanced debate on what needs to be done to get Britain out of the economic slump without alienating our European neighbours. Maybe then, UKIP would be a viable alternative. Until then, I’m not holding my breath.