By “the Establishment” I don’t, of course, mean the toffee-nosed, elitist right-wing conspiracy which exists largely in the perfervid imaginations of Russell Brand and Owen Jones.
I mean the new progressive Establishment which has dominated the cultural and political argument since at least the Blair era: the quangos, the seats of academe, the politically correct corporatists, the Eurocrats, the congenitally bien-pensant luvvies, the liberal media from the Guardian to the BBC, the charities, the identikit politicos in the Westminster bubble. They want to destroy UKIP not out of high principle but simply because it represents such a threat to the communitarian status quo. Here are some examples.
The Electoral Commission
In Standpoint Nigel Vinson tells the full, shocking story of how the Electoral Commission deprived UKIP of two MEP seats in the European elections in May – essentially by rigging the ballot paper.
A hitherto unknown party calling itself An Independence From Europe was allowed by the Electoral Commission onto the top of the ballot paper – and went on to claim nearly a quarter of a million votes from confused people who had almost certainly meant to vote UKIP.
The seats went to Green MEPs instead. At the time UKIP didn’t make a big deal of this, presumably because it didn’t want to sound petulant at a moment when it needed to sound exultant. But what happened here was the most extraordinary miscarriage of justice, perpetrated by a supposedly neutral, independent regulatory body which is clearly riddled with bias and is unfit for purpose.
Stand-up comics (aka The Wankocracy)
In the old days, on the Eighties alternative comedy circuit, all someone like Ben Elton would have to do was mention the words “Margaret Thatcher” – or even just “Thatch!” – for their audience to dissolve in smug, consensual, righteously scornful laughter.
Now this role as the butt of every second-rate lefty comic’s crap jokes has been taken over by UKIP. “I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally it means they have not a single political argument left,” Baroness Thatcher once said. As her most plausible current heir, Nigel Farage should find this heartening.
The European Parliament
Last week in Strasbourg, the European parliament’s arch-federalist political establishment rigged the rules and gamed the system in a dirty tricks measure which could almost have destroyed UKIP. Christopher Booker tells the story here:
Ever since Ukip last May won 24 seats, the Parliament’s Euro-elite – led byits German president Martin Schulz, the arch-federalist once famouslycompared by Silvio Berlusconi to a Nazi concentration camp commandant – hasbeen longing to cut Mr Farage down to size. Last week Mr Schulz thought hismoment had come. When an obscure Latvian MEP was persuaded to defect fromFarage’s group, it meant that it no longer included representatives of sevencountries, the minimum qualification to be recognised as an officialparliamentary group.
Mr Schulz triumphantly announced that the group was thus disbanded, whichwould have been for Mr Farage and his colleagues an utter disaster.
Under new rules introduced by Mr Schulz, not only would they instantly have tovacate their plush offices, losing the services of some 40 administrativestaff and £13 million in cash and kind, Mr Farage would also have to retireto the back benches, no longer able to make those speeches at the front ofthe Parliament that have earned him millions of hits on YouTube, such asthat in which he told Herman Van Rompuy that he had “the charisma of a damprag”.
Scarcely had Mr Schulz exulted at his triumph over the hated Eurosceptics,however, than the group recruited a Polish MEP to make up the numbers again.Despite attempts to discredit this man as a “Holocaust denier”, because hisparty leader back in Poland once questioned whether Hitler knew aboutAuschwitz (Farage’s new colleague merely described Hitler as “an evil man”),Mr Schulz soon found himself having to call Farage back to the rostrum as ifnothing had happened.
What’s almost as interesting as Schulz’s plot – and how close it came to succeeding – has been the way the story has been reported across the media. Had these dirty tricks been applied to any other mainstream party, the stink would have been enormous.
Instead, even in supposedly conservative newspapers, reports focused not on the monstrousness of Schulz’s wicked, blatantly anti-democratic scheming but on the essentially trivial views of some Polish nobody from a party with whom it was perfectly clear Farage had got into bed out of pure pragmatism rather than deep ideological kinship.
The cultural commissars
Maybe that’s too grandiose a title for the likes of Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones who has dismissed the moving and hugely popular poppy-themed art installation at the Tower of London commemorating the British soldiers killed in World War I as “fake” and a “UKIP-style memorial.”
Jones is entitled to his artistic snobbery – but the way he shoehorned a gratuitous political cheap-shot into his critique is beneath contempt. And counterproductive. As Guido has rightly noted, “this sort of metropolitan Guardianista sneering is why UKIP are on the rise”.
The liberal media attack dogs
Check out this story from Us vs Them. The site represents the Mirror Group’s – rather effective, I think – attempt to break into the Buzzfeed/Upworthy market by serving up news in a cunningly-slanted left-wing style for the social media generation. It’s about a patriotic, Union-flag hoodie being sold on Amazon with the legend “We’re #1” – except unfortunately, the designer has omitted the apostrophe so that it actually says “Were #1”.
Note how the site has spun an amusing typographical cock-up into an anti-UKIP story. “Apostrophe error means UKIP hoodie has opposite message than the one intended,” says the headline: a flat-out lie since it is not a UKIP hoodie. This lie is then repeated in the standfirst: “What patriotic UKIP supporter WOULDN’T want hoodie with the phrase “we’re number 1″ over a British flag?”
As well as smearing UKIP, the story also plants in the minds of its readership the notion that patriotism and the Union flag are things which right-thinking people should find mildly distasteful.
Meanwhile in the polls…
…UKIP are riding higher than ever. And I suspect that much of this is not despite but because of the viciously unfair attacks it has been receiving from all quarters. Like many on the right I have my reservations about UKIP – fundamentally, are they genuinely a party committed to smaller government or are they just political opportunists? – but if UKIP are to be effectively critiqued than it has to be done so in a spirit of honesty and fairness.
The attacks I have detailed above are neither honest nor fair. And the effect this has on wavering voters is to convince them more than ever that the reigning political Establishment is irredeemably corrupt and self-serving and that UKIP are their only hope of overthrowing it. It’s most certainly the effect it is having on me.