In what is surely another first for the United Kingdom Independence party, this is the first political manifesto I have ever read that requires a postmodernist deconstruction. Famously, the father of postmodernism, Jean-François Lyotard, wrote that ‘knowledge is only worthy of that name to the extent that it reduplicates itself … by citing its own statements in a second level discourse.’ On one level, this is the logic of the bore at the golf club bar: ‘My opinions are facts because I say they are.’ On another, it is the logic of the online conspiracy theorist: ‘It’s a deliberate plot as this link to another website shows.’ However, for the authors of Why Vote Ukip knowledge is only worthy of the name to the extent that the Daily Mail and the Taxpayers’ Alliance believe a fact to be true. Should they do so – as so many footnotes and citations here demonstrate – then that is as good as gospel for them.
The gloom sets in straight away. The introduction, written by former Conservative councillor and Ukip deputy chair Suzanne Evans, is a study in paranoia. Describing Ukip as the ‘common-sense centre’, Evans rails against the coverage of the infamous ‘gay floods’ issue (another former Tory Kipper was responsible) before rattling through the usual assertions regarding the Westminster ‘cosy cartel’.
Evans posits that leaving the European Union is the only way in which the ‘British way of life’ can be saved. It is risible, fantastical stuff and, unsurprisingly, it is the fault of the trade unions. As Evans writes: ‘the trade unions who are supposed to stand up for British working people and protect their jobs are instead reported to be selling cut-price memberships to Romanian and Bulgarian migrants and giving them free advice on how to claim benefits in the UK.’ The cited source? The Daily Mail. Did you know that High Speed Two is an ‘EU-driven vanity project’ that we are ‘required to build’? Me neither.
I approached the book longing for a coherent offer: some real Eurosceptic, hard-nosed red meat. What I found was incoherent paranoia at every turn: ‘Until we leave the EU and take back control of our borders it remains theoretically possible for almost 500 million residents in other EU member states to take up residence in Britain’. Just think about that claim from a political party that wants to be taken seriously. Meanwhile, Ukip foreign policy would cut the foreign aid budget and ‘end participation in unnecessary wars where no British interests are threatened’. How this is defined, of course, is not addressed.
It is hard to adequately describe the book. Imagine the worst ever episode of Heartbeat or Last of the Summer Wine filmed as a fly-on-the-wall documentary. But even this does not suffice. The book might benefit if it came with a free transistor radio, white pith helmet and a Carry On box-set, but deep down I confess to being troubled. How is it that our politics has allowed such a damaging, incoherent, and cheerfully Thatcherite prospectus to get this far? The one redeeming feature of this book is that it is a reminder of the very real damage Ukip could do to Britain.
Jamie Reed is member of parliament for Copeland
Why Vote Ukip: The Essential Guide
BiteBack Publishing | 144pp | £10
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