I have been planning for some time now a series of blog posts looking at the 21-year-old phenomenon that is ukip. Yes, this ‘young’ political party has now reached the age of consent. Handsome chaps from the right wing of the Tory Party are even courting ukip with the aim of co-habiting at least by March 2015. Conveniently, for me, Matthew Goodwin has provided the ideal ukip article against which to pitch my views and analysis (and those of others).
Goodwin, since he erupted on to the domestic political scene earlier this year with Revolt on the Right, has moved from being an impartial commentator on ukip to being a cheerleader for the party and, in particular Nigel Farage. Whether it is because he is suffering from a variation on Stockholm Syndrome, shares Farage’s take on politics and/or is cynically exploiting the party is not for me to say. However, Goodwin has managed to cash in on ukip’s recent notoriety and, in the process has raised his profile significantly amongst the very classes, metropolitan liberals he routinely has a pop at in his articles.
What I do propose to question is Goodwin’s competence to hand out the tablets of stone that he has been passing out with ever-greater frequency since Revolt on the Right came out earlier this year. I confess I have been blocked on Twitter by Goodwin for challenging his analysis so perhaps I am not as objective as I might otherwise be. I leave you to come to your own judgments in that regard over the coming months.
I did do Goodwin, after being blocked, the courtesy of looking at his book on Amazon. I say courtesy, because he was quite nasty about me personally for daring to suggest that my worm’s eye view was arguably a better one than his from which to describe ukip’s ‘left behind’ supporters and voters. You will note from the foreword to Revolt on the Right that Goodwin’s book is based on various sources of research and survey material, including opinion poll data, news clippings and interviews with ukip activists. Some of the activists asked that their identities be kept anonymous. Unless I have read it wrong, Goodwin made no efforts to interview a representative sample of ukip’s wider party, supporters and voters. Yet he feels capable of speaking for and about them in his book and articles. By the way, I think you would be hard pressed to say confidently that the activists of any political party are a representative sample of their party’s broader membership, supporters and voters.
Goodwin with seemingly no background in psephology peppers his articles with favourable projections down to constituency level as to ukip’s electoral prospects. A continuing contention, regardless of contrary evidence, is that ukip is more likely to damage Labour’s prospects than those of the Tory Party. I detect a degree of cognitive dissonance and a whiff of despair that he may find his credibilty as an expert on ukip severely damaged, if this thesis fails to come to pass in the only place that counts, the ballot box. The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner by election held on 21st August certainly does not back Goodwin up and it contradicts his contention that ukip is an organisation fit to fight elections.
Goodwin spent two years writing a book about ukip that conveniently came out two months or so before an election in which ukip was expected to receive a great deal of publicity. Of course, Goodwin benefited even better than he might have dreamt from the arguably disproportionate level of media coverage that ukip received in the run up to 22nd May this year. Goodwin cannot have believed his good fortune. The media needed an ukip expert and who better than Goodwin, the author of the recently published, critically acclaimed Revolt on the Right?
Goodwin has a stake in talking up ukip’s prospects in order to keep him in the public eye and maintain his current and future earnings potential. I assume his book and articles will not harm his future as an academic and researcher (for Government bodies and the like), specialising in extreme right-wing movements? Unless, perhaps, questions are raised about his objectivity?
I am of the opinion that most academics do not live in ivory towers, but then I have worked with a fair few on issues very close to those that ukip is purporting to address through its policy ideas. None of those academics prepared papers on the topics they were studying without interviewing the people who were their prime focus. In my case, those studies with which I was involved included a cross section of people living within a regeneration area and the barriers to employment faced by those in the third age of their working lives. I invited Goodwin to Kingstanding, Birmingham to meet likely ukip voters and see which of us was right about their upbringing, attitudes and leanings. He declined.
Personally, I think Goodwin has been to date insufficiently rigorous in his study of ukip. Goodwin has become a Boswell to Farage’s Johnson and why not? He is so trusted by ukip that he seems to have gained unhindered access to ukip, unavailable to other people in the media and “Currently, he is writing a new book on the 2015 general election that will be published by Oxford University Press in 2015.” (extract from Matthew Goodwin’s website). I foresee further books such as Nigel Farage on the Stump with Matthew Goodwin and Matthew Goodwin’s Biography of Nigel Farage.
Of course, Goodwin had a partner in the writing of Revolt on the Right, Robert Ford. Has anyone heard from Ford since the book was launched?
As I said above, this is the first of a series of posts about ukip. I want to stress that, when talking about its supporters; I will endeavour to avoid sweeping generalisations as much as possible.
I accept that some of ukip’s supporters, seemingly unaware of its true nature, back it for quite understandable reasons. In addition, that there is a case to be made that ukip is not a fascist party, based on the range of beliefs of its members, but then the same argument can be made for most fascist parties, past and present. However, the sum of ukip’s individual prejudices and bigotry are greater than its whole. If you choose to lie down with mangy, flea bitten curs then do not be surprised if, on getting up, people suspect you have rabies.