There was another piece of codswallop (and book promotion) from Matthew Goodwin in the Guardian on Monday 15th December.
And here is the prime piece of codswallop:
“In short, since the 1970s there has been a deep and growing divide in the values that separate who we might loosely term pro-Ukip and anti-Ukip voters. Pro-Ukip voters are instinctively receptive to Farage’s anti-EU, anti-immigration and anti-Westminster message, and comprise between 25% and 30% of the overall electorate. These are the voters who grew up before Britain joined the EU (so they must be 57 and over at least if they voted in the 1975 referendum), before increased immigration (67 and over, if talking about post Empire Windrush) and in an era when genuinely competing ideological projects existed in politics (over 100 if we are to believe the far left).”
These voters are, I assume, the people for whom Farage speaks when he says he is ambivalent about homosexuality, but understands why older people who grew up before the EU are made uncomfortable by gay people? There being no LGBTs, visible ethnic minorities, liberals, people on Social Security, lone parents, in fact anyone ukippers rant on about whilst on painkillers in the UK before 1975. Time Goodwin outed Farage, surely? We are not talking about the EU here are we? But instead the 1960s, that decade that Tony Blair and Michael Howard both blamed for all of society’s ills back in the 2005 General Election. I do not see Farage rolling up for a Magical Mystery Tour either, not unless Sir Cliff is driving the bus. Back to the 1950s means a repudiation of the social advances of the 1960s. Advances which were partly in reaction to a stifling, conformist conservative society.
I really have no idea what Goodwin is an expert in and these days I wonder if he does so himself. In 1964, 11 years before the EU referendum, the West Midlands constituency of Smethwick was the most colour-conscious place in the country, and the scene of a Tory campaign that successfully exploited anti-immigrant sentiment. The infamous slogan that propelled a Tory into the House of Commons was, “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour.”
Peter Griffiths, the successful Tory candidate refused to disown the slogan, “I would not condemn any man who said that,” he told the Times during his election campaign. “I regard it as a manifestation of popular feeling.” All sounds rather depressingly familiar, does it not? However, it proves, once again, that Goodwin knows precious little about this country’s economic, political and social history. He also seems confused if he thinks that the commitment of most political parties to equal opportunities for all is not, in part at least, a matter of ideology (as well as political necessity) and a sign that they are as important to someone living in Smethwick as they are to the stereotypical Islington social liberal.
ukip’s forebears were fascists in the 1930s, fought the suffragettes in the 1900s, burnt industrial machinery in the early 19th Century, persecuted Catholics (sometimes with official approval and even sanction in the two centuries after 1605), massacred 150 Jews in York on March 16th, 1190 at York … I could go on, but the common link is an inability and/or unwillingness to accept economic, political and social change, combined with various forms of intolerance towards the other. Moreover, these responses were and are not unique to anyone particular class. Anti-semitism being quite common amongst the upper class in the 1930s as much as it was amongst the working class followers of Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats. As Aneurin Bevan once observed, “Fascism is not in itself a new order of society. It is the future refusing to be born.”
In one sense, Goodwin is right, we have been here before, because I can hear Farage today saying exactly what Griffiths said to the Times in 1964. Moreover, Goodwin says, “In short, since the 1970s there has been a deep and growing divide in the values” of voters. Goodwin, there always has been such a divide and there probably always will be. Partly because, Goodwin, some of the voters, some of the time, whatever you may think, are stupid. Bevan asked, “How can wealth persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power? Here lies the whole art of Conservative politics in the twentieth century.” Step forward, Alf Garnett, the perfect example of a working class Tory and now ukip supporter? Alf arrived on our television screens in 1965, but as a skilled member of the working class he got the vote in 1867, courtesy of Benjamin Disraeli. Mr Disraeli gave Alf the vote because he was banking on the conservatism of the British working man favouring the Tory Party at election time.
ukip is wealth persuading poverty to keep it in power, because ukip has nothing to say to the left behind that would make their condition any better than it is now. What intrigues me, Goodwin, is why you seem to think they do and whether your ignorance about the state of the modern labour market, especially the implications of deindustrialisation, is feigned or real.
“Calling out racism where racism exists is important” says Goodwin, “But over the longer term this will not get our society very far. If it did, then Europe as a whole would not have seen a stubbornly persistent rise of radical right politics over a 30-year period.” There was a time when it was felt calling out racism was not important, because it was stubborn and persistent. There was a time when Paul “Foot castigated “the inability of the local (Smethwick) Labour party, corrupted as it was by anti-immigrant sentiment, to hit back in a determined and principled way” against Griffiths and what he stood for.” It is a moot point whether he would have wholly approved of Labour’s Campaigning Against ukip document, but I think he would accept that Labour has moved on.
By the way, Goodwin, Labour is spelt with a u. Your Tweet of yesterday referring to blue collar workers suggests you either think this is the 51st State or that (like the libertarians in ukip) that it should be. Bevan would, though, have recognised Joe the Plumber, the archetypal blue collar worker of the 2008 Presidential Race. The man who proved voters can be stupid when he told Obama that he, Joe, would be worse off as a result of the candidate’s proposed tax cuts (for middle class voters like Joe). The same Joe the Plumber who feels his right to bear arms trumps the right of others to life. Definitely a natural Labour supporter!
The question each generation has to ask itself is do you seek to narrow or bridge gaps within society or, like Farage widen and exploit them for your own political and financial ends?
For those unfamiliar with the events of 1964 in Smethwick and how they resonate in sympathy with the events of today then I think Stuart Jeffries article is a good place to start. Incidentally, I understand that a variation of the slogan that I have read in a number of places was “… vote Liberal or Labour”.
Other interesting articles:
Looking Back at Race Relations
Peter Griffiths – Obituary (Daily Telegraph)
Peter Griffiths – Obituary (Wolverhampton Express and Star)
Neil Hamilton provides a link between then and now. Griffiths once wrote, “Apartheid, if it could be separated from racialism, could well be an alternative to integration.” Hamilton did his bit to try and help the apartheid regime of South Africa improve its chances of survival. One hopes he is equally successful with ukip’s electoral chances!