Sunday 16 March 2014
Turning a blind eye - Labour and UKIP
Despite the best efforts of his party's members to derail Nigel Farage's campaign for the European elections in May, the polls show that UKIP is on course to do very well at the expense of the Tories and quite possibly Labour in England.
In recent months we have heard UKIP promises to ban schools from teaching climate change; a whole battery of attacks on women's rights (business owners should be allowed to turn away women job applicants, women who don't clean behind their fridges are "sluts", and so on); a UKIP councillor blaming gay marriage for the winter storms and floods; another MEP saying that Muslims should be required to sign a charter denouncing some passages in the Koran; pictures of UKIP candidates giving Hitler salutes, wearing Jimmy Savile masks and blaming the Jews for the Holocaust - the list goes on.
The trouble is that UKIP is a one man band. When someone puts a cross against a loony, racist, homophobic UKIP candidate in an election, it doesn't matter because they are voting for Nigel, and Nigel is a decent bloke who talks common sense, right?
Wrong. "These things happen", says Nigel, who also blames the media for blowing things out of proportion. That's the same media (the Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph to name but a few) which have been peddling anti-European myths and the other rubbish which now passes for mainstream political thinking in the UK.
The Tories are caught like a rabbit in the headlights, petrified by the monster they have helped to create, while Labour seems to be calculating that because UKIP is bad for the Tories, it should turn a blind eye.
The Independent reported yesterday that some senior figures in the Labour Party are beginning to worry about their strategy because voters in many parts of England will also be electing councils on the same day, and a good many of those councils are currently in Labour hands.
A sudden rise in support for UKIP in the elections to the European Parliament could also see a lot of UKIP councillors being returned.
We will not be voting for new councils in Wales on 22 May, and Labour's strategy here is to attack not UKIP, but Plaid Cymru. There are important differences between Labour and Plaid on Europe. For example, Labour MPs sided with right-wing Eurosceptic Tories in October to cut the EU budget in real-terms, a move which will mean less EU money for Wales. Broadly, however, the two parties are on the same wavelength when it comes to the EU. It is just that Leanne Wood is showing leadership, while Carwyn Jones is not. Google Carwyn Jones and UKIP, and you'll see what I mean.
At the recent Plaid spring conference Leanne Wood called on voters to reject the Europhobia of UKIP, and warned of the catastrophic consequences for Wales of a right-wing, isolationist UK.
Whatever you think of Leanne Wood, you can't accuse her of playing to the gallery and taking a populist approach. Too much is at stake for ordinary people in Wales to turn a blind eye to Nigel Farage.
Labour's response in Wales has been to devote its energy to comments made by a disgruntled Dafydd Elis-Thomas instead of using its influence to warn of the dangers of a UKIP success in May.
All of which brings us back home to Carmarthenshire where Labour's council leader, Kevin Madge, has probably made his one and only contribution to the debate in the run-up to the European elections.
Calling for Dafydd Elis-Thomas to join Labour, Kevin Madge told the South Wales Guardian that he "strongly supported Lord Elis-Thomas", and that the Plaid leader was "out of touch". He added: "We live in an open society where people hold a lot of different views".
So the threat to the 150,000 Welsh jobs which are directly dependent on the EU, £5 billion of trade, EU aid to the Valleys and West Wales, the climate change denial, racism, homophobia and anti-women's rights stance of UKIP don't matter.
It's a bit like a Social Democrat leader in Germany in 1932 saying, "Of course Mr Hitler and his followers are entitled to their views, and anyone who criticises them is out of touch".
Posted by Cneifiwr at 12:41