Commentary: Why the liberal elite should be eating humble pie along with some Labour MPs after the collapse of the UKIP vote

“Over many years, the policy of ‘multiculturalism’ has fragmented British society by allowing migrants to Britain to behave in exactly the same way as they would if they were still in their countries of origin. Multiculturalism has prevented criticism of certain religious beliefs and cultural practices, even those the overwhelming majority of British people would consider repugnant, and which threaten rights and equalities established in Britain for decades.” (UKIP Manifesto, 2017)

In 2015 UKIP focused much of its campaign on uncontrolled immigration and the erosion of Britain’s national identity. The party argued that open borders and multiculturalism had been imposed on a public who did not want nor vote for such a global agenda.

UKIP received 13 per cent of the vote and was the third biggest party.

According to a YouGov analysis of the 2015 General Election, UKIP’s strongest support came from readers of right-wing tabloids such as the Express (27%) and Star (26%) and from people with no qualification beyond GCSE (20%). Their voter base was dismissed as white, poor and uneducated.

This fed into a general narrative that white working-class communities are against immigration, multiculturalism and change. From being labelled racial-preservationists to outright racists; the “white working class” were accused of wanting to militarise borders against people and stop immigration.

UKIPs 2017 manifesto was very much a continuation from two years prior. As well as serving as the “guard dogs of Brexit”, UKIP continued its rejection of multiculturalism and called for a one-in-one-out immigration policy. They also maintained their anti-Islamist stance. The manifesto included a screening programme for girls identified to be at risk of FGM from birth to age sixteen, consisting of annual non-invasive physical check-ups as well as banning niqabs which they called “de-humanising symbols of segregation and oppression”.

To concentrate a significant proportion of their manifesto on Muslims may have been seen as electorally savvy, albeit utterly confused, in many ways. After all, the election campaign witnessed two devastating terror attacks in Manchester and London and security was a major Conservative weakness. Theresa May herself relented that “enough is enough”. UKIP, then, were promising to ensure Brexit, drastically reduce immigration and to “get tough on terror”.

Yet the General Election of 2017 saw UKIP all but devastated. They secured only half a million votes or 1.8% of the vote share – down from nearly four million in 2015, 13% of the vote share. Not to mention, their leader came third in Boston and Skegness and paid tens of thousands in lost deposits.

Adding to this, UKIP was not necessarily the “gateway drug” the Tories were hoping for and the UKIP vote was in fact split between the two leading parties. Over all, it was Labour who made gains in this election. That is despite the fact they had the least restrictive policies on immigration and centred policies on issues of Islamophobia and foreign policy rather than FGM and niqabs.

To my mind, the General Election and post-election polls suggest the UK, then, is not a region divided along racial lines as propounded by the media and those in the know. This election saw a drastic departure of sorts from the current trend of right-wing resurgence.

People were scared, they felt disenfranchised and they were worried that they were being left behind in the global race. These are, and were, genuine concerns with very little to do with race itself.

Exiting Europe offered many an alternative to the prevalent state of affairs whilst UKIP provided a platform for a significant part of the electorate to vent their frustration as the Conservative and Labour adopted different dosages of austerity politics in the 2015 election.

Packaged in the UKIP box which represented genuine concerns not only about Europe but a need for change, however, were hostile anti-immigrant, borderline racist, rhetoric. It is clear now this was not necessarily accepted by a majority of their voters – but what other option did they have at the time?

UKIP were offering something different – which is why they succeeded. Similarly to Corbyn this year, they offered a way out for an increasing amount of disenfranchised people – albeit in a somewhat morose way.

Either way, in both instances, what is clear is that hope, in all its forms, prevails. And perhaps like a number of Labour MPs right now, the liberal elite, perhaps myself included, should be indulging in some humble pie. For a long time our political system did not cater to the insecurities of millions of people and many of us failed to understand their concerns.  As a  result, we misdiagnosed a want for change for racism, subsequently furthering segregation, exacerbating divisions and silencing dissent.

Significantly and most importantly, as a society, we also failed to deliver a genuine alternative to the status quo which so many desperately craved.

That, of course, was until now.

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