Saturday, 9 March 2013

Yvette Cooper, Nigel Farage and the Nazi sleight of hand

When confronted by extreme racist statements, the best logic test remains substituting one of the groups persecuted by Hitler for the particular target of festering bile under scrutiny.  On this basis, the despicable campaign fought by UKIP in Eastleigh fostering hatred and fear of Bulgarians and Romanians scores highly on the scale.   Hardly surprising, since UKIP relies on the kind of demagoguery and personality cult that fed dictatorships of both the left and the right over the past century.

What was more surprising, and disappointing, was Yvette Cooper jumping on the anti-immigration bandwagon this week.  Labour are clearly alarmed by their internal polling that suggests that what remains of their blue-collar vote is quite tempted by UKIP slaverings, given their disconnect from the metropolitan political classes and the suspicion, fostered by the media, that somehow people come into the UK for a life of Riley on benefits and state handouts.  The supreme illogic is that most of those who have entered legally either have jobs or want to work, and those who are below the radar have no right to welfare provision, but then the electorate and their cheerleaders are never very hot on inductive reasoning.

This fear of the other leads to the creation of scapegoats.  Cameron is doing this all the time with Europe - the incomprehension and the fear of having to engage is something that the Tory and Labour pollsters believe will play well to a narrowly-targeted section of the electorate.  This is driven by a combination of cynicism and contempt.  However, what it betrays is the inadequacy of the political class in its complete lack of leadership and its lack of confidence in any ability to shape public opinion. The spinelessness of much of this group creates the vacuum where the lunatics can thrive.

Farage is an odious example of this - creating and playing on fears that the Tories are not even interested in rebutting.  Indeed, the Tory strategy may well be to encourage him (alongside his new, moral crony Rupert Murdoch) as it will allow the natural xenophobia and casual racism that Cameron has tried to mask to resurface.  Combatting ignorance and prejudice with reason should be something that comes naturally to politicians, but the contemporary mindset seems to be completely averse to principle unless reinforced by the focus group.

Labour needs to wake up to the reality that the xenophobic, right-wing agenda has run its course as far as they are concerned.  The Tories and UKIP will scrap over this section of an illiterate, cowed electorate - and they will talk it up against the key issues of the economy and the general social cohesion of the country.  There is a left-liberal consensus waiting to be built around the principles of tolerance, freedom and mutual respect - and potentially restoring the idea that progress is achieved through communal effort and is not something to be scoffed at.

While we have Cooper, Cameron and others joining the propitiation of the mad, the situation remains depressing.  This is the first sign of Tory panic, and those of us who want to see proper public debate need to resist and point out the parallels with the slide to totalitarianism.  We are not Weimar, yet there are those whose interests (are you awake, Rupert?) want to take us to the same conclusion that the German right came to in 1932.  The real enemy is apathy and complacency, not our European partners.

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