Opinion
The leader of Britain The leader of Britain's United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, laughs after receiving a bottle of British wine from a supporter in South Ockendon, southern England May 23, 2014. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett  

UK Voters Rebuke Eurocrats, But That Doesn’t Mean UKIP Is The Future

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Alan Sked
Professor, London School of Economics
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      Alan Sked

      Alan Sked is Professor of International History at LSE. He has written several works on the Habsburg Empire, Post-War Britain and European history and diplomacy. He also writes on American history and is presently writing a critical biography of Abraham Lincoln.

Last week’s European Union elections demonstrate a revolt across Europe, against the EU and the concept of ‘ever-closer union’ leading to the creation of a United States of Europe. That is an idea whose time has passed. The elite of bureaucrats and failed politicians who control Brussels never did trust the people, and now the feeling has been returned — particularly in the two states most proud of their national histories and independence, Britain and France.

Americans must realize that there is a big difference between European nation states and the British colonies in North America in 1776. The latter all spoke the same language, had never fought each other, had similar constitutions and legal systems, and after 1776, a common enemy. None of this applies in Europe. Here nation states speak different languages, have often fought each other, have different concepts of law and politics and no common enemy. So they have no common demos on which to base a democracy. And artificial attempts to create one have all failed. The most recent one — the introduction of a common currency — has led to mass unemployment, welfare cuts and undemocratic policy-making in Berlin and Brussels. The EU is not likely to survive this debacle.

In the UK there was always resistance to Brussels. Britain has always had the most effective parliamentary democracy and does not feel any need for European federal supervision and regulation. It resents almost all EU policies. The EU is rightly seen as undemocratic and unaccountable, bureaucratic, corrupt and profligate.

To get us out of it I started a new party in 1991 called the Anti-Federalist League, which changed its name in 1993 to UKIP ( the UK Independence Party). It was founded as a centrist, moderate party with no prejudices against minorities and no intention of entering the European Parliament. Nowadays, under Nigel Farage’s leadership, it has become obsessed with race, Islam and immigration. It has no policies on anything else. Indeed, at the last general election in the UK, its flagship policy was to ban the burqa. Farage has since said its entire manifesto was ‘drivel’ although he wrote the foreword. It has no policies on anything to do with economics, health, education and welfare. It simply lives in the 1950s and wants a big world role outside the EU and a country devoid of mass immigration and the results of the sexual revolution.

It takes up seats in the European Parliament but only to appear there and take salaries and expenses. Debates and committees are avoided. Farage claims to have taken more than £2 million in expenses over and above his salary. He also employs his wife as his secretary.

Two UKIP MEPs have been convicted of fraud and jailed. It has the worst statistical record for corruption of all UK parties.

The recent Euro-elections had a turnout of 25 percent, and UKIP took 29 percent of that. This was bigger than the other parties’ share. In the local elections, its share of the vote fell from 23 percent to 17. It was resisted in London and all the major cities save Portsmouth. It boasted of doing well in the East of England but got nowhere in Colchester, Norwich, Cambridge  or Ipswich. It thrives best in deserted seaside towns and urban backwaters with an ageing white population, usually with few immigrants. Does it represent the future? I doubt it. Can it help get Britain out the EU? I hope so.