If anyone ever wondered how it was that the Nazi Party was swept to power by an ecstatic public they need look no further than the UK right now.
The UK Independence Party or UKIP is on course to defeat every political party in the UK in next month’s European elections. They are doing it by very clearly pinning the blame for voter’s woes on the ‘other’.
During the recession people were expecting the far right parties to do well. In certain parts of Europe they did. In Hungary and Greece in particular the far right made gains. In the UK less so. There the far right British National Party was considered as something of a joke, the punchline being their leader Nick Griffin. But UKIP, under the leadership of Nigel Farage have been loitering in the background of UK politics for some years now. At first they were also written off as buffoons. Now they have moved squarely into the mainstream of British politics and the big three UK parties are clearly unsure what to do about it.
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day here in Israel but instead of concentrating on the victims of Hitler’s genocide all I can think about is UKIP. Their success is proving that no matter how strong one thinks a democracy is, it is only ever one charismatic leader away from voting away freedom. The standard line of UKIP is that Brussels is taking away UK sovereignty. There is a particular emphasis on the “fact” that immigration from other European Union countries is taking away jobs from native Britons.
This in a country which has largely been shaped by immigrants and their children. A walk through a British High Street is enough to show the incredibly positive impact immigrants have had on the country. The consumer giant Tesco was founded by Jack Cohen, the son of Polish immigrants, the “Marks” from Marks and Spencer was a Belorussian immigrant to the UK to name just a couple of examples.
But of course the truth should never interfere with the politics of fear. UKIP is about making people feel uncomfortable, afraid and as if they’re entire way of life is under threat. Then they offer a cure.
UKIP never talk about the immigrants who come to the UK and build businesses which provide employment to British citizens. They never talk about scientists, mathematicians and PhDs who arrive in the country to find a better life and contribute their skills to the country. They don’t talk about benefits of immigration at all. This doesn’t fit the narrative of an insidious threat to a vaguely defined British way of life.
It’s very difficult to point to any specific policies that UKIP wish to employ. You can’t learn anything about immigration from reading UKIP literature, you won’t learn anything new from watching their leader being interviewed. What UKIP are doing is using the same model that the Nazis used to become wildly popular in Germany. They are making people afraid and then claiming they can help. Not only can’t they help but the truth is that they are the problem.
Perhaps we haven’t learnt as much from the Holocaust as we would like to think we have.