Saturday, May 29, 2004

If you're such a patriot....

Off to buy the newspapers this morning, I passed a huge red Chrysler Cruiser (the one that tries to look like a thirties gangster wagon) with - what? - a UK Independence Party poster plastered to the window. And a UKIP sticker in the rear windscreen. And another on the opposite side, and UKIP literature liberally (hah!) scattered about the interior. Outside the shop stood a chap waving a UKIP poster, canvassing the public at large. There was a question I wanted to ask him.

Accepting a flyer, I casually inquired "If you are fully committed to absolute economic sovereignty, why do you drive a German car? Why not a Rover?" "It's not a German car." "Oh yes it is. Daimler-Chrysler - it's a German company. Designed in Germany, head office in Germany, listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange." "It's American! Made in Mexico." (What?) "It's a German company. Anyway, they make them in Austria too."

"Well, I'm not a racist about it." And that was it. I thought he was going to say "I am not a racist, but..", but no such luck. He did, though, hand me a document that rather gave the lie to this. "IMMIGRATION TO SOAR!" howls the headline of UKIP's election leaflet.
"With enlargement of the EU in May 2004, Britain will allow 73 million eastern European citizens the right of entry, despite our one million unemployed. Why doesn't France and Germany share this burden? Only UKIP MEPs voted against enlargement."
Well, to start with, why doesn't you learn to write English properly? Or at least use a spellcheck? But let that pass. Note the quite insane suggestion that all of them - all 73 million! - are coming right here. That's right - soon tumbleweeds from the untended fields of Hungary will blow through the deserted streets of a Prague abandoned by its people. Or perhaps not, eh? A little professionalism would have allowed that in fact, France and Germany have allowed them the "right of entry". (How else did the Polish motorhome I saw yesterday get here - airfreight?) This unsavoury document was illustrated with a cartoon showing "GREAT BRITAIN - STANDING ROOM ONLY" with houses built on stilts in the sea, threatened by crowds pushing through the "Channel Funnel". Helpful roadsigns indicate that they are coming from various places in central Europe.

It is not defensible, in my view, to argue that this is not xenophobia. This is an anti-immigrant campaign. Unfortunately, history tells us that you cannot campaign painlessly against immigrants in general. The particular, human immigrant is the target. Only through the individual, they used to say, can you attack the class. That goes for right-wing extremists as much as for the left-wing ones who coined the phrase.

The degree of reality that the UKIP's platform contains is well demonstrated by that cartoon. Looking from the mouth of the channel tunnel, a sign to "Poland, Hungary, Slovakia" points to the left. Or to put it another way, south-west.

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