A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

UKIP and the BNP have Nothing in Common

Extreme-right parties do not do this. Picture by Editor5807.

Matthew Goodwin, renowned expert on the far-right, has alleged in the Guardian that UKIP 'shares far more with the far-right than it admits.' Following on from a study by himself and Professor Jocelyn Evans, he writes that similar proportions of supporters of the two parties agree on a series of questions asked of them. But all this amounts to is cosmetic similarities: arguing that UKIP and the BNP are the same because the same proportion of supporters, give or take 20%, agree to the same broad questions is equivalent to saying that Gordon Brown is a fascist because he once championed 'British jobs for British workers,' or that David Cameron is an ecologist because of his green policies. Any politician, anywhere, can say the same things as someone else: it doesn't mean they agree on everything. Ideology is where the true distinction lies, and, ideologically, UKIP and the BNP are polar opposites.

The BNP is a nationalist party. Cultural nationalist, in fact. Cultural nationalism is by definition collectivist, authoritarian, and anti-permissive; the government promotes a cultural ideal that it declares to be the 'norm,' and will often chastise non-conformists through the tax or legal system, depending on its level of extremity. This is staunchly conservative thought that well and truly belongs on the right of the spectrum. UKIP, by contrast, is libertarian: libertarianism literally means the belief in liberty. It is a liberal philosophy placed on the right of the spectrum due to its 'if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it' attitude, commitment to low tax and spending, and rejection of identity politics. It is by far the most individualistic ideology outside of anarchism, and, due to its firm commitment to local democracy and referenda, could not be further away from the BNP's big state authoritarianism if it tried. The only other party that even comes close to it in this regard is the Greens.

There's also quite major economic differences. The BNP is heavily interventionist, to a greater extent than Old Labour, advocating mass-nationalisation of land and industry, a commitment to full employment, anti-globalist, anti-free market and protectionist. UKIP, by contrast, is a free-market party, which remains strongly supportive of capitalism (even though it opposes the bank bailouts and connections between government and big business, which it - like all libertarians - thinks of as 'corporatist' and anti-capitalist in nature), especially small and medium-sized businesses. It is firmly committed to meritocracy, and opposes the BNP's 'native Britons first' mantra was a matter of course.

Furthermore, none of the things that Mr. Goodwin alleges are aspects of the 'extreme right' actually are. Opposition to uncontrolled immigration, for instance, is near-universal: the key word being 'uncontrolled.' You can cover the entire spectrum from the National Front to the SWP, and not a single voice is calling for restrictions to be lifted entirely. Does that make them 'far-right?' No. It means they have a modicum of common sense. Likewise, tighter border controls is quite a typical stance, especially after that furore in the summer where it turned out that many of the border controls we thought we had were, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. Deporting illegal immigrants can be adequately justified by the word 'illegal' - they're breaking the law in being here, why should we let them stay? - and criticism of multiculturalism is now mainstream. Germany, France, and the UK have all officially abandoned it - and, contrary to what some of the commenters on Comment is Free would have you believe, none of them are ruled by 'extreme-right' governments. No extreme-right government on earth would tolerate Nick Clegg.

'1,505' UKIP supporters out of 2,000 interviewees in total is quite a large 'control group,' not to mention an odd one: why not Labour, or the Tories, the two parties considered 'mainstream?' Why UKIP? And the ommission of ideology in favour of superfluous number-crunching is a glaring oversight - especially from someone with a first class honours in politics. In the end, if he did not intend to smear UKIP by associating it with the far-right ring, why did he do it?

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