With Nigel Farage declining to pick up the twitching reins of UKIP for a fourth (fifth?) time and hinting at a smoother, more driver-friendly vehicle to come, one might be forgiven for marking UKIP as a ‘sell’.
Results at this year’s county and general elections showed many of the party’s previous four million voters declaring ‘mission accomplished’, and returning to the revitalised brawl between resurgent socialism and something vaguely resembling conservatism.
But far from the Brexit vote closing a door for UKIP, it opens a wider one.
In demonstrating that a political party with no MPs of its own, armed only with a popular idea and the courage of its convictions, can change world history, UKIP has only just begun. Because UKIP is fundamentally mission-driven, and while Brexit was its goal for 23 years, its underlying mission remains unfulfilled.
The convulsive reversion in Britain’s political landscape this year, with four-fifths of voters supporting the two largest parties for the first time in forty years, may reassure old-school politicos that normal order has been restored.
But while Che Guevara socialism may have nostalgically rematerialised, and while a socially awkward Tory leader misjudged the public mood and has been punished at the polls, this is not 1974. The old order is on borrrowed time. David Goodhart’s analysis of how the liberal consensus failed, The Road to Somewhere, and Douglas Murray’s ice-cold contemporary history The Strange Death of Europe, together point the way.
UKIP’s motivating force is not a public nostalgia for 1970s student idealism, but a deep unease among the (non-Metropolitan) British citizenry that their country is being demolished.
The European Union was simply the most obvious manifestation of this: it is openly, proudly intent upon demolishing countries. But the hydra has many heads, and UKIP has always been clear that the enemy was not Johnny Foreigner, but our own governing class: the student revolutionaries of the 1970s who did not sit on the backbenches for forty years denouncing capitalism and voting against the bosses, but who went into careers in education, the media and the public sector, and ate the country from within.
Since the ‘long march through the institutions’ began, our sense of nationhood has been deliberately deconstructed. A combination of Gramscian entryism and liberal guilt, divisive multiculturalism and the European post-Imperial ennui described by Murray, has hollowed out the country that most British people – of whatever origin or heritage – wish to call home.
Our children have been detached from their heritage, with their historical awareness resting heavily on the grim tripod of Nazism, slavery and the Victorian slums. The glittering, world-changing triumvirate of Magna Carta, the Reformation and the Glorious Revolution barely get a look-in. Ironically, another fashionable chunk of the (non-linear) historical syllabus, on the Anglo-Saxons, reflects the last time that the population of these islands was significantly impacted by migrants imported by a host population suffering from post-Imperial ennui.
We have bred a middle class elite that is so historically ignorant and emotionally immature that it genuinely feels – ‘believes’ is too rational a description – that the UK is a valueless, loathsome relic of a brutal bygone age, whose legacy must be destroyed for the good of mankind.
The idea that Marlborough, Nelson and Wellington were earlier guarantors of Europe’s freedom from tyranny does not accord with the prevailing narrative. That Great Britain deployed evangelical Christianity and the muscle-power of its world-dominant Imperial navy to end the slave trade is not to be countenanced.
As Douglas Murray has illustrated, this oddly narcissistic self-loathing is replicated all over Western Europe. In Eastern Europe, their actual recent experience of ideological barbarity is far too fresh to allow them such self-indulgence.
UKIP’s ongoing mission is, simply, to reverse this.
It has been well documented by Matthew Goodwin and others that UKIP’s fanbase is dominated by older Britons of modest education who probably self-identify as working class. These voters have been called the ‘left-behinds’, which perhaps reflects the viewpoint of the intellectual perspective from which it comes. I would rather think of them as the ‘Where the hell do you think you’re going with that?’ people.
They are the ‘Somewheres’ who cleave to old-fashioned notions like belonging to a community, family, congregation, bridge club or football crowd. They are innately patriotic and neither know nor care what ‘xenophobic’ means. They support charities and contribute quietly to refugee and famine appeals. They may seldom go to Church but still put ‘CofE’ on their census returns and are subliminally comfortable living in a society rooted in Judaeo-Christian principles.
These are people who do not wish to see their country, their culture, their society, their history and their values disrespected and diminished. Though famously tolerant, phlegmatic and slow to rouse, they have now begun to think that they have had enough; and that in fact, as Brexit showed, there is something they can do about it, after all.
UKIP has always been – indeed only exists because it is – an amplifier of the classically British under-the-breath grumbling of these people. Its power to effect change as a political aggregator was tested, and proved, on the EU question.
UKIP’s first, expeditionary mission has been fought and won. Its greater mission is now underway. Having reclaimed our sovereignty, we now need to rebuild our national pride and self-confidence, so that we can do something useful with it.
After decades of Blairist centre-leftism and internationalism, we cannot rely on the debilitated establishment parties to achieve this. When Gordon Brown says ‘British jobs for British workers’, he follows it up with a ‘bigoted woman’ jibe. When Theresa May says ‘Enough is enough’, literally nobody believes she means it. When any of them accidentally blurts out the phrase ‘British values’, everyone shuffles their feet and changes the subject.
Apparently, one of the greatest British values – and one of the politician’s favourite get-out clauses – is that the British are uncomfortable talking about British values.
Not for much longer!