“Part of what it is to be courageous is to see reality accurately and to respond well in the face of it." ~ Jonathan Lear

23 October 2014

A letter to potential UKIP voters – from the liberal establishment


Dear potential UKIP voter,

We wanted to let you know that we understand you and your concerns. We have been looking at the polling and it proves that you are all white, male, ageing, ignorant, hypocritical, working class racists and losers.

This makes us feel very smug and superior, and we thought we would write you a letter to show how things really work around here so you might get with the programme.

Firstly, it seems you have not read the memo which says no one is allowed to speak truth if it is the wrong truth. It has been decided that all immigration is beneficial both socially and economically, so any evidence that some immigrants or communities are causing social problems or abusing the welfare system must be suppressed immediately or detached from any association with immigration. We are also seeking to establish that it is people like you who are the real cause of social problems and who abuse welfare, so it has been necessary for us to make allusions and associations of these bad things with the white working classes. This may not be fair, but life isn’t fair: just so that you know.

Secondly, we thought you should be aware that we have an formidable coalition waged against you, ranging from far left fruitcakes and Greens to shiny New Labour types and Conservative liberals, Lib Dems, academics, and also a business elite that wants to import unlimited cheap foreign labour without having to move abroad. (They also think democracy is a terrible drag, but so do the rest of us if we’re honest!)

Thirdly, all positive associations involving UKIP have been banned with immediate effect. It has become clear that rather a lot of you out there really don’t like us, so we’re going to have to play dirty. Thankfully, some of you are genuinely racist and these are the ones we have chosen to represent you, so watch out.

If you are not white-skinned yet are attracted to UKIP or some of its messages, what on earth are you doing not conforming to the stereotype? You are an aberration and we laugh (uncomfortably) at you; but beware our attack dogs. They don’t mess around and are coming to get you for betrayal – as a race traitor. As it says in the memo, ethnic minorities should get into line and do what they are told, even though you are almost as likely to be concerned about immigration as white people. Failure to comply could have serious consequences on your social status: be warned.

If you have white skin and are English by birth, you should really have understood by now that you are not allowed to exist as a community. ‘Communities’ are foreign or immigrant-based, not ‘English’. If you gather in groups of only white-skinned people, some of us will have to ‘call you out’; even more so if you are mostly male. Gatherings of this kind are discouraged and will meet with the full force of liberal opinion, however illiberal that may be.

Now we need to get on to the subject of ‘home’. It has been decided that feeling ‘at home’ is irrational and has no meaning in a world of fast change, facts, logical arguments and carefully-chosen economic data. This is progress, as you will recognise if you are not stupid enough not to understand the data. In any case, you must come to terms with this improvement in your circumstances and recognise that the place where you live becoming less familiar and less welcoming for you is not really that important. Indeed it is progress.

If you persist in not welcoming these changes, you will either have to be re-educated or maybe we can push you off into a corner where no-one will notice you. It is an open secret really so we may as well admit it: you are of no use and no value to our world of change; you are expendable and many among us think we should basically abandon you.

For, far from being nice and liberal as many of us claim to be, ours is a harsh, unyielding belief system that demands everyone changes to make way for our brave new world. This ‘new world of change’ is inevitable, like Tony Blair has said - and also like the Marxists used to proclaim about their Communist Utopia. 

One of Blair’s former speechwriters John McTernan said it best, “There is nothing wrong with Ukip voting parts of England that a solid dose of migration wouldn't fix. Nothing.” If you live in one of these areas that have been voting UKIP but has not yet seen large-scale immigration locally, you either must be racist or have not realised it is illogical to be concerned about immigration, even if you have seen and heard of the effects elsewhere. It’s a bit like the Great Plains Indians of North America being afraid about the waves of white settlers coming from the East: their fears were irrational; all they achieved by resisting was to hold back progress and resist the inevitable.

Like them, you don’t fit and you don’t belong. This is a culture war, and you have the misfortune to have become the enemy. The people that are most against you are not immigrants of course – they are too busy establishing themselves, and in many cases sympathise with you. Rather your enemy is us: a political, business and media elite that makes its money and retains its power by going along with the way things are done – with progress. We can’t stop the world and get off; we are on a runaway train, and it's about time you got back on. 

Yours,
The 'Liberal' Establishment


N.B. Just to clarify that I as the writer of this am not a UKIP supporter: indeed I share many of the general concerns about them, not least that they are basically a right wing party. If anything though I am more concerned with the way the dominant liberal-left and wider liberal Establishment is so aggressively marginalising and disparaging the concerns of people who might vote for UKIP. This alienates me and drags me away from my natural home in politics. It also increases the intensity of the ‘Culture Wars’ in our country, which polarise opinion for the benefit of no one, except perhaps the headbangers on either side.

9 comments:

  1. I read this on the day you wrote it. I was aware of the growing antipathy to older white people, in particular, of course, men, of which I happen to be an exemplar. I had already read a couple of articles by the egregious John McTernan, and was already aware that older white people are about the least cool, least vibrant of minorities, and thus the easiest to mock and to generalize about without comeback.
    But this one day everything I looked at on Twitter seemed to be anti-UKIP, anti older, middle-aged white people. I was feeling out of sorts as it was, but during the day I began to feel genuinely threatened and frightened. David Aaronovich, Matthew d'Ancona, and the timelines of dozens of others overflowed with sneering and jeering at UKIP and its contemptible demographic. It felt scary.

    Have you seen this by the excellent David Goodhart?

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d93d25d6-5a07-11e4-8771-00144feab7de.html?siteedition=
    uk

    And his long overdue article on "racism"?

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-923X.12097/pdf

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    1. thanks for the comment Trofim. Yes I understand where you were coming from. For a few days before I published this piece, I had been seeing perhaps an unprecedented amount of opinion on the lines presented here. It is no exaggeration to call these people an 'Establishment', and their opinions are overwhelmingly dominant in 'intelligent' (but not so intelligent) public discourse.

      Thanks for the Goodhart links - I've been reading a lot of his stuff recently and it provides good antidote, but he's about the only person getting published with these sorts of opinions in the whole public sphere. His is somewhat a lonely place, and he receives the full battering due to him. I shall check out both those articles - thanks again.

      Best wishes
      Ben

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  2. Part 1/2

    Dear Ben,

    I confess I am saddened to read this 'letter'. As someone who enjoyed your postings on Labour List, it is rather distressing to read an article of yours that has too many strawmen for my liking.

    To put forward some - but by no means all - of my main complaints:

    "Firstly, it seems you have not read the memo which says no one is allowed to speak truth if it is the wrong truth. It has been decided that all immigration is beneficial both socially and economically, so any evidence that some immigrants or communities are causing social problems or abusing the welfare system must be suppressed immediately or detached from any association with immigration".

    First of all, the empirical evidence on the fiscal effects of immigration is pretty one-sided, as today's latest report from UCL illustrates. I'm aware that you've argued against mass migration because of concerns over integration, citing Collier - who in turn cites Putnam, although Putnam is unhappy over such uses of his work (http://chronicle.com/blogs/percolator/robert-putnam-says-his-research-was-twisted/30357). But that's not what much of the discourse over immigration is about. UKIP verse their complaints in terms of lost wages, higher unemployment and over-stretched public services. It's an empirical case against immigration and is susceptible to being refuted by empirical data. So it's by no means unfair of the nasty, intellectually-totalitarian 'establishment' to put the boot in when yet another carefully researched peer-reviewed publication refutes most of UKIP's economic and social case against immigration.

    Similarly, I have yet to see any concerted attempt on the part of the political classes to 'cover-up' any harmful social effects of immigration. If anything, it seems we have an insidious state of affairs where any politician wishing to be seen as 'serious' on immigration issues, must frame immigration as a problem - witness Ed Miliband's efforts. Framing immigration as a beneficial activity with some sticking points, is far more scandalous to journalistic opinion than the contrary position.

    "Thirdly, all positive associations involving UKIP have been banned with immediate effect. It has become clear that rather a lot of you out there really don’t like us, so we’re going to have to play dirty. Thankfully, some of you are genuinely racist and these are the ones we have chosen to represent you, so watch out".

    UKIP are their own best hangmen/hangwomen/hangpeople (etc.) in this respect. Every political party has its share of nutters, but UKIP seems to have them in alarming quantities. Professor Alan Sked, who founded UKIP, alleged that Farage had made some fairly crass remarks about ethnic minority voters in his presence, something which seems believable given the infamous 'you wouldn't want Romanians living next to you' (paraphrase) genre of comments that Farage comes out with. Similarly, even at a local level there appear to be a truly terrifying number of cranks. See John Harris' article about Wisbech for the online activities of one prominent UKIP member. And of course, the likes of Batten and Bloom are cases in point. It's not bullying on the part of the nasty, totalitarian 'establishment' to point out that UKIP have some thoroughly unpleasant people within their ranks, occupying pretty prominent positions.

    "If you do have white skin and are English by birth, you should really have understood by now that you are not allowed to exist as a community".

    I'm going to have to ask for a citation on this one, because I've never read anything that remotely resembles that, and I've read a lot of CiF.

    (cont.)

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  3. 2/2

    "One of Blair’s former speechwriters John McTernan said it best, “There is nothing wrong with Ukip voting parts of England that a solid dose of migration wouldn't fix. Nothing.” If you live in one of these areas that have been voting UKIP but has not yet seen large-scale immigration locally, you either must be racist or have not realised it is illogical to be concerned about immigration, even if you have seen and heard of the effects elsewhere. It’s a bit like the Great Plains Indians of North America being afraid about the waves of white settlers coming from the East: their fears were irrational; all they achieved by resisting was to hold back progress and resist the inevitable".

    McTernan's point was actually that it is curious that, for the all the hoopla that UKIP make about immigration, they tend to do best in areas with comparatively few immigrants. If white working-class English voters are doing badly due to immigration, why does London remain stubbornly hostile to UKIP on a political level? Nor is this an isolated example, as City AM pointed out (http://www.cityam.com/1414419679/ukip,-mapped-nigel-farage-most-popular-in-areas-with-the-fewest-immigrants).

    The Native American comparison is, I'm sorry to say, misjudged in my opinion. You cannot compare the genocide and land theft of the European colonisation of North America with the peaceful migration of people to another country in search of sanctuary and a better standard of living. It's just misconceived.

    "We can’t stop the world and get off; we are on a runaway train, and it is about time you got back on".

    And this is true. We can't stop the world and get off, not without being left far behind. Immigration is a fact of the modern world and for better or worse, we have to adapt to it, just like we have to adapt to globalisation, climate change, the influence of modern telecommunications and the growing trend towards automation. It's not arrogant to acknowledge these things; it's just realism.

    Brumanuensis

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    1. Hello Bru, thanks for your comments and, yes, I recall some good sparring conversations with you over on LabourList.

      I get what you say, and a lot of it is quite right, but you've misjudged what I was doing, which was not supporting UKIP and the worst of their supporters but rather representing those for whom voting UKIP is now an option because they feel abandoned by the main parties, with massive social change enforced on them without their consent. If you don't know anyone like this, then the range of people you know would seem to be rather narrow.

      A few specific points.

      London is by no means isolated from this phenomenon. David Goodhart has pointed out that white English people in London voted for UKIP by a proportion of 2-1 against Labour in this year's European elections. But these are a minority now in London - many of them have left, and more are leaving all the time. Again, I'm not arguing they are 'right' - indeed the underlying point here is that these conceptions of right and wrong don't work when it comes to existential questions, and nor should they. If we think they should do, then we're getting in to the authoritarian mindset which is what I'm attacking here.

      This also relates to this common tendency to attribute 'facts' as being on the side of pro-immigrationists, unequivocally as you put it. But these are selective facts and don't tell the whole story: they reduce it. You use the UCL study to claim that all immigration is de facto a good thing, but start to disaggregate the numbers on the same terms leads you into uncomfortable territory, for example that 1) non-EU migrants are net 'scroungers', and non-immigrant British much more so. This is not an acceptable way of approaching the issue in my view. Behind the basic numbers are a lot of truths which are uncomfortable to us, and whatever way we look at it, claiming ultimate justification from net contribution or net takeout from the GDP contribution-benefits equation reduces the value of people, or groups of people, to money. That means older people are worthless and younger, motivated migrants are valuable. This is not an acceptable moral position in my view.

      Asking for citations with that quotation of mine is absurd because I am referring to general discourse. I could maybe dig something out from my records but, with all due respect to you and the efforts you've made in writing your comments, I'm not sure if the reward would match the effort! If you're not aware of this tendency, I'd suggest that you are not really paying attention, because any attempt to define 'white' or 'white English' or 'white British' as a social grouping on a par with others is quite unacceptable in our public sphere now, and there are good historical reasons for that.

      Unfortunately it adds to the feeling of alienation that many of these people feel though (and it's not just white English people at all). I think they deserve at least a modicum of our sympathy, respect, and action.

      The Native American comparison is worthy on those lines, from the perspective of these people, detached from the goodness/badness/whateverness of any immigrants (and many of the American and European colonisers were very nice people - it is actually one of the tragedies of the American West that many of their worthy efforts were not grasped).

      The tendency to take the side of incomers and be concerned about them and not about the 'receiving' population is one of our problems here, which I have been addressing on this blog. Unfortunately hardly anyone else in the broad liberal-left family is interested in doing this though.

      That's all for now. Thanks again for putting your views forward.

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    2. Ben,

      Thanks for a thoughtful response. I'll try and be a bit more brief in my reply compared to my original posts!

      I do understand why people vote UKIP, because I've talked to a fair number of potential UKIP voters. I am aware that a sense of alienation from the political classes is a powerful motivation for rejecting the 'mainstream' political groupings, but my view about people voting UKIP for those reasons is motivated more by sorrow than anger. There are legitimate questions to be asked about the detachment of the political classes at Westminster and the magnitude of social change represented by immigration, but UKIP are the last people to raise those issues. If the case for a slow-down in the rate of immigration were being made by people like you, Ben, I would be much happier with the state of public discourse, even if I disagree with your views on this matter. But instead we have Nigel Farage dictating the terms of the debate and that bothers me profoundly. I reserve the right, under the circumstances, to be quite forthright in attacking the views of people of his ilk.

      On the UCL report, you are quite correct that accounting considerations alone can't resolve the immigration debate one way or another. My point was more that the claims being made about the economic effects of immigration - particularly EU immigration, which is UKIP's biggest bug-bear - have a flimsy empirical foundation.

      On a technical point, the report did note that the main data-set, from 2001 - 2010/11, showed that non-EEA migrants made a net financial contribution. The 'deficit' figure highlighted by the Telegraph, et al. didn't take into account past contributions and largely referred to the 1995 - 2000 period. But I digress.

      Similarly, I agree that it is morally questionable to reduce people to their monetary value - and for that reason I oppose the government's unpleasant family visa income rules for spouses - but to reiterate, my argument there is not that the only measure of the worth of immigration lies in economic contributions, but that the existing debate about the economic impacts of immigration is often poorly-informed.

      On another technical note - apologies - I do have to dissent from David Goodhart's characterisation of 'white flight'. Jonathan Portes, a frequent sparring partner of Goodhart's, points out that there are some measurement problems with Goodhart's thesis (http://niesr.ac.uk/blog/white-flight-evidence-based-debate-or-headline-based-evidence).

      Lastly, on the issue of White British/English identity, as a White British person myself, I think the problem with this line of debate is that it's hard to define 'Whiteness' in a British context. A 'White History Month' would make eminent sense in Zimbabwe or South Africa, because Whites there are a minority with a very clear historical profile. Within the UK, 'Whites' have been the default ethnic group for a long time and modern definitions of 'Whiteness' are by no means the same as former ones. As someone with Italian ancestry, I am aware that in the late nineteenth century, Mediterranean nationals that would today be considered White, were treated as 'dark Whites' and Arabs were considered White under some classifications. The status of ethnic minority groups within the UK is tied up to the fact that they are minorities and thus have a very distinct historical identity relative to other groups. Which is not to say we should endorse segregation and ethnic particularism, merely that it's harder to group White British people as a coherent socio-political grouping.

      But anyway, I've rambled on too long. All the best.

      Brum

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  4. Addendum: I realise that my technical point about Goodhart's figures could well be treated as an example of applying 'right and wrong' to an existential question. However I do insist that we should aspire to treat these questions as amenable to 'right and wrong'. I'm not suggesting we tell people how to feel, merely that it's not unreasonable to point out that the basis for the feelings may not be well-founded.

    Brum

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  5. Ben in many ways Labour is paying the price for the gentrification of the party which started before the 1945 election. Just like the far more modern gentrification of parts of East London, the very nature of the party changes until we reach the point we are today where the white working class has been pushed out.

    Why pre-1945? Well that's when Herbert Morrison, yes Madelson's grandfather, pushed for more university educated candidates as he had been embarrassed by the old working class Labour MPs who didn't know how gentlemen debated in the house. Morrison, who had risen out of the working class, had made the point of learning what fork to use and suchlike. Since that 1945 government we have seen the demise of working class MPs and have now reached the stage of having almost all professional politicians in parliament. Of course Mandelson's policies led eventually to his own inability to win the Labour leadership.

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  6. Can you believe that John McTernan is now demanding Labour get tough on immigration?

    What a joke that man is,

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