Thursday, 12 June 2014

It was something I said. And what UKIP wouldn't say.

The other day, I shamelessly stole a picture from a friend on Facebook and posted it on Twitter. It shows soldiers from the British Indian Army with the caption that “over a million Muslims fought for the British Army in WW2”.

I did sharpen up the message a little by adding my own take on it, “An inconvenient truth for UKIP and other xenophobes.”

Not everyone appreciated the sentiment...
The reaction was spectacular. It was retweeted over a hundred times. And several UKIP followers responded, apparently less than charmed. It’s instructive to see what they said and, perhaps even more interestingly, what they didn’t say.

By way of background, I should point out that, though some of UKIP
’s messages are pretty tough (e.g. “26 million people in Europe are looking for work. And whose jobs are they after?”, which ignores the fact that nearly 10% of those people are Brits), its followers are sensitive souls. Call them racist, for instance, as I may carelessly have done in the past, and they get terribly upset. 

“Name-calling!” they proclaim. “Try to debate the issues.”

Well, it’s always good to re-examine one’s own positions. Had I perhaps been too harsh? I thought about what I really knew about UKIP. For instance, that its leader Nigel Farage had described his discomfort on being in a train carriage in which everyone around him was talking a language other than English. Or the discomfort he reckoned most people would feel at knowing that they had Romanian neighbours.

Racism? Perhaps that
’s an overstatement. But clearly if he’s that uncomfortable, he must suffer from a certain aversion towards foreigners (despite being married to a German). Now aversion to foreigners is called xeonophobia. It seemed to me that to say that UKIP was xenophobic would therefore be non-contentious, a simple description, not an insult.

It seems I was wrong.

The most moderate opposition I received was over a detail of the photograph: the uniforms of the soldiers, or more precisely their headgear. One response was:

“I think you will find that these soldiers who fought for Britain were Sikhs.”

As far as I was concerned, that matter was closed by the tweet:

“They are not Sikh turbans, as a Sikh I can unequivocally tell you that.”

And another, from someone called Waqar Latif:

“Turbans were part of the uniform for the Indian troops. Muslim and Hindus also wore them. My granddad did.”

Which created a response demonstrating that UKIP isn’t backward in handing out what it doesn’t like to receive:

“I think you, Latif, are a racist in search of conflict.”

Tony Byrne decided that I was being deliberately deceptive:

“You misled or are misled and misleading. Try using the truth in tweets.”

When I defended myself, he made clear what he understood as rational debate:

“I don’t care David, you are trying to create a straw-man argument to hide your deception.”

There were attempts to debate the substance of the matter:

“1 million Indians were NOT all muslim, and most remained in India to defend India from Japan 
and it was called the INDIAN IMPERIAL ARMY, they were not in British regiments from this country.”

This is an interesting view of history, in which Britain’s army in India is seen as protecting Indian rather than British interests. Incidentally, the total number of Indians in British uniform in World War 2 reached 2.5 million, not just one million, and many of them fought in Europe.

The complaint re-emerged that UKIP supporters are unfairly dismissed by their opponents:

“You are very wrong to suggest that #UKIP supporters are ignorant.”

Greg Cook took the debate on to the much more elevated level it deserves:

“As a @UKLabour member, your opinion is irrelevant. You are a traitor.”
“Martie Caine UKIP”  gently noted: 

“It’s a waste of time trying to explain the difference between immigration and open borders to any #Labour fool.” 

He matched his deeds to his words and didn’t bother to explain it. 

And to wrap up the matter, he produced the killer argument:

“... I think anyone voting Lab now is a fool.”

Ah, well. As long as they don
t suggest we may be ignorant. 

This was all highly entertaining, but I was much more interested by what the UKIP supporters didn’t say. At one point, I asked:

“What is the UKIP policy on education? or the health service? on the bedroom tax?”

I wasn
t alone in pushing for this kind of information. “Averyenglishgypsy” asked a string of such questions, including:

“What will replace the human rights legislation? Who decides what children are taught? Where are the policies regarding pension issue? Any plans to help small business? No action on sustainability? No consultation regarding fracking?”

Nobody answered. No UKIP supporter is able to provide any indication of what their party’s policy is on any matter other than the EU and immigration.

Now, I understand that reticence. UKIP knows that its supporters are a disparate band, held together by what I still maintain is nothing more sophisticated than xenophobia. If it actually picked a policy on the matters we raised, some group or other of their supporters would be put off. Much better to say nothing and let everyone project their own particular likes or dislikes on the party.

What that means is that we have no idea what they want to see done on any substantive matter that affects our lives, including those of their supporters. That led me to comment:

“Sadly, there are voters prepared to back a party (specifically UKIP) that commits to nothing.”

And I still find that sad today.


Charles James said...

Well said, David!
I have posted another one for you!

Liberalisland said...

Marty Caine and Greg Cook .. One of those is a comedian and one would like to ban teachers from voting.

They have both blocked me .. I do see it as a badge of honour

Anonymous said...

This pretty much covers every argument I've ever seen on UKIP.

With the possible exception of the infamous "How dare you block my right to free speech!", as somehow a logical retort to being presented with facts that dispute any fantasy position they have previously taken.

David Beeson said...

Thanks, Charles - I'll take a look. That one certainly proved fruitful...

David Beeson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Beeson said...

A badge to wear with pride, indeed, Liberlisland. Though it does deprive you of a wonderful source of highly instructive, well structured argument. Or at least of amusement

David Beeson said...

Excellent point, Anon: I didn't get expose to that particular bit of wit and eloquence