May 22nd is the elections in the UK for local councilors and European MEPs. GO VOTE.
That’s the main headline of this piece. Thank you and farewell!
I’d quite like to leave it there. It is not the purpose of this blog to be a tool for politics, regardless of how much of my own views – let me declare them here to be liberal, left-leaning, feminist and environmentally-minded – are laced through everything I write. However! The immediate sub-statement that should follow is this: that politics are hugely important and informed debate is at the heart of good governance, so with my political position firmly declared, let me also take this moment to say – when you go vote, please do some research before voting UKIP.
I say this, particularly in response to UKIP’s campaign, which is, frankly, distressing. Obviously I find a great many of the politics contrary to my own views, but that’s not actually the part that offends me in this context. My views exist to be challenged, prodded and, as more information becomes available and I learn new things, hopefully my views will change and evolve. This is what debate is for.
No – what has me riled enough to come out here so flagrantly is the fact that frankly, their campaign seems to be propagated on false interpretation, hype, opinionated shouting without reasoned argument, and lies.
Let’s deal with the big thing first – immigration. Leaving aside the often-hyped and inevitably under-footnoted statistics (when reading UKIP’s manifesto, please double-check with the Office of National Statistics and other sources before believing!), let’s tackle right now the big basic problem that UKIP seems to treat all immigrants as being, essentially, criminal. Particularly if they’re from Eastern Europe. Save our jobs from migrant workers! UKIP proclaims, without pausing to ask if migrants are providing skills, paying taxes, filling gaps and working, frankly, for low wages without support in this country. UKIP talks at great length about ‘benefit tourism’ in the UK, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of benefits are claimed by old age pensioners, and the net contribution of any ‘benefit tourists’ in this country is less than a fraction of a percent, if it can be proved at all. Getting money from the UK government is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone – as a life choice goes, I sincerely doubt that floods of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants are queuing up for the privilege. There is an underlying nastiness to all of this – an assumption that all foreigners are scoundrels and scroungers, not human beings at all, and we poor-beleaguered Brits are, through our own limp good nature, being preyed upon by evil Europeans. As a starting premise for an argument, it’s pretty repugnant, really, and yet forms the entire basis for everything UKIP really does.
Then there’s the EU. UKIP firstly hugely over-inflates how much the UK pays for EU membership, without bothering to discuss the vast trade benefits we receive. It talks about EU legislation crushing the UK, but this is the same legislation that has enshrined equalities for all genders, creeds and sexualities and created carbon-cutting policies which aren’t based on nasty Brussels trying to squeeze the UK at all, but on a unified European attempt to save the planet from global warming. Which global warming, of course, UKIP doesn’t really believe in. Because why would you believe the world’s scientific community if it isn’t convenient to do so?
Beneath all of this we can also throw in other nastiness. Homophobia, Islamophobia, a questionable record on women’s roles, and an economic policy which seems dedicated to cutting taxes, keeping spending high and of course, filling the gap with the millions of pounds which will doubtless be reclaimed from ‘foreign scroungers’ whoever they turn out to be. Because sure… it makes perfect sense. Let’s attempt to censor people who mock or disagree with us – and I think I’ve said before how comedy is one of the greatest tools for freedom of expression – and rather than engage in debate, let’s attack people not ideas.
This blog really is a request that everyone goes out and votes on May 22nd. We forfeit one of our most vital rights, when we do not vote. And perhaps you will vote for UKIP, and I will not, and that’s okay, because you and I can debate this point as reasoned adults, and find facts to balance our views, and make judgments based not on the volume at which an idea is bellowed, but the depth to which a point is discussed. But if you chose to vote UKIP, I’d ask – I’d beg on bended knee – that you question their policies first. You ask just where they’re getting their information from, and what the implications of their ideas are. I have no axe to grind for any other party – I think they all have their flaws – but I will vote based on that manifesto that seems both closest to my own views, and closest to an idea of Britain that I think is both viable and can be proven to be so, where real issues – poverty, education, the environment, the economy – are put before a puffed-up ideological agenda. Democracy is a huge gift, but debate is the greatest gift of all.