I am starting to agree with Sean Gabb that the EU issue has become a distraction. If I summarize Dr Gabb’s views rightly, he has eloquently explained how the EU institutions, including the European court, amount to a check on the UK government. In the absence of effective politics in the UK, this check is often the only way of limiting power grabs.
Plans to introduce minimum alcohol prices have been put on the back burner as they would conflict with EU law. Hardcore pornography is only available in the UK owing to the liberalizing effect of EU law. Although membership of the EU is inferior as a check on government to a full restoration of the Common Law, it is often better than nothing.
However, the UKIP shenanigans have convinced me that EU membership or non-membership is a “wonkish” issue that gets in the way of the creation of genuine anti-state politics. Douglas Carswell joined UKIP seemingly with the aim of turning that party into a single-issue organization, solely focused on the forthcoming referendum on EU membership.
Yet under Nigel Farage, UKIP had become a broader challenge to the élite, embracing issues such as immigration and political correctness. These issues could form the basis for a proper working-class-based movement to create a free society, one where we are no longer told what to think on cultural issues.
In fact, this broader movement is more important than the EU membership issue as such. Calls to move UKIP into centre-ground territory in order to appeal to a majority (and not just the 12% who voted UKIP) in the upcoming referendum could see UKIP move into the same narrow “centre ground” inhabited by all the other political parties.
The wider political issues UKIP has begun to give voice to are visceral and not wonkish. Working people don’t get agitated by EU membership, even if they don’t approve of it — but they do get agitated about our politically correct commissars and the uncalled-for transformation of our cities. It seems Carswell has joined UKIP in order to ensure that these issues don’t get a public hearing, and that the whole EU referendum debate proceeds like an extension of a think-tank discussion on issues such as regulation, red tape and legislative subsidiarity.
My concern is that after the EU referendum is lost — Britain will vote to stay in amid a fog of disinformation claiming that 3 million jobs would go on day one of exit from the EU — UKIP will have lost its raison d’être. What would a post-referendum UKIP be for? UKIP is faced with the threat of becoming nothing more than an extension of Carswell’s own ambition, pride and hubris — with the “Northern” working-class UKIP voters abandoned as issues such as political correctness are dropped by the party.
In fact, even if the EU referendum is lost, there would remain a need for an oppositional force. Nigel Farage came close during the election campaign to calling for an end to the Race Relations Act — not in order to foster prejudice, but because there doesn’t need to be a Race Relations Act, and in a free society the state should not be creating privileged groups among the citizenry. This issue will remain relevant beyond the referendum. It may be that EU membership limits what can be done in this regard — EU laws may require some equal opportunities legislation — but a look at Eastern Europe would show that many EU states have much lower levels of regulation of cultural expression and intercultural interaction than in the UK, showing that progress could be made even while in the EU.
The spat within UK may reflect Carswell’s recognition that he gambled on a Conservative defeat in the election, and in fact did not win his own seat of Clacton as handsomely as he may have hoped. Surely he would not have left the Conservative Party had he known the likely outcome of the election. His capricious refusal of Short money available to political parties — Short money would not exist in a libertarian society, but that is a separate issue — also shows he is by no means working for UKIP. If £3m is available for UKIP and UKIP could employ officers full-time on the basis of this, then Carswell is acting against the party’s interests by refusing to take it.
I think it undeniable that Nigel Farage is UKIP: he is the only substantial figure in UKIP. Carswell is the author of wonkish, think-tank-style books on electronic voting and similar reforms, but he does not articulate the wider sense that the political élite is intervening too deeply in private life via political correctness and hysteria on race. In fact, he has made clear his own support for the political élite’s agenda in that regard.
Consequently, I feel Carswell is attempting to destroy UKIP, just as it has successfully built a significant working-class base throughout Northern England. A withdrawal from the EU is key to UKIP’s policies, but it seems to me to be essential for Farage to make clear that this is only one of many issues, and that the wider campaign against state intervention culturally is of greater significance.
We must not be distracted into wonkish in-and-out debates on the EU. It is only worth withdrawing if after leaving the EU, an attempt is made to take down our own Civil Service and push through massive deregulation measures both economically and in terms of the political and cultural agenda. The likelihood is that the political will isn’t there for that — and that exit from the EU would be problematic in that context. What about a referendum on race relations instead?