If you took a look at the United Kingdom in early 2010, you would have seen a country in desperate need of hope. After all, the economy was crashing, jobs were disappearing and every media outlet seemed to be reporting yet another national crisis.
When the general election came that year, we Brits scoured the political stage for a charismatic, forward-thinking, inspiring leader, the kind whose speeches would bring us all to our feet.
Alas, none was to be found, and so we begrudgingly settled for a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition instead.
However, twice over the past four years I have attended an annual student political conference where almost the entire 500-person crowd has gotten to its feet in applause. I have never seen such kind of wild political vigor in the UK, especially not from my typically apathetic generation.
What is so concerning, though, is that on both these occasions the crowd was rising for Nigel Farage, the leader of the far-right UK Independence Party that is rapidly gathering up support in time for the next election this May.
Despite originally gaining fame for standing simply as an “anti-EU” party, Farage has recently shifted the emphasis to focus on freedom. For the past few months Farage has been telling us as loudly as possible that UKIP is the only party that can liberate the nation — not only from the European Union but also from political correctness.
To many, that sounds reasonable. Who doesn’t want to support a party that appears to be the strongest advocate of free speech?
But here is the problem. When UKIP says it’s freeing the nation from over-the-top political correctness, what it actually means is that it’s freeing us to heap the blame for all our problems on one group – immigrants.
Despite a British Broadcasting Corporation report yesterday stating that the number of people in work is at an all-time high, a large portion of the population is furious at being without work or holding jobs that they believe are beneath them.
Many have blamed cheap labor, with immigrants from Eastern European countries, especially Romanians, taking manual labor jobs at below minimum wage, thus pushing out British workers.
While British society in general has tried to prevent this from becoming a broader attack on immigration as a whole, Farage denounces this as political correctness gone mad and has taken it on as one of his central platforms for this election.
It would be a mistake to underestimate the danger of such a situation.
Whatever news story you read about Farage, it will be clear that he is a master of firing up the immensely damaging “us” and “them” mentality.
“This country in a short space of time has frankly become unrecognizable,” Farage said at UKIP’s spring conference in February.
“I got the train the other night from Charing Cross…it was not ’til we got past Grove Park that I could hear English being audibly spoken in the carriage. Does that make me feel slightly awkward? Yes it does.”
It was comments like this that I heard him spout endlessly at the student conference. Whatever the issue, Farage always came back to the damaging role of immigrants draining taxpayers’ money and job opportunities.
As the election approaches, UKIP appears to be increasingly capable of becoming a minority partner in what may well be another coalition government.
If it succeeds, we will have a governing party that recently promised to ban migrant children from state schools for their first five years in the country, and that includes members like Janice Atkinson, who was caught by a news crew referring to a British Thai constituent and UKIP supporter as “a ting-tong” last August.
Britain is in trouble, but UKIP is not the solution. What UKIP offers, and what it has already unleashed, is an easy and cheap way for us to find a culprit for the nation’s woes.
This is detrimental not only in the blatant way in which it encourages hatred and divisiveness but also in how it distracts us from seeing the many different flaws that have put us in this situation, and thus from finding valid solutions.
Farage, with his loud speeches and apparent answer for everything, may appear to be that charismatic leader the UK has been looking for.
To trust his confidence is to be misled because, ultimately, this is a party that represents fear, not hope.
Jess Kelham-Hohler is a sophomore in the College and Online Editor of The Hoya.
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