Maria Miller, the Expenses “Scandal” and the Assault on Democracy

Knives are out today for the Culture Secretary Maria Miller. Having been caught over-claiming expenses, and forced to pay back £5,800, her latest crime was to issue an apology that was only 32 seconds in length. The public loves the spectacle of MPs, and especially ministers, in discomfort, and the press is unrelenting in pursuing this important story.

Except, it’s not an important story at all. Since the entire scandal over MPs’ expenses blew up in 2009, the press has revelled in its supposed assault on parliamentary corruption. But the biggest story to emerge was how tiny the extent of the corruption was, amounting to a mere £1m in total. Much of this was not really corrupt at all: MPs, having had their pay driven down in recent years, had been given a wink that they could use the expenses system to make up some of the difference. Only in a handful of cases was there a suspicion of criminal activity.

With honest reporting, the outcome would have been a handful of prosecutions, a review of MPs’ pay (which would probably have concluded that they are somewhat underpaid for what they do), and some national back-patting to congratulate ourselves on having one of the least corrupt political systems on the planet.

Instead, the incident has been endlessly replayed, twisted and exaggerated. I’m no fan of Maria Miller or her government, but I would point out that her original “crime” was almost insignificant; and pursuing her now on the basis that her apology was too short is pathetic.

Why has the scandal been so over-exaggerated? Because it has been used as an assault on our Parliament and our democracy. Five years of endless repetition have left the public with the idea that our parliamentary system is rotten to the core. It is one of a number of essentially false stories that are being used to weaken faith in democratic government.

Combine MPs’ expenses with other popular, but untrue memes: that the Labour government crashed the economy (actually this was caused by bad lending in the US); that the UK’s national debt level is unsustainable (it’s high but we could have paid it down without the need for Osborne’s cuts); and that open borders with the EU have somehow caused the country damage (although economists and business leaders are confident that the opposite is true), and you have a potent formula for undermining British democracy.

There’s no shortage of real scandals to obsess over, should the press decide to. Our police forces have recently been repeatedly exposed as being corrupt to the very top – far more so than MPs. We are spied on as a matter of routine. Our postal service was privatised at far too cheap a price, costing us around 750 times the cost of the expenses débâcle.

Many MPs are cowardly, display a faltering grasp of complex issues and fail to provide the parliamentary leadership we need. Many of them are morons. But they’re our morons. We created this Parliament by allowing ourselves to be distracted from big issues by dishonest reporting. By holding MPs to ludicrously high standards of behaviour that we apply to nobody else, we end up by filling Parliament with dull mediocrities. If we want better MPs, we should participate in politics, and elect better MPs. That’s a power we have, thanks to generations of people who fought for democracy.

But instead, the public (or its most moronic members, anyway) is increasingly convinced that democracy is failing, and that action must be taken. This benefits UKIP, the party that once pretended to be all about leaving the EU, but now openly stokes up hatred against immigrants. Never mind that Nigel Farage has claimed more in MEP’s expenses than any British MP – today, he is billed as the heroic outsider who will bring down a corrupt political elite.

The editors of the Mail, Times, Express, Sun and Telegraph (who each earn far more than an MP) know they’re stoking an anti-democratic insurgency. The dangerous rise in nationalism – whether the right-wing UKIP form, or the supposedly progressive variety in Scotland – risks destabilising a country that for centuries has probably been the most stable on Earth. And it risks destabilising a continent which is the most bloodthirsty on the planet, and has never needed a good excuse to go to war with itself.

MPs who over-claim expenses can be exposed and left to the electorate. We have far bigger problems to deal with than that.

Online Free Speech: Sticks And Stones…

Barely a week goes by in which the British “left” doesn’t display its increasing disdain for free speech, but this past week has been especially troublesome. The idea that only free speech and rational thinking can allow civilisation to advance isn’t exactly new; it descends from the Enlightenment. And yet, however many times mankind has to relearn this lesson, it gets forgotten again.

The thing that much of the left can’t grasp is that free speech (in practise, encompassing free expression in any form) really means Free Speech. Including – brace yourself – speech that you might find offensive, disgusting or just plain unnecessary. As the Enlightenment thinkers explained, only in a truly free market of ideas can the good ideas be separated from the bad. Any attempt to coerce speech in any direction, by any means, even for the best of reasons, can only distort and suppress, and will crush good ideas along with the bad ones.

What’s even more annoying (to me, as an ex-tribal leftie) is that parts of the right grasp this concept better than the left. The Telegraph (which I’ve spent most of my life loathing) today defends free speech far more stridently than The Guardian (which I’ve spent most of my life reading). Free speech is a progressive idea – how dare those righties take it from us?! But then, the left doesn’t seem to want it any more.

So, for example, here is how I started last Sunday:

A little explanation: last week, idiots in the UK government and Home Office decided to send vans to immigrant areas carrying a pleasant message to illegal immigrants: “Go Home or Face Arrest”. How lovely. The vans were designed to appeal to the racist vote that might be shifting from the Conservatives to the even-more-racist UKIP. The word “wog” is pretty much extinct now, but was a favourite of racists in the 1970s, referring either to black people or all non-whites, depending on preference.

I had sent the tweet on Sunday because I was planning to spend the day at Jamaican independence parties, including one in Brixton, south London.

My tweet had two replies of any substance: a black follower kindly pointed out that Jamaican independence day was actually on Tuesday 6th, not Sunday; and a PC follower objected that the tweet was offensive. Yes, because it included the word “wog”.

Sigh. Let me just point out, again, that offence is taken, not given. Words are not offensive, or harmful, though they have the power to cause offence in some, especially in the more delicate souls among us, the poor fragile dears. And, as we all learned in school, “sticks and stones can break our bones, but words can never hurt me”.

Easily offended Guardianistas are on the rampage against any form of expression that they consider to be offensive. “Free speech doesn’t mean you can cause offence”, they lecture. But yes, morons, it does! The legalisation of homosexuality required speech that offended many people. The abolition of slavery could not have been achieved without “offensive” speech. If you accept that offensive speech can be policed, then all speech is policed. And if you think minorities will actually benefit from such a system you truly are a moron. Censorship only benefits the powerful.

Of all the social media platforms, Twitter is the most tolerant of free speech. While my “wog” tweet remains on Twitter, Facebook not only removed it from my page, but banned me for 12 hours. Yes, a post satirising racism was considered racist because it contained a word considered (by the unthinking) to be offensive. What clearer illustration is needed that censorship is not the solution to racism, or any other nasty attitude?

Given Twitter’s defence of speech, it is no surprise therefore, that well-orchestrated outbursts of rage against Twitter are becoming frequent. The latest anti-Twitter panic also came last week, when some very nasty tweets, including rape threats, were sent to a number of high-profile women. Although I was raised with the feminist idea that women are just as capable as men of looking after themselves, modern-day feminists apparently agree with 1950s women’s magazines that women, like children, need special protection from their benevolent menfolk. Threats against men? No problem. Threats against women? SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!

Threats of violence are as old as mankind, and I can testify that I’ve seen them online for over two decades, and indeed have received many myself. The beauty of free speech is that, left to itself, it allows the good to overcome the bad. High-profile female journalists with many Twitter followers have the perfect solution to abusive tweets: no, not the block button, but the retweet button. Transmit an idiotic comment about rape to 50,000 adoring fans, and the abusive tweeter will soon wish he had kept his mouth shut.

No black person was ever kicked in the balls by the word “wog”, although many black people have been kicked in the balls by police officers, who now (according to some morons) should be preventing people from being offended online. No Jew was ever gassed by a swastika, and no woman was ever raped by a tweet. The most dangerous enemies of free speech are those who argue persuasively that the world will be a better place if just these few words, these few symbols, these communication platforms were just a little more policed.

Of course, censorship advocates are a little more sophisticated, and try to prove that some speech is actually harmful. Rape tweets feed into “rape culture” (they tell us) which leads to actual rapes. Do they provide evidence of this process actually happening? Of course not. They ignore the fact that rape tweets can generate anti-rape tweets in far greater numbers. They forget the lesson, provided to us by Jimmy Savile, the Catholic Church and their supportive police forces, that the greatest victory for rapists is to suppress speech. Only the powerful benefit when some subjects are deemed unworthy of public discussion.

I find it a little annoying when I’m referred to as a “fucking Jew”, as has happened recently, and not for the first time; but I’ll get much more worried when the authorities ban the term in order to “protect” me from being offended. Minorities know better than to trust somebody else with our protection. So long as “offensive” words are allowed, I can defend myself. The moment they are banned, supposedly in order to protect my feelings, is the moment Jews and other minorities can really start to worry.

Under David Cameron’s new Internet filter (aka Internet censorship), this blog will probably find itself blocked to households that have chosen not to see “hate speech”, because it contains terms that the authorities consider hateful. Discussion of hate speech is being crushed under the banner of stopping hate speech. We need to go back and learn again the lessons of the Enlightenment, before we all live in a benign dictatorship that protects everybody’s feelings. Because there’s no such such thing as a benign dictatorship. Surrendering one’s right to free speech by attacking somebody else’s is about the dumbest thing any person can do.

My Abu Dhabi Ramadan

The Muslim fasting period of Ramadan has been coming and going for centuries, but never before have Muslim minorities in the West been under such scrutiny. This year’s Ramadan starts tomorrow. The UK’s Channel 4 TV channel has cleverly launched a set of what it calls “provocative” programming around Ramadan, including tonight’s Documentary, A Very British Ramadan, and a call to prayer to be broadcast each morning at 3am.

It’s strange that programmes about an ancient religious festival should be seen as provocative at all, but there is now a hardcore Muslim-hating minority across the Western World that never wastes an opportunity to throw hatred at Muslims, much as monkeys in the zoo enjoying throwing shit. Thus, the Channel 4 decision to run Ramadan-themed programmes is a great piece of trolling, designed in part to provoke bigots who think Islam has no place in British society. And it seems to be working.

Of course, the average Muslim-hater has little or no contact with Muslims or the Muslim world. They live in a fantasy land where Muslim countries teem with extremists, and are dangerous places to visit. I admit that I too had preconceived ideas about Muslim countries, especially Arab ones.

Being British and Jewish, I was nervous when I won some contract work in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, in the mid 1990s. I had previously been to Turkey, but the UAE was a more intimidating prospect. The airport welcome was friendly though, and I easily got a cab, with a talkative driver, to my downtown hotel. The UAE is a fairly conservative country, although moderate by the standards of its neighbour, Saudi Arabia. I found that as a foreigner, I could order beer in the hotel, and wasted no time in doing so.

I then learned that Ramadan would begin two days into my visit, and wondered what this would mean. I soon discovered that no food or drink, even water, was served during daylight hours. The office I was working in adjusted its hours to make life easier for its employees, beginning at 7am and ending at 2pm, so that people didn’t become too hungry or thirsty during the working day.

At one point, I was in a meeting with an Arab manager, and said I was thirsty. Without thinking, he reached into his desk and produced a bottle of water for me. As I started to drink, he suddenly remembered it was Ramadan, and asked me to drink the water out of sight of the office, in the stairwell. I was discovering that for Arab Muslims, just like for my own Jewish family, religious rules are made to be twisted and broken. People of all origins enjoy their traditions, usually without thinking a great deal about their origins.

The hotel served breakfast early, so that people could eat before sunrise. And people did eat. A lot. Likewise, after sunset, a huge Iftar buffet was laid on to break the fast. Although Ramadan is supposed to be a time of fasting, in fact Muslims tend to eat more during this time than the rest of the year. A huge meal tends to be taken after sunset, and another huge breakfast before the sun rises. As I said, religious rules are made for twisting.

One of the most amusing sights I saw was in the pastry and ice cream shops around the city. In the few minutes before sunset, people would grab a table and peruse the menu. Waiters would stand to attention, waiting. And as the call to prayer began to echo through the city, the waiters rushed out and people shouted their orders. Soon, huge slices of cake and towering ice cream sundaes were being served and devoured.

More entertainment was provided by an ongoing debate over whether nicotine patches were allowed during daylight. Many Emiratis were heavy smokers, and smoking was haraam during daylight, because the smoke was taken orally. The UAE’s top mullahs pondered this deep theological problem as the nervous smokers waited; and then, to general relief, they announced that the daytime use of nicotine patches was halal.

My time in Abu Dhabi blew away preconceptions I had about Arab culture. For sure the country is run by a dictatorship, and is a deeply conservative culture. It isn’t the kind of place I could have considered staying in long-term – my party lifestyle would have been too severely compromised. Yet the people were among the friendliest I had encountered – more so than most European or American strangers I had met in my travels. As for my being of Jewish origin; after a few days I was confident enough to tell locals this fact, and met no hostility at all; the strongest reactions were along the lines of “Ah! If only the Israelis and Palestinians could work together. They are the smartest peoples in the Middle East.”

I welcome the Channel 4 experiment in Ramadan programming. For most, open-minded people, it represents the chance to learn something. And anyone who is upset by the coverage deserves to be upset: morons will be morons.

The Moron Media Loves Anjem Choudary

Islamist loud-mouth moron Anjem Choudary just loves publicity. He lives for the chance to say things in public that will in turn outrage morons of the “not at all racist, honest” Daily Mail and UKIP variety. Sadly for Anj, he has almost no supporters, and is basically a sad, pathetic nobody. How can he get publicity?

To the rescue comes (what seems like) the entire British media. His stupid face has appeared on TV and in newspapers. This doesn’t just apply to the usual shit-stirring suspects, but even includes the BBC and Channel 4.

All this appears to be based on the fact that Anjey-boy once (a while back, mind) met the morons involved in the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich. This fact has been used by Choudary to make himself feel all important, and by the media to build up a hate figure that will get their moron viewers/readers all stiff/moist with excitement/fear.

Given that there isn’t actually a story here, one suspects that the anti-Muslim brigade is simply using Anjey-boom to maintain the illusion of an “Islamist threat”, and whip up the racist swivel-eyed loon brigade into their Daily Hate with images of A BROWN MAN WITH A BEARD WHO SAYS HORRIBLE THINGS!

Any sign of an actual Islamist threat is so lacking that the poor morons at the Sun are reduced to running a story – an Exclusive no less – about Anjey-bollocks going to the shops and buying yoghurt! While dressed in a Muslim-type fashion! I blame Leveson – surely the Sun could find more interesting stories if they were allowed to hack celebs’ phones? The Choudary exclusive follows on from a pathetic sting where singer Tulisa was entrapped into helping a journo score some coke. It seems that the Sun can find no actual news to report any more. If it ever did in the first place.

With the moron media having set the agenda, morons have exploded onto social media demanding “action” against Choudary. They want him locked up! Or deported! The problems with these suggestions being a) Choudary hasn’t broken the law (I’ve never before noticed any reticence on the part of the authorities to arrest brown people on the slightest of whims), and b) He’s British.

Basically Choudary’s skill is to annoy and upset people by making annoying and upsetting statements. But if that was a crime, most of the EDL, much of UKIP and the bulk of tabloid journalists would be under curfew by now.

Let’s try to remember that we’re not supposed to be letting “extremists” undermine “our values”; and the most important of these values is supposedly free speech. I say “supposedly”, because the British establishment – under both Labour and Tory governments – seems to spend much of its time attacking free speech (as we learned again this week when a young Muslim Londoner appeared in court for tweeting a bad-taste joke).

Turning this pathetic, irrelevant individual into a national hate figure seems like just another way to get public consent for reducing our free speech rights even further. Far better to just ignore him, and be as consistent in genuinely defending our civil liberties as our leaders are in pretending to.

The Loss Of British Culture

There are a number of approaches taken by the anti-immigration movement to demonstrate that mass immigration is a bad thing. One is economic: it stands to reason (dunnit) that the more people in the country, the more thinly spread are the economic benefits. Naturally, this doesn’t actually stand to reason. If it did, Ireland and Portugal would be celebrating the mass exodus caused by their economic troubles. But I’ll leave others to argue the economic benefits of immigration.

The more pernicious arguments revolve around the cultural effects of immigration. While I’ve always suspected that “culture” in this context is simply a coded reference for race, I’m always prepared to hear people justify the viewpoint that we somehow “lose” or “weaken” our culture by accepting immigrants who bring other cultural ideas with them. Whenever I’m confronted with these claims, I always ask the same question: exactly what has Britain lost from its culture by accepting immigrants? Despite asking repeatedly, I’ve not been given a single example that makes sense. Perhaps the least-nonsensical replies I’ve had are along the lines of “Come on – you surely don’t believe immigration hasn’t harmed our culture do you?” to which I answer, “Yes, I really believe immigration hasn’t harmed our culture”.

In truly religious style, the anti-immigration camp always expect others to prove a negative. It would surely be easy to demonstrate that British culture has lost something: a single example would suffice. Perhaps some people remember Cockney street urchins reading the works of Dickens or quoting Shakespeare at every opportunity? Maybe, the influx of Pakistanis, Czechs and Jamaicans somehow put an end to these things? Could it be that Yardie gangsters or Islamist militants harassed and intimidated British youth until they no longer dared played the music of Benjamin Britten in public? Do Polish thugs jump on anybody who recites the poetry of Wilfred Owen? Not that I’ve noticed.

I’m given general hints like “We’ve lost London. We don’t want to lose the rest of the country”. However, last time I checked (about half an hour ago) London was still here. Although (and I think this is what they’re getting at) there are certainly more brown faces visible, and a wider variety of languages can be heard spoken in the streets, than in the past.

It’s true that, using coercion, cultures can be warped and damaged. The Yiddish culture (and language) of my great grandparents is almost extinct, courtesy of the Holocaust. Kurdish culture has been suppressed in Iraq, Turkey and Iran, as they try to destroy the Kurdish sense of nationhood. But no such coercion has happened, or could possibly happen to British culture in Britain. Sure, the Indians came here, bringing their foreign cultural values. Like cricket. And chicken tikka masala (now declared Britain’s unofficial national dish). And a taste for mathematics.

In the absence of coercion, cultures are additive. People pick the best that they encounter, and blend with what they already know. As a music lover, the strengthening effects of cultural mixing are immediately obvious to me. I would argue London has been the most musically creative city on the planet for the past couple of decades. The music made here is definitively our own, and is exported globally. London creates not just musical talent but entire new genres; the latest of many London creations is dubstep, and this has already been exported around the globe (forgive me if I’ve missed a new genre or two since dubstep – it takes a while for us older ones to notice these things). London is lucky enough to have immigration from, and thus links with, some of the deepest musical cultures on the planet – particularly West Africa and its offshoot in Jamaica.

White working class culture has long welcomed and absorbed foreign musical influences, perhaps starting with the black American troops who brought swing with them during WWII, followed by soul music in the 1960s and reggae in the 70s. Once Britain had absorbed a critical mass of immigrants, British music became truly turbo-charged, and began to flow outwards rather than simply absorb and repeat influences we heard elsewhere. The 1970s generation that tried to sound Jamaican by playing reggae was succeeded by generations that took reggae, hip-hop, house and techno, and created something new and amazing with them. Before dubstep, London made British soul, jungle, drum and bass, garage and grime. How many other cities on Earth could claim to have added so much to world music culture?

There was no tradition of British popular music prior to mass immigration, and that’s why racists can’t find any examples of anything that’s been lost. If you want to remember what European popular music sounds like without the help of immigrants, just tune into Eurovision. It’s not a spoof; that really is the best that most European countries can come up with.

Beyond music, the same points apply. We still have our fish and chips, but we also have our curry goat, lamb vindaloo and shawarmas. My local fish and chip shop is staffed by Poles, and the customers come from all over the world. Oh, and fish and chips were probably introduced by Jewish immigrants anyway.

It saddens me that, if the swivel-eyed anti-immigration loons hold sway, London may give up our hard-won cultural prize to other places. It’s tragic that Daily Mail readers and UKIP voters, in total ignorance of what constitutes modern British culture, may destroy our unique creativity, without ever noticing or caring. Those people who care least  for what British culture represents are the ones claiming to be defending it from “threats”.

All we’ve “lost” is the right to walk down the street without seeing a brown face. I’m happy to surrender that “right” in exchange for living in the most culturally exciting city on Earth. The day people from all over the world stop wanting to live in London is the day it’s no longer worth living here.

What actually defines British culture? We are an outward-looking nation, which is why the British Empire became what it was: not only a tool of global robbery and brutality, but also a giant, borderless superstate that allowed British people, Africans and Indians to travel, mix and learn from each other. British culture is multicultural, and has been for centuries. No other nation in Europe has the ability to embrace and learn from other cultures like the British, which is why this small island with less than 1% of the global population can so consistently punch above its weight. The only thing that could seriously threaten our culture would be to close our borders. That would bring to an end a story that began when the first British ship set out to explore the world.

It’s Not Terrorism Unless It Happens To Us

For as long as I remember, the word Terrorism has been thrown around lazily and inconsistently, but never so much as today. The problem began when the United States was looking for a catchy name for its next war, and decided to make it the Global War on Terror. As was pointed out at the time, terrorism is merely a tactic, not a recognisable group or ideology. But the name was short and snappy, and it stuck.

In the 80s and 90s, terrorism was pretty obvious to us in London. The IRA, and sometimes other Irish groups, were planting bombs regularly. While they occasionally hit what you might have called economic or military targets, primarily the targets were civilians. Pubs, shopping centres, train stations. The purpose of terrorism is to terrorise. In turn, a frightened population empowers its government and police, and accepts an erosion of democracy and free speech.

Terrorists rarely attack military targets, for a couple of reasons: first, while this may outrage civilians, it doesn’t terrorise them; it doesn’t make people think that they might become the next victim. Second, because military targets are difficult to hit without getting caught. Killing ten people in a pub is easier than killing one soldier on duty. An attack on a serving soldier isn’t terrorism: it’s warfare, of some form. Thus, the IRA was both a military and terrorist organisation – ditto Hamas. The insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, while they attacked US and British military targets, were not terrorists. They were soldiers in a war.

Thus, America’s claim to be fighting terrorism overseas was (and is) nonsensical. Not all terrorists are individuals or small groups. State terrorism exists. America’s deliberate attacks on the press and civilians in Iraq and elsewhere were acts of terrorism. Israel is a consistent user of state terrorism, attacking civilians indiscriminately on an almost daily basis. America’s drone strikes are terrorist in nature. They deliberately target, not just “militants”, but any civilian who associates with them. This is designed to “send out a message” to locals every bit as much as the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks were.

Last week, two people killed an off-duty soldier in Woolwich, prompting a debate over (among other things) whether it was a terrorist attack or not. It seems like a grey area: the target was not a randomly selected civilian. However, the attackers’ use of media – by giving a statement to a nearby observer with a camera phone – was terrorist in nature. Knife murders aren’t especially uncommon in the UK, but the sight of the murderer talking casually to camera was what differentiated this one from others. This wasn’t the most brutal murder to have taken place in the UK recently – many murders must be similarly brutal. It was the video that made the public respond, and the casual way in which the killers just waited for the police to arrive, not the killing itself.

The response to the attack (or more accurately, to the video) has been shocking. There was a widespread response of “round them up” and “send them home”. There have been dozens of attacks by bigots against Muslims. The video seemed designed to arouse racist anger: a black man, talking to camera, with the blood of a white soldier on his hands. It has long become unacceptable to call for black people to be repatriated, but now “Muslims” are the proxy target for racists. Hatred of minorities is back in fashion.

As I’ve pointed out before, the fact that “terrorists” can only make small-scale attacks using household implements as weapons should be be of some comfort. It shows how weak and small these groups are. Instead, hysteria has gripped a large, moronic section of British society. The British government is using this moment of stupidity to introduce further censorship controls on the Internet, and sadly the public doesn’t seem to be objecting.

“They hate our freedoms”, Bush used to say. But no – our own governments hate our freedoms. The attacks are being used as an enabling mechanism to introduce draconian new laws. Government exploitation of a young soldier’s death (shamefully, with support from the Labour Party) to attack free speech is despicable; but British morons have failed to notice, so outraged they are that a Muslim, a black man, an IMMIGRANT, murdered “one of ours”.

Witness how a vicious knife murder of a 75 year old Pakistani in Birmingham is treated as an isolated event. In fact, this bears the hallmark of terrorism; any Asian is a valid target, because the attack will create terror in Asian communities. Witness how a young white man planning to bomb a school in Oregon is arrested, and nobody uses the T-word; now imagine the moronic, self-pitying response if he had been Muslim.

The doublethink gets even crazier. Killing millions overseas may be acceptable to most Americans, but in Massachusetts, writing a rap lyric is terrorism. Our leaders, as they work tirelessly to remove our rights of free expression, have turned poetry into terrorism, and terrorism into “collateral damage”.

If you haven’t read 1984, I’d recommend it. George Orwell understood how the masses, too easily, can be made to accept any position, however senseless it may be. If you believe that the Woolwich attack was horrific, you are a normal human being. If you believe that it justifies a clampdown on minorities, or even more restrictions on our rights to privacy and free speech, you may be a moron.

UKIP: Playing Nazi Bingo

Fascism became a little bit discredited after the whole holocaust thing. Britain’s fascist movement had never got off to a great start, but after the second world war, Oswald Moseley’s attempt to come back (with blacks rather than Jews as a new, improved scapegoat), was never likely to succeed.

But the far-right has had a long time to evolve since the 1940s. It has regularly reappeared in new configurations. Most people tend to associate fascism with street thuggery, but these gangs are only the most visible part of the far-right (and the section most likely to cause panic among the middle classes). Hitler came to power with the support of the conservative middle classes, and corporate finance. If fascism is ever to be respectable again, its core constituency won’t consist of angry young white working class men, but the conservative middle classes.

Real British fascism is corporate power cloaked in ultra-conservative values designed to lure the most middle of middle Englanders. It attracts those who don’t think too much about politics, but when they do, they think society has changed too much, too quickly. They yearn for the Britain that their parents told them about when they were growing up; a largely mythical Christian Britain; where naughty youngsters were given a clip round the ear by the local bobby; where gays didn’t exist; and of course, where everyone spoke English, and everybody was white.

A real fascist party has two layers of policies: one set designed to recruit votes from the bigoted, social conservative, and another designed to raise finance from wealthy individuals and companies. The British National Party (BNP) looked, for a while, like it may be the first “respectable” fascist party in the UK. In 1993, it caused shock by winning the first ever far-right council seat, in East London. For over a decade, it looked like a genuine threat, but it has faded in recent years, and few people think of it as a mainstream party.

The English Defence League (EDL) attempted to fill the far-right vacuum, but it manifested as a working class street movement, so alienated middle class conservatives, and could never be taken seriously by corporate backers. Now, the vacuum has instead been filled by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) – and this time, for the first time since Mosley, far-right politics seem to have found a place in the mainstream.

Many low-information voters (to borrow an American term for morons) get a thrill from UKIP’s populist positions: leaving the European Union (because it costs money, doesn’t it?), cutting immigration (because we’re “full”, right?) and attacking benefits (lazy scroungers…) are all designed to appeal to the Daily Mail’s core, nasty, constituency of people who worry that somehow, somewhere, someone is having a better life than they are.

The problem for any fascist organisation trying to present itself as mainstream is that it becomes increasingly hard to keep candidates “on message”. UKIP has attracted fascists to its membership, and this is reflected in a number of extreme outbursts from its candidates. Their anti-immigrant line has somehow morphed to include attacks on British Muslims – to the extent that the EDL are backing UKIP in elections, and are clearly pitching to become their thuggish wing, just as the SA “Brownshirts” became the street enforcers for the Nazi party.

I recently played a game of “fascist bingo” on Twitter when I was encouraged to see if candidates ticked all the standard far-right boxes. Anti-immigration (standard fare to attract racists-who-aren’t-racist)? Check! Muslim-baiting? Check! Gays? The party is opposed to gay marriage (it’s hard to see what that has to do with opposing the European Union) and on cue, UKIP candidate John Sullivan was recently caught applauding Russian attacks on gay rights, and calling for more physical exercise in schools as a cure for gayness. Check!

To win a fascist bingo game though, we need evidence of hatred for Jews and the disabled. On cue, here comes UKIP candidate Anne-Marie Crampton with an anti-Semitic outburst that any Nazi would be proud of, raking up the anti-Semitic hoax “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and blaming Zionists for the second world war and the Holocaust (rather than those poor, misunderstood, European Christians who tend to get blamed for it). Check! And the disabled? Google came to my aid and found me Geoffrey Clark, who called for compulsory abortions of disabled foetuses. HOUSE!

UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage has succeeded in presenting far-right politics as palatable, to a greater extent than anyone since the second world war. He has attracted support from the racist right of the Tory party – those people who see David Cameron as a dangerous leftie. UKIP reaped a protest vote in last week’s local elections, largely from people who had little idea what they actually stood for. What is lacking from British politics is an active opposition to fascist ideologies; Labour’s capitulation by “accepting the immigration problem” leaves a landscape devoid of an anti-fascist force, and plays into the hands of the far-right.

With the BNP and EDL approaching the status of “laughing-stock”, UKIP are the ones to watch; their strong showing in the elections may be a flash in the pan, but they have cleverly divided the Conservative Party, and if the Tories panic, they may shift rightwards. In the long-term, that way lies irrelevancy, as demonstrated by the US Republicans, who embraced a racist electoral strategy in a nation where racism was in slow decline.

Put in perspective, the local election results demonstrated that a quarter of voters in the most conservative parts of the country will respond to a bigoted, populist message. The whitest parts of the nation are the most afraid of immigration. That’s not so surprising, though it is disappointing. The UKIP result gives little reason to panic, but it’s a reminder that “British tolerance” is not a given. Tolerance had to be fought for and won, but no battle ever stays won; victories need to be defended. Now which political party will take a stand against the rise of fascist values?