To summarise, I joined UKIP in 2011 at a time when my politics were far more right wing than they are now. Today I no longer feel at all comfortable or politically compatible with being a UKIP member or supporter, so, bluntly, I’m out. It’s a feeling long in the making, that my views have evolved/improved/regressed (please circle) to such a degree that I’m no longer the person who threw a few quid at Britain’s third most popular party and gave it quite a lot of my time over the years. My membership lapsed a long time ago but I didn’t feel ready to come out the closet. Some of my friends were treated with contempt when they announced they were leaving; I’m not a fan of that and I’m a bit shit at coping with abuse, so.
I’ve met and made many friends within UKIP and have respect for more; opposing political views won’t – I hope – change that. There are number of good people still in the party who deserve respect and do not fit the bill of what’s so commonly ascribed to the party, but, alas, that’s not the case for all. Regardless, it’s been quite fun, really, but I’m out. I would not vote for UKIP at an election. I would not campaign for it and my views towards it are none too warm.
If you like reading length:
In 2011 I made the premature decision of joining a political party. In 2011 I became deeply interested in politics and felt my home was with UKIP. At that time it would be safe to say I was some Thatcherite fanatic of sorts intoxicated with the hope that a far more right wing Conservative Party would arise and suit my ideology one day. Back then, the idea of a free market appealed to me, alongside (ironically) obscenely strict controls on immigration. Since then, I’ve changed… quite… quite a bit.
Over the past year or so I think it is safe to say that those who worked around me knew I wasn’t the most Ukippy Ukipper that ever Ukip’d. Many opined why on earth I was in the People’s Army after I subjected them to some of my personal political opinions that they deemed either communist, Corbynite, or generally left wing. For the record, I’m, uh, none of those, bar, perhaps, the left wing aspect. Interesting isn’t it, how a party full of supporters that complain that its detractors ascribe sensational language to it (fascist/neo-Nazi/etc) do the very same to those with mildly left wing opinions. Irritating, but I suspect, really, we all have done it: the ‘everyone bar me is an extremist’ belief.
I can pinpoint when I began to become majorly disillusioned with UKIP. Already in the months following the party’s 2013 local election success I was disappointed at the countless number of newly elected councillors having to resign for racism or general prejudice. I was never comfortable with that, but it was the beginning of the 2014 European Election campaign, a night in… April, I think, when I began to become more seriously miffed. UKIP were holding steady in the polls and snaps of their billboard campaign were beginning to seep across social media. Some of the posters were bloody amazing. I loved the EU flag burning through the Union Jack; the ‘Ruled Britannia’; the bashing of those on high EU funded salaries; all of those… they were sound. But it was the one(s) about migrants that irked me, the one with a finger pointing and suggesting a migrant was after the job of the viewer: “And whose jobs are they after?” Some in UKIP argue in its defence that the the party’s core vote was brought out in waves of passion and anger because of this billboard, which, to be fair, was (and remains) probably true. That explanation, though, somehow, being a justification for inflammatory messaging was just not my cup of tea. It was quite clearly, undeniably, scapegoating, plain and simple. It was suggesting unemployed migrants across Europe were ‘after’ your jobs. It was the language, the language perpetrating a culture of Us-vs-Them, of scaremongering that unemployed Europeans were actively out to get your job and that therefore you needed to be protected from these people, people who committed the heinous crime of being without work. I get the need for regulating the free movement of people. I get that there is a valid, genuine, argument for controlling migration, to prevent wage compression and a build-up of demand and all that, but to do so in ways that are inflammatory? Nah. For me, it was depressing, but then, I’m not UKIP’s target demographic. I’m young.
I think, after that, I began to lose hope in UKIP. They won the European elections, a slew of council seats – now in more working class areas than 2013 – and I had done my small bit in helping achieve this through campaigning and casting my first vote as an 18 year old in favour of them. But… by then, the passion had run out. We won, but we won on the backs of frightening people. Sorry chaps, I didn’t like that.
I think it was at that time I started to doubt my positions on a number of things. Already I was undergoing a long term change.
In 2011 I joined UKIP as someone who identified strongly with Margaret Thatcher, socially and economically. I was a social conservative, bluntly.
In 2012 I renewed my UKIP membership as a Ron Paul supporting libertarian, obsessed with battling for a small state, yet mostly content socially with issues such as same sex marriage.
In 2013 I renewed as a much tamer fiscal libertarian albeit pertubed by the malarkey that was ‘#Ollygate‘. Personal experience had me recognise too that the free market could not solve all.
In 2014 I… renewed, but did so without much vehemence. It was the year 2014 that I started paying attention to issues of equality, or the more ominous phrase for those on the right: social justice. I had an identity crisis myself. I came out as bisexual. I was dysphoriac. Issues such as how people were perceived begun to have an affect me. Why did I renew my UKIP membership? No other party was credible for me. I was vehemently anti-EU… Economically I was… what? I don’t know; concerned about HS2, the shafting of the north and the failure re: tackling the housing crisis. What does that make me economically? I don’t know. Socially, what was I? I don’t know. I was anti-EU, I was passionate about issues such as same sex marriage, I liked the idea of solidarity for nationhood. I was far from socially conservative; I was a liberal in some respects, but… I didn’t have a position that was set in stone. Interesting, isn’t it, how those with a deep-set interest in politics are expected to have firm political positions. In 2014, and probably now, as I write, there are a number of areas I am still shaky on of which I am open to being convinced.
I think, at the time I did renew in June, I was considering whether to pass and quietly leave, but the history of camaraderie I had at branch level (the people I canvassed with in Harrogate were a genuinely decent sort) kept me in. UKIP, in 2014, was the only credible way of showing my commitment to the anti-EU cause. I had friends in it. I had history with the branch. I couldn’t leave… surely?
And so I didn’t. I renewed for one more year.
Now I’ve had enough.
I quietly allowed my membership to lapse many, many months ago. My politics have changed so much so I no longer feel at all comfortable as a member or supporter. I remain, as ever, anti-EU; I remain, as ever, committed to ‘taking back control’ and all that, but socially, economically, I’ve moved on. Perhaps it was silly of me to join at such an early age when my politics hadn’t been fleshed out or given proper time to be scrutinised and beaten by debate, or, even, given light or tested from my experiences in that all famous place only rich southern businessmen have lived in: ‘the real world’.
I joined in 2011 as a Thatcherite, I leave as a… lefty? I don’t know what you’d call me. I’m pragmatic. I like being liberal. I like my freedom in whatever form it may be, harm principle applied. Human Rights ought to be cherished and promoted unquestionably, free from prejudice, religious extremism and corporate ideology. I like the economy working for all and not just those who can afford to live in London or successfully pull on Daddy’s purse-strings; yes, if it’s not obvious I am full of cliches and soundbite. I like the idea of power being liberated from Brussels and handed down to the UK’s constituent nations and local authorities. I like the idea of living in a society which helps those left behind and at a disadvantage. I believe climate change is one of the most paramount problems facing the globe that needs tackling but should not be done on the altar of people going cold come wintertime. I am at ease with migration and a multicultural society (apologism for religious fundamentalism aside). So, being realistic, yes, I am on the left. But, by how far? I don’t know, centre-left? I know Kippers have called me a Communist without sarcasm before, so, you make your mind up. I don’t think I’ll join another party for a long time anywho. They all seem a bit pants right now.
I’m out of the party, but I won’t deny I feel a personal affinity to some of the people still in it. Over the years I’ve met and worked with some very decent Kippers who just do not deserve the tags its opponents ascribe to it. I understand the reasons UKIP are called racist or generally a bigot friendly party and many times the party just doesn’t help itself, but I’m not going to come out screaming the People’s Army are the next Nazi Party. It isn’t. It’s got a disproportionate share of people as members and voters who are prejudiced and the way it tackles migration is unhealthy, to… say the least. Despite my distance to UKIP I don’t adhere to this ridiculous ideology that those who are not of your political opinion must be held at arms length and slowly disposed of in the unfriend basket, I hope that because I’m now some sort of born again lefty I won’t be derided or disliked. My politics has/have (?) moved on, as have I… so there we are. Hi!
Additions (30/06/2016): The EU referendum campaign brought out the worst in UKIP. My respect for the party has (heh, what little I had)… diminished significantly, to say the least. I’m happy I’m out, and I’m happy I have nothing to do with them. People like Suzanne Evans deserve respect and are without a doubt very decent people with good, tolerant intentions, but the party… crikey, the party is… it’s horrific.