Friday, May 03, 2013

Inside the mind of the UKIP voter

I try very hard to think myself into the heads of UKIP supporters and understand what makes them tick. I really do. After all, about a quarter of the population now seems prepared to vote for this barmy army.

At a political level, all the stuff about disenfranchised protest voters is probably true. Some of the supporters are alienated from all the mainstream parties. Many are natural Tories and just feel that David Cameron is too wishy-washy. But plenty of the Tories who think Cameron's a sell-out still end up voting Conservative. The UKIP voter is a particular breed.

These are folks who like moaning and griping and feeling hard-done-by. There's nothing they enjoy more than being stuck in traffic queues, worrying about which station is going to give them the best-value petrol and which one is going to rip them off. Almost certainly they'd use a pound's worth of fuel to get to a particular Nigel Farage where unleaded was a penny cheaper per litre. They'd moan all day about the cost of living and spend a lot of time on price comparison sites making sure they weren't shafted when they bought insurance. But no expense is spared on their dogs, their Sunday roast and the occasional packet of fags.

They don't care much for metropolitan life full stop. It's not only the immigrants. Just as surely as they're suspicious of Poles and Bulgarians, they have an instinctive mistrust of Starbucks, bus lanes, hipsters and any meal served with 'jus' rather than gravy.

UKIP voters are nostalgic for a bygone world of course. Polls show us that 70% are over 50. It's tempting to see them as people with a romantic, mythical vision. John Major's old ladies bicycling past the cricket on a picturesque village green. The truth is they hanker after a very real and much more brutal world. It's a world of national service, of people with depression pulling themselves together, of smoke-filled pubs and birching on the Isle of Man.

Health and safety? Don't make them laugh.

The congestion charge? What a liberty.

And please don't get them started on speed cameras. Just an excuse for the government to make money.

These malcontents and whingers are easy to dismiss. But they represent a central part of British life. They are the kind of people who always believe themselves to be right, who never have a good word for others and prefer a good, traditional cup of tea to some fancy cappuccino.

You know people like this. I know people like this. Theirs is a world of fear, distrust and dislike. Of common-sense answers and black-and-white, cast-iron certainties. But can they really represent the future of the UK?

Their success is probably self-limiting. I don't say this out of complacency. They can certainly do real electoral damage because older people are more likely to turn out and vote. But their lasting legacy is likely to be the changes they force on the other parties. And possibly the toxic climate they build in the run-up to any referendum on British membership of the EU. The day we vote to detach ourselves from the rest of the world and retreat into our bunker.

No comments:

Post a Comment