Nigel Farage's UKIP and the Mainstream Media are Preventing an Honest Debate on the European Elections
by Ruben De Sai
Sun 18th May 2014
Nigel Farage and his party UKIP have a point about the EU. It is a flawed institution and definitely undemocratic. The influential technocrats in the EU’s executive branch, the European Commision, are not directly elected by citizens . The Eurozone relies on the decision-making of an unaccountable European Central Bank . Furthermore the EU’s proposed transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) has dangerous implications for citizens .
Let’s put aside UKIP’s headline-grabbing racism, sexism or homophobia. This is disproportionately covered over more destructive institutional and historical forms of discrimination. Disguised injustices embedded within society should take priority over the foolish ignoramuses outing themselves in public forums. Exposing this is healthy but only as useful as footballers eating bananas and declaring themselves monkeys will deal with racism in the sport. The police have issues with racially-motivated systemic corruption, deserving greater scrutiny than the usual suspects mouthing off in their little England lairs.
Farage and his ‘movement’ portray themselves as plucky patriots fighting against the global elites of politicians, technocrats and the mainstream media. He even makes a point of drinking and smoking, like the common man he is not. Privately educated former investment banker turned politicians don’t tend to queue in supermarkets, unless there’s a camera around. As the European elections loom, his anti-EU views have afforded him even more media coverage. This arouses concern considering the relatively marginalised Greens actually have representation in parliament. UKIP might well have their day come the European elections but trading as a single-issue party is a short-term strategy. Further along UKIP are likely to remain on the margins as a protest vote because socially liberal UK can’t stomach their prehistoric views. The tory mainstream media have ensured these views are kept high profile. If news organisations with similar agendas actually argued the benefits of the EU then UKIP support could nosedive.
Currently voters are deciding on a member of European Parliament to legislate on a number of issues, not only immigration and sovereignty. The EU can regulate banks and set a bonus cap . It can maintain online privacy , uphold human rights , but it could also mean permanently privatised railways and austerity. And so the EU economic war on the vulnerable of whatever race, gender or sexuality continues as the gap widens between rich and poor. UKIP believes in similar neoliberal economic principles of the EU. And yet Farage has convinced many to support him posing as an outsider to the system. On the edges of the UKIP phenomena there are some revealing hypocrisies into global democracy.
Neoliberalism is based on Friedrich Hayek’s free market , a trickle-down utopia of competitive capitalism detailed in The Road to Serfdom. Also it embraces Ayn Rand’s Objectivism , a philosophy of personal values that compliments Hayek with freedom of expression and individual responsibility. These are both well documented ideals and championed by the Anglo-American leaders of the eighties giving rise to the sub-genres of Thatcherism and Reganomics. It is a consensus of ideas promoting small government, low taxes, privatisation, deregulation and trade liberalisation. From multinational brands to banking and civil liberties neoliberalism is intertwined with our lives. The UKIP business suits are evangelical neoliberals . Farage the former financier proclaims the Iron Lady as his heroine.
This makes UKIP’s accusations that the EU threatens sovereignty strange when neoliberalism has been undermining nations’ autonomy for decades through globalisation. Open borders have domestic benefits but a transient minority with resources can easily exploit this system. It is simply not an equal playing field when local small businesses have to compete with tax evading multinationals. Globalisation is neoliberalism's ideals spreading as far as possible. However since the doctrine was adopted its illusion of meritocracy is revealed as international inequality has risen and social mobility has fallen .
UKIP’s anti-EU argument would at least be consistent if it was carried over to the other neoliberal global institutions which wield more combined power than Farage’s continental nemesis. The undemocratic governance of the EU is replicated internationally. Can anyone remember having a say in the G20? the G7? Or seeing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) choose its board? Meanwhile the World Trade Organisation (WTO) oversees secretive trade talks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal involving the collective economic might of East Asia, Australia and the US. This pact is very similar to TTIP in that it favours big business over citizens. UKIP appear to want Commonwealth trade to replace EU trade and having not challenged the anti-consumer TTIP terms, why should the public feel confident with them as a alternative?
It is interesting that UKIP remain silent on the TTIP talks despite it being a potential weapon against the EU. This is a trade pact between their sworn enemy and the US, no slouches themselves when it comes to economic imperialism . The talks aim is the harmonisation of rules and regulations governing trade between regions to reduce tariffs and streamline transactions. This could create more jobs but there’s already one big caveat, namely that corporations would be able to sue governments if they impede their entreprise. A clause formulated by the European Commission bureaucrats yet UKIP haven’t even mentioned it . The roster of beneficiaries lobbying for TTIP includes multinationals Monsanto , American tobacco, IBM, BP, Deutsche Bank and Nasdaq. So UKIP attack European bureaucrats when they undermine Britons but are not as concerned about non-domiciled predatory big business. This does not fit the bullish British under-dog image Farage keeps pedalling.
Concurrently the globalised mainstream media, with close relationships to neoliberal elites fail to challenge UKIP’s free market economics because they subscribe to it. Instead they focus on UKIP’s gaffes and their visceral anti-immigration argument. An informed debate should include the undemocratic ‘soft’ market power of the EU and beyond. The establishment media plays its neoliberal hand with barely any discussion of TTIP or the EU’s privatising agenda . The latter is something UKIP voters don’t always support putting them in agreement with the EU-sceptic left .
The beneficiaries of standard media attacks on UKIP are the relatively ‘right-on’ tories who subscribe to the same broken economics. They gave a thumb-ups for same-sex marriage despite significant resistance while news outlets ignored their record on gay rights . If the media were doing their job a credible attack on UKIP’s economics would allow us to have a debate on the neoliberal orthodoxy of the major parties. As it stands UKIP and the mainstream media perpetuate similar versions of the status quo that gave us the Great Recession by picking and choosing their micro-arguments.
Ultimately we have the choice between the socially liberal austerity imposing European juggernaut that prevents challenges to boom and bust capitalism ; or those who actually mock-threaten this broken system with more of the same, adding a sinister social conservatism. A third way of a democratic EU, promoting bottom-up sustainable economics with a fairer competition laws goes begging. These European elections are a complicated mix of national, regional and global debates but you can’t study the neoliberal orthodoxy on any national curriculum or understand it by watching the news and that is perhaps the greatest democratic threat of all.