"The main culprit is nostalgia. Most UKIP voters are over 60 and think of Britain as an empire and Europe more as somewhere that wars and holidays happen", writes Jonathan King.
Jonathan King is a long-suffering supporter of the EU in Britain. A europhile that’s used to eurosceptic countries, he went to high school in western Norway, but studied languages and politics and had been a teacher in Italy until recently starting work in a hi-tech start-up in London. He is lucky to have benefited from EU regional development funds in his home region of Wales, Erasmus grants while a student, and the policy of “freedom of movement for workers” while teaching in Italy.
The European Parliament elections have just finished, and people across Europe have come together, democratically, to say that they don’t want to come together democratically any more.
Eurosceptic, far-right parties are on the rise. The National Front has gained the most votes in France, a country that was a founding member state of the European Union. In liberal, level-headed Denmark, the people have chosen to show public support to the Dansk Folkeparti. Even in Sweden, whose political climate is often naively viewed as some kind of paradise by the British left, Sverigedemokraterna have secured their first seats.
Here, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), has made history as it is the first time since World War I that neither the Conservatives, nor Labour, won a national election. Nigel Farage, its leader and the grinning British face of Euroscepticism, promised and delivered a political earthquake after months of ever-increasing media attention. He travelled to every pub in the country to be photographed like a “normal guy”, always laughing, always with a pint of ale and a cigarette in his hands.
However, while UKIP demands independence for the UK from a centralised foreign superstate, the same drama is playing out within the UK. In September there will be a referendum on independence for Scotland from the centralised foreign superstate that is the UK. Scotland says it can thrive economically on its own and be free to collaborate with other countries, with a Scottish National Party spokesman even suggesting that they should join the Nordic Council.
UKIP repeats the same belief that “If we were outside the European Union, we could make our own trade deals”. Supporters proudly say that the day Britain leaves the EU, China, Brazil and the US will shout “Yes, finally!”, and, like the popular girl at school that just left her boyfriend, we’ll suddenly have all the attention of the handsome football-players.
The main culprit is nostalgia. Most UKIP voters are over 60 and think of Britain as an empire and Europe more as somewhere that wars and holidays happen rather than a geographic fact. Euroscepticism comes naturally to older British people, but racism bubbles under the surface. As always in political rhetoric, “other people” are to blame for our current problems. Brussels. Foreigners. Romanians. Nigel Farage encourages us to be suspicious of all of these things, and wins the support of those that are relieved that now they can be suspicious of them in public.
All over Europe, people are voting to burn down the present for fear of the future. These elections have given extremist parties legitimacy, and now they will only get more media attention. I’m not in the minority disagreeing with them, but unless more than 43% of us go out and vote, take a stand against xenophobia, and make our arguments and perspectives known, they will speak for us and they are our own fault.