In Heywood and Middleton, a classic Labour northern English seat, UKIP and the Tories combined got 51% of the vote. In Clacton – a deprived coastal area – the Conservatives and UKIP got 83% of the vote.
It is not that Labour and the Lib Dems offer an alternative that is in any significant way less devoted to corporate interests and serving the economic needs of the super-rich. The large majority of voters, and especially those who do not bother to vote, have by now worked out that the difference in their lives is negligible if they have a different member of the political class with his or her nose in the trough at their expense.
But everybody who has seen an actual UKIP campaign knows that their grassroots appeal is simply racist – they promote the idea that it is not the billionaires and ultra-wealthy who are sucking the resources from society, but rather the poor of a different colour. The Conservatives are striving, particularly through rampant Islamophobia, to compete for the atavistic vote.
UKIP is an antibody produced by the political establishment and their paymasters, to counter public disillusion with a dreadful and worsening unequal society. UKIP’s task is to divert public anger away from their exploiters towards specific groups of the poor. It does so very effectively. UKIP’s success yesterday will lead to a race among the mainstream parties to scapegoat vulnerable social groups – immigrants, benefit claimants, unemployed – and to compete in external xenophobia. The next government of the United Kingdom will be right wing to a degree which would have seemed unthinkable for the majority of my life.