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Should We Be Taking Ukip's Political Tourette's Seriously?

20/05/2014 11:37 BST | Updated 19/07/2014 10:59 BST

It seems now that not a day goes by without another UKIP candidate getting on his or her hind legs and announcing how they really don't want to embarrass their glorious leader with their patently unhinged views on life, shortly before they do just that.

As we all know Nigel Farage is perfectly capable of embarrassing himself, as we've seen over the weekend with his comments about Romanians and his previous assertions that we should only employ workers from the EU if we happen to be married to them.

UKIP's powerbase, if it can be called that, has largely been built on a cult of notoriety, with their leader apparently taking his cue from professional offence givers such as Jeremy Clarkson and Frankie Boyle. It's a simple trick that's been employed by countless entertainers, writers and indeed politicians down the ages. These people make PR capital by saying what they believe people want to hear, usually the more offensive the better.

To varying extents we all enjoy suspending the normal thought filtering processes that establish social morays and root us to cultural taboos. The sly snigger at a sick joke or the metaphorical wink at a bit of political incorrectness is a guilty pleasure that even I'll admit to now and again. But the guilt is still there, hopefully keeping me the right side of a progressively blurrier line.

In neurophysiological terms my pre-frontal cortex is mediating these conflicting thought processes. If you prefer Freudian interpretations, my super-ego is keeping me in check. But it seems UKIP have managed to hot wire these mechanisms to produce a form of socio-political Tourettes. The guilt isn't there for these people, they really believe what they're saying.

Now I like a bit of a laugh at inept political buffoonery as much as the next voter, and let's face it UKIP has been an almost inexhaustible font of such japes in the run up to the elections this week. But of late their announcements and demands have become increasingly dark and extreme.

Last week UKIP's South East Party Chairperson Janice Atkinson appeared to be demanding that people who chanted at UKIP rallies should be arrested for expressing their opinions. Then we heard the story of Michael Abberton's bizarre visit from the local constabulary after a UKIP candidate complained about a tweet he didn't like. Now we have Lancashire UKIP candidate, Gordon Ferguson, advocating the death sentence for anyone who doesn't agree with UKIP's views on Europe.

As we all laugh off yet another bit of swivel-eyed lunacy from a guy whose comb-forward hairstyle would be made illegal come my glorious revolution, I wonder if it's time to stop laughing and start taking the threat of UKIP seriously.

In many minds it's no coincidence that parties like the BNP saw a virtual evaporation of support after UKIP's surprise successes in the local elections last year. Did these people suddenly recoil at their own bigotry, or did they just switch to a horse with a more TV friendly jockey?

Personally I don't think Farage is a bigot or a racist. I think he's a common or garden reactionary, no different to thousands of saloon bar gurus up and down the country who can tell you "what this country needs!". The difference is he's attracting media attention by dint of his likelihood to give good TV.

The spectacle of a man with at best minor political influence in the UK and zero parliamentary representation, being given a platform to brow-beat the leader of the opposition about his reluctance to debate with him on national TV last week is a good example. As is the ratio of UKIP appearances on Question Time in comparison to other emerging political forces such at The Green Party.

One thing is clear though. Amid the gathering tsunami of ever more outlandish announcements from UKIP members and candidates, we're starting to see the emergence of yet another extreme right wing group, eager to push our country back into the dark ages of close minded intolerance. I doubt this was Farage's intention, but as the momentum builds to next year's general election I think he may have a runaway train on his hands.

Political and social movements like this have sprung up at various times in history. They expound easy solutions to complicated problems, employing the common propagandist mechanisms of stereotyping and de-humanisation to identify the root of all evil. Invariably the blame is placed at the door of one or other political, socio-economic or cultural group. Usually a grain of truth is fertilised with plenty of manure until it grows into a big juicy lie. It's sad to see that even in a super connected, post-social media world we're still susceptible to having exactly the same buttons pushed.

In a similar way the National Socialist German Workers' Party was seen as a bit of a joke in the late 1920s. No one in the modern Weimar Republic believed that their enlightened society could be derailed by a few ranting extremists. That soon changed when their populist message provided a platform for all the seething hatred that had been kept in check by the 'super-egos' of the more mainstream parties.

It's perhaps a lazy comparison, but it's becoming harder to ignore the whiff of the Gestapo about UKIP, especially when they start demanding death or arrest for dissenters. One or two of these remarks can be dismissed as the odd loon in the ranks. But as more and more UKIP supporters, candidates and officials give us insights into their true psyche, it suggests an underlying movement. As the old saying goes, if something looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.

Personally I'm hoping that UKIP turns out to be the turkey that Farage keeps claiming it to be before a few comedic stories in the press sleepwalks us into a very unfunny political future for this country.