The recent debate around Ukip has been about whether they are a party of 'clowns', a serious threat to the Tories, or both. This misses the real issue: Ukip are a British Tea Party that sanitise the right-wing government already running the country.
Ever since Lehmann Brothers collapsed in 2008 we have been witnessing the resurgence of radical, hard-right, anti-immigration populism. In the case of the Tea Party, the blue-collar working-class American base of the movement is advocating policies that are diametrically opposed to its own interests. Tea Party star and Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan's budget 'plan' is to scrap Medicaid for 27m people, mainly the poor and disabled, whilst increasing defense spending. Ryan's plan, if implemented, would cut Mitt Romney's tax to just 0.83% by eliminating capital gains tax, which would be a huge boon for corporations too (Incidentally, Tory MP Liam Fox wants to do just the same). Such an incomprehensibly regressive policy is made understandable realising that Americans spent $3.3bn on lobbying last year, almost exclusively from super-rich corporate lobbyists who can afford to bend democracy in their favour.
On close inspection, Ukip's policies are startlingly similar. They want to cut taxes by £90bn, but mostly for the rich, introducing a single flat tax of 31%, that will see millionaires pay the same tax rates as their cleaners.
One of the great myths about conservatives is they loathe 'big government'. UKIP's policies favour government when it helps their wealthy backers, and are not 'libertarian' as they claim. They intend to increase defence spending by 40%, and they silently support the EU Common Agricultural Policy, which amounts to 59bn out of the 130bn EU budget, a colossal waste by all accounts, as it is a subsidy for prosperous farmers. £800,000 a year of it goes to the Duke of Westminster alone.
The regressive free-marketeers at UKIP will not see their policies implemented, although their American comrades (how they would loathe to hear themselves described thus) will have their chance in 2016 should they be elected. The real threat these hard-right market fundamentalists pose is by legitimising or sanitising a watered-down, liberalised form of conservative politics practiced by David Cameron and Barack Obama. By legislating for gay marriage (when it conveniently hits 51% approval ratings) right-wingers are covering their neoliberalism with an egalitarian fig leaf.
For all the fury over Republicans backing from large corporations, 45% of campaign donations from the financial sector is to the Democrat party. Such generosity brings rewards. The Anglo-American journalist Alexander Cockburn wrote in 2009 about the "total control exercised by Wall Street over the Obama administration's economic and financial policy." Cockburn explained how Barack Obama appointed Robert Hormats, Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs, as Secretary of Economics, Business, and Agricultural Affairs. His Deputy Secretary of State was Jacob Lew, former Chief Financial Officer of Citigroup Alternative Investments Group which lost $509 million in the first quarter of 2008 alone. Such cosiness between politicians and big business has caused Nobel prize-winning economist and former adviser to both Clinton and Obama, Joseph Stiglitz, to blast Obama's 'bailout' for being a gift to the bankers, saying the people who designed the plans are "either in the pocket of the banks or they're incompetent." Normally such accusations are reserved for men like Mitt Romney or George Bush, but Obama's Democrat administration is made to look moderate by the Tea Party Republicans, just as David Cameron's destructive coalition looks liberal when you hold up UKIP against it.
Overseas, Obama has developed a new form of imperialist American politics. He has sanctioned over six times more drone strikes than George W. Bush, racking up between 2,500 and 3,500 deaths, including many civilians. None of this is legal. His record on civil liberties is dire, he has continued torture at Guantanomo and heads the first Presidential administration to declare they have the right to kill anyone, anywhere, and without reason or just cause, let alone transparency and trial. It fell to the fiscal lunatic Rand Paul (yes, his father Ron really did name him after the Tea Party deity Ayn Rand) to filibuster Obama's nomination of John Brennan as CIA Director in protest. Substitute the word 'Bush' for Obama and liberals will nod along at how nasty the Republicans are, because doesn't such an appalling record looks tame when you contemplate what John McCain or Mitt Romney might have been like?
Now in British politics, we are approaching a similar system. The rise of UKIP is making Tory policy, and more importantly the Tories, look like gay-friendly compassionate paternalists. Such notions are fatal. Whilst it seems everyone in the media is on the hunt to unearth the next UKIP Nazi or holocaust denier, the Tories bedroom tax recently claimed its first victim with the suicide of Stephanie Bottrill. She is one of many tragic victims of the Tories attack on welfare, as a party funded by tax evaders and City financiers lays waste to the means of support for millions of Britons. By 2015, 400,000 children will have been pushed into poverty and by 2017 Britain will have less public spending as a percentage of GDP than the United States. Forget UKIP, forget the Tea Party, the real reactionaries are already in power.