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This Election Is the Chance to Say Goodbye to the Nihilism and Negativity of Ukip

17/04/2015 17:30 BST | Updated 17/06/2015 10:59 BST

In a recent article for the New Statesman Andrew Marr wrote of what he described as "the lashing anger" and "poison" of the present political zeitgeist. Marr cites Twitter trolling and the abuse meted out to those in the public eye as evidence of the anger and negativity he is talking about.

As the Labour candidate fighting against Nigel Farage in South Thanet I arguably have a front row seat on this. Here we have seen the appalling way that the Britain First heavies who act as bodyguards to Farage behave towards critics. But we have also seen up close the Ukip leader's family treated in a way that I could never condone.

These sorts of episodes may seem commonplace, but Marr is right that they did not seem to happen half as often a few years back.

For me a lot of the vitriol comes from gaps that have opened up between certain groups: rich and poor, London and the rest. Camilla Long's appallingly derisive article about Thanet last month, in which she compared the area to a "nodule of erupted spleen" was a case in point. It was written as if this part of the country was a foreign planet. On the flip side, the suspicion with which locals sometimes treat DFLs (those 'down from London') does not help.

So, as different parts of the country and the economy have grown further apart it becomes easier to bash those you have the least contact with. Familiarity may breed contempt but distance can breed distain.

Farage's brand of political nihilism plays on these divisions. His comment on HIV at the leaders' debates was typical - injecting toxicity for deliberate effect, and pitting groups who aren't in direct contact (HIV sufferers from abroad and Brits living in small towns) against one another. It is a nihilism which thrives on separation, and which can at times seem to have a centre of gravity all of its own.

The best way of defeating this is of course by standing up to it. But it is also by offering a broad church. Here in Thanet - where the present polling indicates a three-way dead heat - I have sought to build a coalition of supporters who want something more positive than what Farage and the Tory on the ticket (himself a former Ukip leader) can offer. They are two unapologetically small tent candidates, whose extreme policy stances have alienated much of the constituency. Their strategy is to nurse a shrinking audience of hard right voters.

Not only have we seen those traditionally to the left of Labour getting behind us as a result, but we are also now witnessing a phenomenon almost without precedent: One Nation Tories coming over to us. Last week I came across a Conservative who was voting Labour for the first time since 1960. Our canvass returns tell us he is not alone.

On Sunday we will be joined by Owen Jones and others for a day of mass canvassing, which will see people from across the country come and help with campaigning. We welcome those of every creed and political colour, and the immediate aim is to stop Farage's drift towards hard right nihilism and instead choose hopeful, pluralistic politics. The best way of preventing the bitterness we have seen is by rebalancing the economy and bringing people and communities closer to each other.

Andrew Marr is right that at the moment there is a lot of negativity and bad feeling flying around, and that things can feel quite divided. But it has not always been thus - and by putting a brake on the Ukip-led tanker we can ensure it does not continue to be.