AFTER the earthquake, there is rubble everywhere. But,
sometimes, it is the least likely houses that are left standing.
How on earth did London not collapse?
The "big three" political parties received a shock recently when
they became the "big four". After decent local and excellent
European election results, UKIP has become more than a protest
vote. Its leader, Nigel Farage, declared the outcome "an
earthquake" because "never before in the history of British
politics has a party seen to be an insurgent party ever topped the
polls in a national election."
And how did this happen? UKIP's campaign director, Patrick
O'Flynn, says it is because "A huge swathof the public . . . are
desperate for Britain to get back control ofits borders and become
a self-governing country again."
But, as the dust settles on the UKIP earthquake, London - as in
the Blitz - stands strangely defiant; and it is strange, because
the capital is full of the people UKIP is trying to keep out of the
country: immigrants. As Mr Farage has observed, when on public
transport in the city, you often cannot hear a conversation in
English. Immigrants everywhere!
So why aren't Londoners loving UKIP as they should? Suzanne
Evans, the party's communities spokeswoman, thinks she knows: "We
do have a more media-savvy, well-educated population in London; and
they are more likely, I think, to have read some of the negative
press that's been about us and I think they've been more likely to
These words are interesting only for their absurdity; for if
Londoners are so media-savvy, why are they swallowing the negative
stories without question?
No, the truth is a good deal more disturbing for UKIP, and it's
this: when you work alongside an immigrant, or live next door to
one, he or she stops being an imagined demon and becomes a real
person. I had midnight bust-ups with my Romanian neighbour when I
lived in Tottenham. But that was nothing to do with his
nationality. He just became very noisy and forgetful of others when
drunk, which the English are also quite good at.
The odd truth is that UKIP does not win in areas where
immigrants live, but in areas where they don't live but might do,
some time in the future. It is an imaginary fear that UKIP thrives
on - the worst and most potent fear of all.
I like a national character: I'm with UKIP there. And I'm with
UKIP when it reminds us that elections are not just about the
economy, but about identity, because identity matters. But to be a
national identity worth the name, let it be something unfolding,
and quite fearless.
Simon Parke is the author of A Director's Cut