I was a bit puzzled today to learn that…
Ukip voters feel disconnected from mainstream politics because they don’t know how to send emails or browse the internet, Labour’s shadow business secretary has suggested…
Mr Umunna said it was time for Labour to “empower” the “mass of people” who’s inability to perform basic functions on the internet had left them alienated from the wider economy.
He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr show: “The BBC has carried out some very interesting research on this – 1 in 5 people in our economy cannot do the full basics online of sending and receiving an email, browsing the internet, filling in an online form.
So basically UKIP supporters are rather backward. They’re a bit thick. But with remedial training, and the right iPhone apps, they’ll be able to re-connect. And then they’ll start voting Labour again.
We are smart, and they are stupid. The conceit is plain to see.
I’m sure it’s true that 1 in 5 people can’t browse the internet, most likely because they don’t own computers. But why should that necessarily make them UKIP supporters? They might just as easily be people who carry on voting the way they’ve always voted – i.e. Labour or Conservative – because, thanks to their lack of access to the internet, they don’t know any better. Which is similar to the point made by Douglas Carswell:
Firstly, the internet has democratised opinion forming. Instead of a small clique of BBC-type pundits telling folk what to think, people can now source comment and opinion from blogs and Twitter. This has left many voters feeling a lot less deferential towards smug opinion formers – and their smug, self-satisfied opinions.
But, above all, Umunna’s remarks seemed to show how little grasp the political class has really got on what makes people vote UKIP. They don’t seem to understand them at all. Why don’t they just go and ask UKIP voters?
But what if they never encounter such people? What if they don’t know any?
For I was thinking today that the smoking ban had created two separate cultures. The progressive, antismoking ‘insiders’ and the conservative, smoking ‘outsiders’ who had been ‘exiled to the outdoors’. And these two cultures hardly ever came into contact with each other any more.
After all, once I had been expelled from society by the smoking ban, I ceased to see very much of my progressive, antismoking, metropolitan friends. So I no longer know what they think. And they no longer know what I think. Because now that there’s nowhere to meet, we’re no longer sitting around tables with beers and cigarettes exchanging ideas, perceptions, beliefs, thoughts, dreams – and in the process learning from each other, and being corrected.
And when people no longer meet, it’s easy for them to form false, stereotyped opinions about each other – simply because those opinions are never corrected. It’s easy for me to have stereotyped ideas about what Russians or Chinese are like, because I don’t actually know any. In fact, it’s not just easy – it’s inevitable.
And to me it seems like Umunna has a false, stereotyped view of UKIP supporters of a sort that most likely comes of never actually having met any of them. And he never actually meets any of them because he moves in a rather narrow circle of like-minded, progressive, metropolitan Labour activists. He doesn’t know any UKIP supporters, and none of his friends do either. And so they come up with the rather mad hypothesis that people vote UKIP because they haven’t got iPhones and Twitter accounts like they do.
I’ve actually seen Nigel Farage speak in person, and watched a lot of videos of speeches and interviews of him. But I’d guess that many UKIP supporters may know nothing about him except for the beer-and-cigarette image he projects, and that’s all they need to know. Because they can infer more or less all his other beliefs from that image. Nigel Farage represents a set of values with which they are fully familiar, and with which they identify, and which none of the other main parties communicates any more, despite all their iPhones and Twitter accounts.
Oddly enough, it’s actually Nigel Farage who is himself more or less completely computer and internet illiterate. He can barely send an email. His wife does it all for him.
Mr Farage needed her assistance because he was virtually computer illiterate.
She said: “He has a steampowered telephone, he can send and receive texts and that’s it. If I sit him down, and there is something for him to read, he can scroll up and down, he has learned that – but that is pretty much it.
He is instead someone who communicates face to face with other people.
In outside pubs, over beer and cigarettes.
So maybe Umunna thinks that UKIP supporters are all Nigel Farage clones? If so it would be, of course, yet another stereotype idea.