I thought this had it about right:
The truth is that the motivations of Ukip voters exist in the blind spot of modern politics. No easy portrait of an average ‘Kipper’ can be drawn. It is the ability of the current mood to unite seemingly disparate groups in support of Ukip that has the established political class perplexed. No matter how many graphs, tables and polls are produced by policy wonks, no empirically verifiable link or connection will become apparent. No amount of ‘evidence-led policy’ will tell you what brings a retired lieutenant colonel in Wiltshire into the same political tent as a white, unemployed, single mother in Clacton. Without such a diagnosis, formulating a strategy to stop Nigel Farage is virtually impossible.
The professional political class’s blind spot is a methodological one. Since the mid-nineties, Westminster has refused to acknowledge the existence of any trend or occurrence that cannot be quantified or viewed through the quasi-scientific lens of professional politics. The result is a perspective as sterile and empty as the philosophical position that denies there is truth to be found in Shakespeare because such truth is not susceptible to objective measurement. Deploying this methodology in frontline politics produces a damaging reductionism. If a policy wonk is confronted with the fact that people are reporting their home town “no longer feels like home” or “feels like a foreign country”, these responses are immediately misread and pigeon-holed as concerns about ‘immigration’. Condemnation of such perceived attitudes usually follows.
What is missed is that such remarks often have very little to do with immigration or racism. To get this, we must accept that most people, most of the time, are good and decent. Ukip cannot run on xenophobia alone. Instead, such comments are better understood as a lament for a lost sense of belonging. It is this that unites the retired colonel with Clacton woman. Both come from social groups that began the 20thCentury with the clearest sense of identity and standing in the social order. Both have now lost this. In these groups, community identity and social standards were unambiguous. Members of both groups could take pride in what they did and who they were; they were frequently the most engaged and active members of our nation and society.
‘A lost sense of belonging’ is certainly what I have. It dates from the introduction of the pub smoking ban on 1 July 2007. Britain has never felt like ‘my country’ since that day. It’s become an alien, forbidding place. And nothing else matters quite as much as this.
And UKIP is the only party that has promised to do anything about it. So they’ll get my vote.