Well I’m going to try.
The world has changed dramatically in the last thirty years or so. More quickly perhaps, than at any other time in history. Globalisation; that big fuzzy idea, is really just a way of saying that peoples, economies and places are more connected than ever before. It means you and I and everyone else are not just part of a town, a region or a country, but of a world too. These changes have brought cheap consumer goods in such variety that in a single weekly food shop you can bring home products from most continents on the planet without having to think about it. Tea from Kenya, asparagus from Peru, rice from India, beer from Belgium. But the reason that these goods are so cheap is that the people who make and produce them are from poorer countries than ours. They work for much less in conditions much worse than you or I would be prepared to work in.
What this also means is that things we used to make and produce as a country can now be made cheaper elsewhere. We can no longer compete for price or wages. No matter your feelings on Margaret Thatcher, when she privatised industries right, left and centre it was accepting a change in the tides that could not be fought. Love or loathe Tony Blair, when his government oversaw the greatest wave of immigration since the Norman conquest, it was a natural consequence of being part of a world that was open for business. The opportunities were then, and are now, obvious. Connection and trade means wealth, growth, choice and expansion of possibility.
But for who?
When the jobs at the bottom have all flown away what is there to replace them? When even the local need for trades and skills that provide the lowest paid not just with money and subsistence but with honour, pride and a vocation are taken by strange new neighbours from foreign lands what is there left for the so-called ‘working class’ to hope for?
Zero hour contracts. Scraping an uncertain living in a never-ending trudge from soulless service job to soulless service job. Benefits that keep you alive, just, but slap you with the stigma of ‘the shirker’, ‘the scrounger’ or ‘the work-dodger’; the very people, in truth, that the average UKIP voter probably hates the most.
No wonder these people hark back to a golden age, where in the struggle and the rubble of the last world war; the bombing and the killing and the blitz, a dying empire refused to say die. Our finest hour, in the minds of these people, lies in the past because without a future to dream of, then that is all they have.
It is a great and inconvenient truth that globalisation has losers as well as winners. Britain is a country of the little man, the underdog; the querky, spunky salt of the earth. It pains so many of us to say it, even think it, but should we swim through the fear, the anger, the hatred and the prejudice I believe what we will find is not merely a tiny cluster of hidden bigotry but the backbone of Britain. If we cannot give such people something to hope for then we cannot complain that they refuse to play along. Because people don’t just need jobs, they need careers and livelihoods.
Britain as a nation has been in an identity crisis for too long. We are no longer an empire. We cannot compete for military might nor cling to the glow of our great industrial past. But Britain is still a country that makes things, that invents things, that builds things. And these are the people that built them.
The darker aspects of the Ukipper’s nature are born not only from fear, from anger, from hopelessness but from neglect. It is easy to embrace change when it benefits you; when people take the jobs that we don’t want or really need. But for those in the mix of the economic free-for-all, the question is not whether immigration is good for the country but whether the country will care for it’s own. ALL of it’s own.
It cannot simply be racist or xenophobic to raise such a practical concern, and until politicians and we as citizens on all sides search for real solutions, then this is a problem that won’t be going away.
And if you still don’t believe that there is a place, in this country of ours, for simple working folk, then ask yourself this: who do you think we are going to need when the rest of the world catches up?