In January 2010, one political party made its feelings known on the subject of rail transport: “the Government has wasted years without building more UK high speed rail lines, despite a growing need and consensus of support ... The West Coast Rail Line project upgrade has involved years of dislocation for passengers and freight, and has gone 5 times over budget to £9 billion. This suggests a faster new high speed rail line would have been preferable in the first place”.
So what was their solution? They would “invest in 3 new 200 mph plus high-speed rail lines”. The party “enthusiastically supports the high speed rail concept, with trains travelling up to 220 mph ... The intention will be to reduce the number of short haul flights between London and UK destinations such as Manchester”. So which party made this unequivocal commitment? Its name was UKIP.
But just three years later, all the talk of “high-speed rail lines” to “destinations such as Manchester” had been ditched as Nigel “Thirsty” Farage told “Many people will never even benefit from High Speed railway [sic] ... Many people will simply not be able to afford the fares ... It is a loss making scheme”.
Yes, “UKIP are the only party opposing HS2”. All that talk of investment, and their enthusiastic support, was clearly only window dressing, to be put aside when the opportunity for cheap populism presented itself. That kind of behaviour is fine if all you’re interested in is by-election grandstanding, but it won’t convince come General Election time. In any case, who would volunteer to support UKIP this far out?
Well, one group would: step forward the English Defence League (EDL). That this support could prove poisonous to Farage and Co has united those across the political spectrum: Laurence Durnan at Political Scrapbook thus finds himself on the same page as Tim Stanley at the Telegraph. And the sole reason that the EDL is interested is that they think UKIP is with them on the dreaded Muslims.
Now, Nige and his saloon bar pals cannot choose who supports them, but having a nutjob fringe outfit led by a convicted criminal promoting UKIP events on that organisation’s Facebook page instantly looks bad, especially when that leader asserts that “they [UKIP] are saying exactly what we say, just in a different way – do you know what I mean?”.
And that is the inevitable consequence of playing fast and loose with the kinds of issues that affect the UK economy at the expense of cheap opportunism and repeatedly banging on about migration – so that groups like the EDL latch on to you. Farage and Co might exclude EDL members from UKIP membership, but he’s got a tough job to wash off any taint by endorsement.
But that’s going to become part of the job for the fantasy land party.