One of the more interesting observational tweets (probably the only one, it is Twitter after all) coming out of the fallout of the general election was that Twitter is a tedious echo chamber and we, the Grauniad-reading, yoghurt-munching, The Wire-evangelising liberal idiots shouldn’t have been so surprised when the Tories won. We all thought it unimaginable that Labour would do so poorly, that UKIP would have any support at all, that Cameron and friends would have enough five years to do even greater damage than they already have.
During the last few days before voting, I decided to look through Twitter, not thinking people would actually be talking about UKIP in anything other than an amusingly derisive fashion. Twitter wasn’t for, UKIP supporters, was it? That was Facebook, Mumsnet and illigble scrawlings on the toilet doors in the pub. The platform tends to skew younger, so it’s no surprise to see the most politically active are younger people, but it was surprisingly to see so many people talking about UKIP in a positive manner. I was in the mood for a chat, mostly to see if they were actual human beings who believed all the shit they were spouting.
The first was a young woman whose profile picture featured her standing in the sun, holding a glass of wine, looking nothing like what I assume someone who spends 99% of her Twitter life talking about politics. This doesn’t reflect brilliantly on me, it’s just not what I imagined. She was 19 and her timeline was mostly shouting about people slagging off UKIP and retweeting lots of anti-Islamic news stories and blog posts from places like Britain First and various other, short-lived, anti-Islamic, transparently racist dickheads.
I asked her about the Islamic stuff, about how she felt about so many UKIP councillors being sacked or being reprimaned for being racists or saying stuff that seemed quite racist, even when stripped of the idiot’s defense — context.
“It’s just a few bad eggs, most of UKIP isn’t racist. A lot of this isn’t about race, it’s about this country. I don’t care if you’re black or white, as long as you abide by this country’s traditions.”
I asked her if I could put her name in the article. She said no. Her actual name — along with most of the people I talked to for this article — wasn’t put on her Twitter profile. A lot of them were members of the Egg Brigade (a name a Twitter friend coined for the legions of usually male, usually abusive Twitter trolls who are too insecure to upload a picture of themselves) and most were just really angry about Something. There was never a unifying theme, it was just Something Wrong that they were really cross about.
So here was the big, simple question. Why was she voting for UKIP?
“I’m voting for UKIP because they’re the only party that cares about this country.”
“They’re not going to leave this country in the lurch like Labour did. They’re going to fight for people in this country, not from Europe, or Africa.”
Did she realise, I asked, that she’s sounding a bit xenophobic?
“To you, maybe, but most people don’t feel that way. Most people are sick of being unable to book a GP’s appointment on the day. Sick of not being able to get a council house. Sick of how much money the NHS was spending on migrants.”
I took this opportunity to actually fact check what she was saying. This wasn’t a one-on-one interview, it was over email, so full disclosure, I didn’t just know all this stuff off the top of my head and blind her with facts.
“So, according to Full Fact, migrants who arrived from 2000-2011 contributed £5 billion more in taxes than they took out. In 2012-13, there were 377,561 social housing lettings in England. Around 27,000 of those were non-UK nationals. How is this vibing with the view that the UK is being overloaded by immigrants?”
Her reply comes back surprisingly quickly.
“Even if those facts are true, I’m not going to check, that’s still 27,000 houses not going to British people.”
But it’s not the neverending flood from Calais.
“It’s 27,000 and this is all because of Labour.”
Labour do not do well on Twitter during the general election. People keep accusing me of being a Labour supporter in the same angry manner someone might be called a child molester or a fan of Michael Bay movies.
Our emails are getting increasingly terse. She won’t reply about the anti-Islamic stuff on her timeline, only saying that it’s not racist to talk about the nationality and religion of the “child rapists in Leeds and Bradford.” I decide to leave it there, as it’s not really going anywhere and I think she’s really getting sick of me.
Another chap I talk to is so bloody proud of UKIP. It’s in his Twitter bio, it’s in the words he emails me, it’s in his proud tweets talking about how this is his first election and he’s “so fucking excited” to be voting for Nigel Farage. I ask again about racist councillors.
“They’re not all racist. Why is everyone always going on about racism? There was nothing bad said, it’s just political correctness and Labour councillors trying to eliminate the competition.”
I ask him why Labour don’t have reams of councillors being sacked for being racists.
“Labour had LOADS. Look at the Tories. It’s not just us. It shouldn’t be about race. Every party is going to attract a few bad eggs.”
UKIP seem to attract them a lot stronger than most parties.
“I disagree. I don’t believe that AT ALL. People are being attacked for being UKIP voters, did you know that? Did you know UKIP has a very diverse group of candidates.”
Some of my best councillors are black. So why is he voting UKIP? Why is he so excited about it all?
“Because this is the first time I’m going to be able to make my mark. This is my chance to make a difference. UKIP’s policies make the most sense. They’re not going to leave people like me behind while someone comes along on a dinghy and gets a free ride here.”
Another young person, a similarly excited young man, tells me that UKIP are party of freedom and liberty. I ask him how this makes sense when Nigel Farage, his mainest man, complained to the BBC over a joke on Have I Got News For You. How is he the leader of the party of freedom and free speech?
“Whoever went to the police went to it over electoral laws and libel.”
No laws were broken and it would’ve been slander, not libel, but these arguments are just ignored. It’s a common thread with these people. They can throw out facts and figures, but as soon as you counter them with your own facts and figures that you took five minutes to research and didn’t just copy and paste from your angry uncle’s Facebook wall, you’re ignored or called a Labour supporter.
So why are young people voting for UKIP? I think a lot of them just feel ignored. They’re not being engaged properly by Labour or the Lib Dems, or when it is, it’s just painfully patronising. They’ve grown up in Cameron and Clegg’s tired, demoralising Britain and want a change. The only option for them is Nigel. Good old Nigel who loves a pint, loves a fag, he’s such a bloke, so easy to identify. He’s not all stuffy like David Cameron or George Osborune. He’s cooler than Ed Miliband (although to be fair, the mould on that cheese I’ve had in the fridge for the last few months is cooler than Ed Miliband).
They’re looking for answers that a lot of parties either aren’t giving or aren’t even listening to the questions. I’m sure, like voters of most parties, that some of them are just hateful arseholes who will migrate to either Labour or the Conservatives when UKIP eventually self-destruct. I’m embarrased that my only post-election moment of joy was that all the people who swore, shouted and were generally just unpleasant wankers around me would be waking up to Farage being unelected.
I couldn’t vote for UKIP because I’m not convinced they’re a real party. Nigel Farage is just a highly sophisticted android designed by someone who wants to troll the main parties and generate a lot of ad revenue for the Daiy Mail. Some young voters are voting for them because they’re not old enough or jaded enough to see through Farage and his party’s policies.
Those lucky gits.