If the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 starts to play in the background of the film or television programme you are watching, you can bet good money that something sad, terrible or otherwise wrenchingly significant is about to happen, if it isn’t already unfolding on screen.
What better piece of music to choose, then, when crafting the soundtrack for the scene in your fake documentary where a future UKIP government MP takes the stage at a conference to announce Britain’s tough new immigration policy?
One can guess the bias of Channel 4’s fictional UKIP: The First 100 Days by the mere fact that it was produced and shown on television at all. It continues a noble tradition of “what if” mockumentaries imagining what would happen if some terrible catastrophe were to befall Britain – a smallpox outbreak, major terrorist incident, and now, apparently, the election of Nigel Farage as Britain’s next Prime Minister. That the filmmakers consider a (thoroughly inconceivable) UKIP general election victory to be a calamity on the same scale as a global smallpox pandemic tells you everything you need to know when judging their level of impartiality.
In the opening montage, we are treated to the sight of a bald, white, working-class market trader casually referring to British Sikhs as one of “your lot” when greeting UKIP’s new Asian woman MP for Romford. Because that is just how all white working class people think and talk, rubes that they are, according to the received wisdom of the London-based middle class liberals who make these programmes.
Indeed, everyone supportive of UKIP is depicted by the programme as a knuckle-dragging old school xenophobe in one way or another. Says one caller to an LBC talk show: “I’m not racist, I’m just saying there’s just too many of them everywhere. I walk down Whitechapel and, you know, it shouldn’t be called Whitechapel any more. It should be called Ethnic Chapel”.
As markets digest the shock election results, the programme shows the FTSE dropping by 90 points as though this were Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns all rolled into one. Quelle horreur! The FTSE falls more than 90 points if Tesco’s acting CFO passes a loose stool in the morning. Is short-term stock market uncertainty now supposed to be the final, definitive argument against Brexit? And why is this argument being advanced by the same people who spend every other day of the week moaning that financial speculation and the fickle nature of markets are the one great evil preventing British industry from making sober, long-term decisions in the best interests of the country?
Sure, the spectacle of newly redundant workers streaming out of the factory gates cursing their local UKIP MP (whose ruinous policies prompted the business to shut down in a fit of pique days after the election, apparently) makes for compelling fictionalised footage.
What a pity that there is no similarly arresting way to dramatise the millions of jobs never created in the first place, the economic growth stymied, the innovations and great leaps forward killed in the crib as a direct result of European Union bureaucracy and anticompetitive regulation. It’s hard to wring compelling drama from an accountant deciding not to follow her dream and quit her 9-5 job to open a restaurant that eventually grows into a global chain, or from a medium-sized enterprise dissuaded from opening a second factory because of Brussels regulations – even BBC Parliament would draw more viewers. But that doesn’t mean that these unheard stories, replicated millions of times up and down the country, are any less important.
In many ways, UKIP: The First 100 Days plays out like the tortured nightmare of a very particular type of left-winger – London dwelling, very credulous, highly susceptible to Labour Party talking points, full of hatred for the Evil Tories and possessed of a racism detector whose needle jerks violently from “OK” to “Enoch Powell” when confronted with the slightest equivocation about the inherent goodness of fully open borders and the abolition of national sovereignty.
Such an adolescent mind quite probably does fret the night away, genuinely believing that opposition to British membership of the European Union is “racist”, while being too stridently partisan to grasp the difference between UKIP’s condemnation of unlimited immigration from within the EU and a secret, burning desire to deport all of the darkies. And it was evidently just such a collection of minds who made this mockumentary.
Why else would a party whose stated core objective is the removal of Britain from the European Union be portrayed wasting so much effort and political capital instructing the police and Home Office agents to start a campaign of racially profiled immigration raids, instead of busying itself with the years of legal, bureaucratic and diplomatic effort required to cut Britain loose from Brussels?
It is frankly implausible that UKIP’s first and only Asian woman MP would crumble at the first sign of pressure and pivot to immigrant-bashing as a means of deflecting attention from supposed business closures resulting from Brexit, as happens in the programme. Would the fictional Deepa Kaur MP, an articulate Oxford graduate, really be so stumped for words that she would draw a link between illegal immigration and unemployment that even UKIP high command do not make (UKIP blame legal inter-EU movement of people for British unemployment and wage suppression, not illegal immigration from beyond the EU)?
Nonetheless, UKIP: The First 100 Days makes for an effective piece of anti-UKIP propaganda because it seeks to turn the party’s strength, and key differentiator between racist parties such as the BNP or Britain First, into a weakness. Rogue local candidates and loose cannons aside, the core message emanating from today’s UKIP is one of a colourblind attitude toward immigration and the belief in multiracialism but not multiculturalism. But if you can succeed in portraying UKIP’s future actions in government as so extreme as to alienate their only Asian woman MP, then suddenly you’re back in business. Then you can suggest that UKIP is no different to the BNP, and Nigel Farage no different to Marine Le Pen.
And yet there is currently no cognitive dissonance at the thought of an Asian woman representing a constituency like Romford as a UKIP MP. Under Nigel Farage UKIP has generally sought to promote and inculcate a sense of Britishness based not on one’s ethnic heritage but on the acceptance of common British values, obedience of the law, and loyalty to the country that guarantees liberty to its citizens. Minority ethnic families, including many second and third generation people of Indian descent, are quite likely to hold similar beliefs when it comes to nationality, as well as small-C conservative values which would make them potential UKIP voters if only the scepticism barrier could be surmounted.
Perhaps the most telling moment in UKIP: The First 100 Days occurs when Deepa Kaur, the fictional UKIP MP for Romford, is accosted by a member of the public while out launching the new Festival of Britain national holiday. “Send them all back. Obviously not you, love” says the generic white, skinhead, working class man to the newly promoted Home Office minister. “Send them back. Keep this country British. It’s only fair that you should be rewarded for being, you know, more like us”.
And there, in that robotic phrase, is the problem with Channel 4’s whole documentary. Of course none of the filmmakers personally support UKIP, that much hardly needs to be said. But it is also painfully apparent that the producers have no friends, family, colleagues or acquaintances who support UKIP either, and have absolutely no reference point on which to draw when trying to get inside the mind of a Ukipper. Consequently, the UKIP-supporting characters in the film are a lazy pastiche drawn together from derisory articles in the likes of the Guardian and the Independent.
UKIP supporters do not just want Britain’s minority communities to be “more like us”. Many of them, particularly longtime supporters, couldn’t care less about multicultural issues at all, having been attracted to the party primarily by their common euroscepticism. But even the newer supporters, spurred on by anger about immigration and distrust of unmitigated multiculturalism, don’t necessarily want Britain’s ethnic minorities to abandon their cultures and assume a bland, uniformly English lifestyle.
If you actually take time to talk to UKIP supporters for any length of time, what you will sense is a yearning for a common sense of Britishness to return, one which we all share, intertwined with whatever other identities we may hold dear. You can agree with UKIP or you can think that patriotism is old fashioned and the nation state increasingly irrelevant, but these people deserve better than to be portrayed as cookie-cutter racists by lazy infotainment makers who couldn’t even be bothered to carry out basic research on their topic, preferring to cobble together a one-hour programme based on stereotypes, assumptions and conjecture.
But most galling of all is the way in which Deepa Kaur MP is portrayed as seeing the “error of her ways” by the end of the programme. Having played the part of Nigel Farage’s ethnic minority stooge throughout the storyline, UKIP’s standard bearing Asian woman MP suddenly makes a 180-degree U turn and denounces the crackdown on illegal immigration in a mea culpa speech that feels like the work of a third-rate British Aaron Sorkin. Here the stench of left-wing moral superiority is most strong – ethnic minorities have no business supporting UKIP, it is implied, and those that do most be made to see the error of their ways.
The message from Channel 4‘s latest pseudo-thought-provoking mockumentary is quite clear. It is, of course, a message concocted by people with a deep antipathy to everything that UKIP stands for, and intended for consumption by those who share the same world view. And what is that message?
Watch out. The barbarians are at the gates.
Just as decadent Late Empire Romans doubtless thought out loud about what life might be like when their civilisation finally crumbled, so now the beneficiaries of Britain’s broken political status quo are wondering what would actually happen if everyone else suddenly stopped voting against their own self-interest. And the fruit of their fevered daydream was UKIP: The First 100 Days.
The British people, particularly UKIP supporters, are of course free to vote and act as they wish, now they know the smirking contempt in which they are held by the liberal, mockumentary-making elite of this land.