For some time I have thought there are many similarities between the Greens and UKIP, and now I will try and articulate that. This might imply that they should team up in the forthcoming election, although I have nothing to say on the tactical wisdom of that.
The common ground of the Greens and UKIP became clear to me after reading Chris Rose’s book “What makes people tick”. One of the questions he asked among the many surveys he has conducted with thousands of people over the years, is this: “We should all care for nature – to what extent do you agree?”
The people who would typically vote for UKIP, the so-called settlers – people seeking security and resisting change – strongly support this notion. They agree with this statement much more strongly than prospectors – people who are more likely to support Labour and the Conservatives.
Nature gives us security and reliability. Its regular cycles provide familiar markers throughout the year, shaping our routines and habits,. The land around us is part of what constitutes our sense of place, our home – the things which are close to us and to which we are rooted. People who do not like change or threats to the familiar, anchor themselves to the familiar and that includes the natural world around them. Hence the affection that settlers feel for nature.
I think that people’s support of UKIP reveals their feeling that what they know and what they hold dear is threatened by change they cannot control. They want to feel belonging but they feel alienated. What they belong to and what they would like to have some control over is wrested from them by the economic elite, by politicians in Brussels and London, by multinational companies which deliberately undermine local identity, by the forces of economic growth which cement up the land around them, and, as some might perceive, by the arrival of alien cultures and behaviours amongst them. (Yes, our species has deeply ingrained tribal tendencies and blithely to expect people easily to overcome that instinct is unreasonable.)
The Green Party’s emphasis on the local, on protecting the environment, on economic equality reflects the same grievances as UKIP voters have. There might be a difference in how we deal with the question of having many cultures in one place. Apparently UKIP voters feel threatened by multiculturalism and Green voters embrace it. But I wonder how honest the Green voters are to themselves when they say they have overcome their tribal instincts and welcome people of all cultures around them; just as I wonder when UKIP voters feel instinctive discomfort at strange people around them, whether on reflection, they don’t actually realise that the issue is complex and needs careful and compassionate debate.
Despite both groups espousing the local, surely both could join in supporting the political and economic case for fostering peace and well-being in foreign countries from which immigrants escape, so that people actually feel comfortable living there and don’t feel the need to move to the UK.
The fly in the ointment is UKIP’s odd denial of climate change. I think this is the stupid side of UKIP. Recently UKIP supporter Arron Banks was interviewed in the Financial Times and was quoted as saying he cannot stand … “pinkos” and former public school boys. That, too, is the stupid side of UKIP. To be taken more seriously, UKIP has to discipline people who shoot from the hip, speaking unthinkingly, ignorantly, rudely, uncaringly or without compassion. But there is a principled case for policies which work to create security and well-being and to reverse the forces of alienation described above. UKIP has to bolster the intellectual groundings of its policies by working through that principled case. When it starts to do that it should realise that to care for your home and the land around you means that you have to take climate change seriously.
Until UKIP does that, the Greens would do well to work out how to appeal to the UKIP supporter base, many of whom would agree with the aims and values of Greens, especially if expressed in a down-to-earth way and not with threatening self-righteousness. But if UKIP does grow up, then the two parties could start to look very similar.