“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance” Leonard H. Courtney (1832 – 1918)
Ironically, over the period of the local and European elections, the one where the widely-derided UKIP has just gained a substantial number of local council seats, I have been working on an academic conference about cultural and racial diversity. UKIP have had a quite a few mentions, all of them in the context of intolerance or racism.
I have worked on many academic conferences and what is very noticeable is how international the world of research is. Usually, the Lingua Franca is English (ho ho ho), but British people are just one minority amongst many.
Although many people are disappointed by the gains that UKIP has made, but it is a pretty incompetent organisation and I doubt their floundering leader will survive many more PR disasters, or too much close scrutiny of their policies.
Despite UKIP’s gains, one thing that does reassure me is that, after a surge a few years ago, it seems the British National Party (BNP) has sunk without a trace, and I hope to see the same for UKIP by the time of the general election in 2015.
It pays to read the small print, and I think a great number of UKIP’s new voters will know nothing of their manifesto beyond the rhetoric. In those “seaside towns that they forgot to close down”, there is a fertile, uninformed mass that forget why the industries that originally built their communities were ruined, not by immigrants, but by The Hegemony Within. Yes, the Conservative Party, led by Margaret Thatcher’s jealous misanthropy, that blamed the poor for their own misfortune whilst simultaneously stealing from them, and selling the assets of their labour to their cronies. Nothing has changed.
Right-wing sympathies are nurtured by hard times, and UKIP’s gains are a protest demonstration by isolated and embittered, but uninformed people. However, it is easy to forget who is the real threat to liberty, prosperity and peace in this country, and that is the UK Conservative Party.
At this conference, hosted within the timeless and patriarchal environs of the Cutler’s Hall in Sheffield, the only painted depictions of women (other than a few plus-ones) are Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, but more often than not, the demographic of the academic world is predominantly women. It is very easy to forget many of the hard-won gains of liberal society but, as Tony Benn said “every generation must fight the same battles over and over again”, and continued tolerance and equality demand a continuous subscription rather than a one-off payment. Also, academic conferences are notoriously hardcore (for the delegates). Normally, they are attended by highly dedicated people who take their work very seriously and don’t spend their time on junkets. This is a world that seems a very long way from sleeze of politics.
Some of my friends berate me for characterising all Conservatives in the same way as I do for the execrable Thatcher’s Boys on the government front bench. Much as I would hate to offend my own friends, I make no apology. Despite the fact that there are truly ethical politicians on both sides of the house, these are political parties and as such represent a common cause. What’s more, without a voting majority, some of the more punitive measures that this government is responsible for would not pass muster, so they all need to accept responsibility or leave.
Pictured here is the conference lunch, an appropriately modest selection of sandwiches and crisps, augmented with a few items of hot finger food, cake and fruit, for a thoughtful, considerate and modest delegation.
The food was good quality, although I must say that modesty is an overrated virtue, and next time I hope the accommodating spirit of diversity prides itself with a bit more fabulosity and furnishes its delegates with a multi-cultural and celebratory feast to be proud of.
I remain vigilant.