Brother Ivo generally thinks well of his fellow man.
He has met extreme selfishness, foolishness and even a few psychopaths who were so removed from normal human empathy as to be significantly dangerous to ordinary society. Yet, by and large, he finds it relatively easy to love his fellow man.
He has been involved in a number of controversies, professionally and within voluntary organisations, not least, for many years, the Church, yet he has always assumed his opponents to be good people who have not yet been convinced or won over. Even those who can never been persuaded have rarely been such thoroughgoing scoundrels as to be regarded as truly monstrous.
In short, Brother Ivo regards himself as a very traditional British kind of person.
As a result of this experience, he never regarded the growth of a movement and party which wished to resume the Constitutional autonomy over governance of our country as anything inappropriate or indicative of deep moral failure.
He does not believe that the majority of Her Majesty’s subjects (a term he cheerfully embraces as part of his cultural identity) are hateful, intolerant, inward looking, or xenophobic, and so perceives the growth of support for UKIP as many things, but certainly not symptomatic of incipient racism, homophobia, mysogeny or narrow minded isolationism. The country which produced Adam Smith, William Wilberforce, Emily Pankhurst and Winston Churchill has earned the right to a fair hearing for its peoples on such matters. All expressed a minority view at some points in their careers.
We are also a people that has taken forward the puritan legacy into its democratic institutions. We tolerate income inequality because by and large, alternatives which do not, function less well than our own imperfect system. Our dominant Parliamentary Chamber is the prosaically named ” House of Commons”, entry to which has admitted a wide variety of folk over the years including many of non-standard backgrounds.
We may not be perfect but we have tended to be comfortable enough in our attitudes of mutual respect for many to like us enough to wish to join our society despite its and our imperfections.. They still wish to come in significant numbers which is both a testament to our virtues, and a practical conundrum which will have to be balanced and resolved.
As Mr Farage began to earn an audience for his small party’s proposals to leave the EU, we gave him a hearing, and because of a rather plucky persistence, he began to earn a respect which grew when he delivered a rather insulting address to Herman von Rumpoy in the European Parliament.
Mr von Rumpoy is a pretty inoffensive fellow yet represents a political class both within Europe and within this country which had seen both itself and its project, grow, and continue to grow. In recent times, many in the UK have concluded that that class ought to be diminished. Such rejection shows itself in many forms.
There is a shareholder rebellion against bankers bonuses. We are seeing a distrust of the complacent safe seat MP whose sinecure is under threat from the recall proposals of Zac Goldsmith and open primary selection proposed by Douglas Carswell. In Labour ranks the dynastic successions for the Kinnocks, Straws, Blairs and Prescotts attract suspicion. Toby Youngs Countryb4Party initiative is a similar manifestation.
We all hate the financial gravy train of the serial quangocrat and the highly paid Charity/ NGO merry go round, especially because frequently they are dependent on Government largesse dispensed by political friends. This offends the ordinary working voter.
Many of those voters are at the sharp end of free competition and immigration entry: they do not have the funds to opt out of public services which may be free at the point of delivery, but can come with a worryingly lengthening queue.
Into this pool of resentment Mr Farage dipped a toe, took a few steps and then pronounced
“Come on in, the waters lovely”.
He is set to do well. He has earned it, for like Boris Johnson and Ken Livingston, he has a cheerful and populist personality which survives most of the insults hurled at him.
If Mr Farage unsettles the political class however, it is because he may resemble another politician far more damaging to their interests.
Brother Ivo likens him to George Wallace.
This is in no way to accuse him of racism with which George Wallace was undoubtedly tainted, but Mr Farage isn’t.
The history is worth a few moments thought.
Wallace entered public life as a rather liberal judge. In the racially segregated South he was liked and respected by black lawyers because when fancy northern advocates came down with high ideals but disinclined to speak directly to them, Walkace showed the local men courtesy and consideration, if only to irritate the Yankees. As a Governor he received a significant black vote, for, whatever his racist rhetoric, he was known to give black schools an equal book budget, and many disadvantaged parents saw education as the only chance in life their children had. THe They voted for him in large numbers on the ” better the devil you know” principle.
He had once narrowly lost an election to a more extreme segregationalist and famously resolved that he would never be ” out-niggered” again. Late in life, after he had been shot and paralysed, he returned to his roots and openly apologised to the victims of his former rhetoric and was forgiven, perhaps with a significant degree of Christian graciousness which acknowledged that there was more to him than that.
His defining sin was not racism – but ambition.
None of this applies to Nigel Farrage, but as his opponents on all sides round on him, seeking to pin the racist tail on the populist donkey, they are finding that onlookers are not as pliable as the ruling parties and bien pensant commentators assume.
In the coming Euro elections it looks as if UKIP will not only do extraordinarily well, but might indeed tear up the assumptions of the party strategists and spin doctors.
The UKIP vote may draw out the previously electorally dormant. That will be an achievement beyond the capacity of the established parties. It may well reach across the community divide to draw in second or third generation immigrants who can tell the difference between ordered immigration entry and racism.
What will be particularly interesting, and will seal the Wallace comparison, will be if UKIP detaches a significant portion of the ” blue collar vote” from its lifelong habit of voting Labour. THis is not certain to happen but it is not impossible.
George Wallace was a game changer who never held national office. His failed attempt at third party politics paved the way for the Reagan landslide as the South turned Republican in a seismic change in electoral history. That had once been unthinkable.
Subsequently, the US South moved on from its history of racial tension far more successfully than its Northern victors. The fastest growing city economies today are largely in those Southern States, notably Texas Georgia and The Carolinas.
Mississippi -for all its continuing problems – has more black elected officials than any other State in the Union.
Conversely, the racial and poverty divide is now most deeply to be found in the North, in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Washington.
Wallace triggered a political change that brought with it economic resurgence. He almost certainly never foresaw or planned it; he had some pretty bad supporters along the way and yet his intervention in mid-20th century history has proved beneficial in breaking the mould of politics. He was far more significant in this than our own comparison, the SDP -which also never quite made it.
Brother Ivo is not blind to the deficiencies of George Wallace: he was possibly Brother Ivo’s first political “hate figure”, growing up as he did during the Civil Rights years and thrilling to the words of Dr Martin Luther King”. Yet Dr King worked with Lyndon Johnson to achieve lasting beneficial change despite Johnson being every bit the racist as George Wallace.
Johnson calculated that his “Great Society” welfare programmes would earn the support of the American black voters for generations. It did, but it also consigned them to generations of dependency poverty from which they have never escaped, despite persistently voting Democrat, and all the efforts at PC correction.
Conversely it was in Wallace’s South that the economy powered on, and it is in that environment that we are seeing the free market black conservatives making their mark with people like like Alan West, Herman Cain and Conoleeza Rice.
It would however, be foolish to make too close a comparison between either the men or the context.
History does suggest however that every so often a figure catches the wave of public opinion and discontent with the status quo , and changes the political landscape decisively. Nobody would have predicted that about George Wallace and he was rightly criticised for his obviously immoral rhetoric.
He did however prove one of Brother Ivo’s favourite principles that it is always better to be under estimated.
If things turn out as Brother Ivo suspects, Mr Farrage will have a contribution in the reconfiguring of future politics. Come what may, the others will have to react. UKIP will have been be part of a movement to put down the mighty and the complacent from their seats.
How one reconciles biblical prophesy and Schadenfreude is above the pay grade of this humble commentator.