The following is a narrative of a conversation I had with a UKIP voter on Twitter this morning. The nature of the beast (Twitter, not the person I was talking to) means that when multiple conversations get going, the thread can be tough to follow from the outside, so here it is a little plainer. Lest I be accused of warping the discussion, the original posts are all here. I don’t actually know if ‘J Norse’ is male or female so for the sake of argument I’ve gone with male descriptors.
Seeing ‘RIP Lee Rigby’ trending on the day UKIP was poised to win the UK European elections put an ugly thought into my mind.
“Want to take thoroughly depressing odds on how long it takes someone to say “vote UKIP in honour of Lee Rigby”? May actually throw up,” I tweeted.
Before long J Norse got back to me on the matter. “Not in honour, but to hopefully avoid any future happenings,” he said.
This struck me as somewhat odd. “How would UKIP MEPs do anything to stop that?” I asked.
“By not allowing such immigrants into the UK, [having] more thorough background checks and tougher sentences that EU won’t allow.”
It’s a common enough misconception I suppose. J’s not the only person who thinks Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo are foreigners. They’re not though, however well the narrative might aid some.
“Tougher sentences don’t work,” I responded. “Loads of studies on that; look at America. And both attackers were British.”
Truthfully I thought that might stop the discussion there. There’s no credible evidence to suggest capital punishment – a big yay! of the far right – actually deters crime at all. J wasn’t sold though.
“They’re not British, though, are they? How can been [sic] born here give you that right? It just messes with heritage.” I confess I wasn’t sure exactly what he was getting at there. The only guess I could hazard as to how either of Fusilier Rigby’s attackers wouldn’t be considered as British were due to their religion or race, and aren’t we forever being told that UKIP’s not about that? J wasn’t done however.
“And American politics/culture cannot be compared to UK. We don’t know as we had tried it [sic]. We know current laws don’t work.”
Quite honestly, I’m not sure what you can do to deter murder that we don’t do already. It’s already illegal & punishable by life imprisonment. If you want to call it terrorism that’s against the law too. There’s nothing UKIP, or anyone else for that matter, can do on top. We’d already covered capital punishment’s failing.
“We have tried it,” I said. “We tried it for centuries where capital punishment was a daily occurrence. It didn’t work.” It’s really not that long ago (the 60s) when the UK state last executed someone for murder. Breach of half the articles of war in Nelson’s navy were punishable by death. The threat of summary destruction isn’t something we’ve failed to dally with over the past few centuries.
“Imagine the taxes we’d save on not looking after them,” proposed J. “It I about mindset [sic], I would show no mercy and would never surrender.”
Sadly for J, this is another argument that doesn’t hold water. It costs considerably more money to execute a citizen of the state than it does to jail them for life. I’ve looked into this a lot over the years. I know what I’m talking about.
“I don’t have to imagine,” was my retort. “I know for a fact capital punishment costs more than incarceration. And why are you quoting Spartan idioms?” Surely I can’t have been the only one picturing Gerry Butler at Thermopylae.
“Not intentional,” said J. “Just a feeling shared by another genetically strong group.”
I’ll admit I winced a little reading that. “What makes your group so strong,” was the immediate question on my lips, but disagreeing though we were, J and I were at least being civil to each other and I didn’t want to inflame the situation. Plus it seemed that J had gotten confused on another issue, so I addressed that instead.
Going back to the Rigby murder, I asked, “You realise immigration means coming from outside? If they were born here, they’re not immigrants. Same as you and me.”
The moment I’d posted it I guessed the last sentence would cause some issue. No one likes to be compared to a murderer. When we’re talking nationality though, it is true. There have been murderers in every country ever conceived in human history; there’s nothing special about the UK which exempts us from this and being born here grants both of them British citizenship.
Predictably enough, J took issue. “They are not the same as me,” he said. As well as that however, he went with, “I’m of Viking heritage. Many generations here.”
“So you’re an immigrant then?” was the question I posed. I wasn’t being facetious. Well, not entirely. But J had just said that Rigby’s two attackers weren’t British despite being born here. I wanted to narrow down what he was getting at.
“How many bacteria evolved into humans on these shores?” was his rhetorical question. “But it’s a generation thing. It’s like arguing all continents were once joined, therefore we are from the same country. How far back do you want to go?”
That last one’s a fair question. Personally I’m quite fond of the fact that all of us with our different ticks, habits, cultures, looks, customs and favourite Game of Thrones characters all came from the same place. I think it links us quite nicely.
We do have nations though, and as a result we have different nationalities. When (socially, not legally) do you become a ‘true’ member of a nation? Is it upon birth within its territories? Is it when you move there, or pass some form of test? Is it only for second or third-generation immigrants? That’s an interesting discussion, I think.
J had already answered it before I got a chance to engage however. “It is about race, heritage, culture.”
That’s when I stopped talking to him because whilst there had been a tiny angel on my shoulder throughout hoping to convince him he was wrong on the matter, there was a considerably larger and louder devil on the other all along who had known what J was getting at and just wanted him to say it out loud.
J’s just one voter but he’s not atypical. UKIP are going to win the elections today and they’re going to do it on the back of populist and unfounded fear of people who look, sound and act slightly differently to what most of us are used to. They’re going to shame us all.
J felt he was from a superior genetic group and was voting UKIP upon what basis?
“It’s about race.”
At least he was honest. Don’t let the others fool you for a moment. And as it turns out, someone had already made the Rigby/UKIP connection before it had ever darkened my mind.