Hiatus, UKIP, and Dan Carlin


Monday 20 October 2014

I went on hiatus. Stupidly. I need to keep writing, and to not have written an entry makes it appear that my total output for the last nineteen days has been zero; however, I did write a brief article as part of my application for the Reuters Journalism Program:

In the United Kingdom, the south-eastern county of Kent is in the midst of a historic political shift. Jobs have been created slower than was expected of the governing Conservative Party, a problem experienced across the continent in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. This has been made worse by the lifting of restrictions on immigration from the European Union and a heightened sense of competition for work. Kent, the area of the mainland closest to Europe, has had a significant number of economic migrants settling in the region. This set of circumstances has proved to be perfect for the Eurosceptic, right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) to gain support.

UKIP Leader Nigel Farage Campaigning In South Shields
Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

Led by Kent-born Nigel Farage, UKIP has successfully used the current wave of immigration as their central argument for leaving the European Union. Currently, although economic migrants make up fewer than 3% of Kent’s population, they have been blamed for taking jobs from British nationals and continuing austerity. This strategy has led to a change in fortunes for the party which has been transformed from an extreme political ‘also-ran’ to being a serious competitor to the incumbent Conservatives.

It was a drastic transition for the county. In 2009, UKIP did not win a single seat on the Kent County Council. Yet in 2013, only four years later, they won 17 seats and managed to wrench several councils from Conservative hands into a status of ‘no overall control’. In this year’s European Parliamentary elections, UKIP doubled its constituency-members in the south-east of England (which includes Kent) from two to four, and claimed the defection of Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless, which has forced a by-election to be held on 20 November. Furthermore, since Douglas Carswell won his seat in Clacton, Essex on 10 October after he also defected to UKIP in similar circumstances, Farage has every reason to be upbeat by his party’s progress.

The notable aspect of these small victories in Kent is that they have come at the expense of the Conservative Party. Carswell and Reckless were Conservative MPs. The 17 seats gained in the county council elections were all won from the Conservatives. In the European elections, in Kent itself, UKIP won 11 out of 12 regions, the other being retained by the Conservatives. Since the Second World War, three-quarters of all MPs elected in Kent have been Conservative and other parties have often had to fight amongst themselves for what little influence remains. UKIP are unique because they have managed to be a populist right-wing alternative that is more conservative than the Conservatives – a tactic which is clearly paying off.

Whether this trend will continue, and UKIP keep eating into the Conservative’s support, will be revealed in the General Election in May. In the meantime, UKIP are trying to ride the wave, and have chosen Farage to contest a seat on the Kent coast, South Thanet (a Conservative constituency). Initial polls have been in his favour, but May is still a long way away.

At least I have done something since I last posted. And, no, I don’t think that I will get the position. Nevertheless it is lovely to prove to myself that I can still essay on current political events (and include an undertone of history too) – it makes me believe that I can make a success of my chosen career path. However, as well as the above reads, the odds are firmly stacked against me because I do not have a qualification in journalism, an apparent prerequisite for anything to do with the craft (which is not an apprenticeship). The beautiful irony of wanting to write for a living and having a BA (Hons) and an MA by Research is that I am overqualified to apply for apprenticeships and under qualified to get a position as a journalist!

Atomic bombing of Japan
The mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (on the left) and Nagasaki (right) from the Atomic bombs dropped on them in August 1945.

In an ideal world I would be doing something similar to what Dan Carlin does, but in the written form. Prompted by a post on Facebook from an author I follow, I began listening to Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast. The format is simple: over roughly three hours he speaks about a historical event or question. Somehow his enthusiasm and his ability to approach it from a relatively new angle makes it riveting. One of the first episodes I listened to was on the morality of dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. To brutally butcher his wonderfully composed essay, he concluded that it would be unfair to sweepingly label it immoral. The reasoning he gave was that the “logical insanity” of the time (both a buzz phrase of the piece and its title) meant that it was seen as a legitimate act of war. Moreover according to Carlin, it is wrong to judge previous events in a time of war by current moral standards. If something was wrong at the time then it can be called immoral; however, if it was deemed acceptable then it is tricky to label it as such.

Carlin’s format is superb. He goes away for three months with a co-producer of the show – known only as Ben – and they read around a dozen books on the subject of the next show, write the script, edit it several times, record it and then publish through various formats. It sounds pretty great to me. I would love to do something similar, except in a written form in a shorter time frame.

But how do I get to that point? Some huge issues darken my aspirations: namely that I need to be earning money to help out at home, so essaying (and, especially, researching for essays) is a free time recreational activity that I should be doing outside of working hours. No job, no money, so no essaying, just this rambling blog. I need to find a job, but I also must assuage the guilt I feel so that I can write relatively cogent material. Hopefully I will talk about something else tomorrow.