Escape from Ukip: Tired of the Political Correctness of the Left, Aidan Rankin Joined Ukip. Becoming Right-Wing Gave Him a Sense of Excitement, Akin to Indulging in Sexual "Rough Trade". but He Found a Bleak World of Bigots Who Hated Foreigners, Gays and Muslims
Rankin, Aidan, New Statesman (1996)
The scene was a dinner, organised by the Salisbury Review, somewhere in the depths of the Carlton Club. It was an occasion of right-wing triumphalism, or a rallying of the troops, but I felt neither triumphant nor rallied, only irritated and bored. I listened, with increasing loathing, to a repertoire of anti-Muslim barbs from people who knew nothing whatsoever about Islam and were proud of their ignorance. I listened to conspicuously affluent men and women inveigh against scroungers, appeal to the work ethic, condemn asylum-seekers as criminals and call for people to be charged for visiting the doctor. This, apparently, "worked perfectly well in the old days", although few people gathered around the table were born before 1945.
A drunken academic accused me of being "anti-western" when I supported Palestinian autonomy. Palestinians were "Muslims" and "terrorists". At this supposedly intellectual gathering, not one single idea, substantial or ethereal, was expressed. Soon, my disgust was tempered by self-loathing. I would rather be just about anywhere but here. So why was I here, listening to mean-minded philistinism and being eyed disapprovingly every time I dissented? How on earth had I ended up on the right--and was I ever going to be able to leave it?
It took me two more years to leave the right fully. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to use the past tense when I describe it. When I awake in the morning, I relish the sudden realisation that, no, I am no longer right-wing.
Looking back, I feel that being on the right was like losing a part of my self. In shamanic cultures, there is a widespread theory of "soul theft". This is the belief that an individual's soul can be captured, and then manipulated, by an external force. Soul theft is blamed for a wide range of ailments, from serious physical and mental illness to feelings of inner emptiness, and soul retrieval is an important part of the shaman's work. The process of soul theft can be long and insidious, with the affected individual becoming a willing collaborator.
Soul theft is an accurate depiction of the experience of becoming right-wing. It starts as a vague impression, then progresses--if that is the word--into a world-view; it begins as a bad mood, then becomes a permanent, brooding anger. One doesn't wake up one morning and find oneself transformed into a reactionary, a political version of the clerk in Kafka's Metamorphosis, who awakes as a gigantic insect. Instead, right-wingery takes over gradually, crowding out conflicting thoughts, until suddenly it defines and underlies everything.
I should begin by saying that there were two types of right-wing ideology that never appealed to me. One is "far-right" racism and the scapegoating of immigrants or refugees, given voice by the British National Party, but believed in by many members of the UK Independence Party, the Eurosceptic groupuscules and the Tory party's "traditionalist" right. This has always profoundly repelled me, both for its creeping totalitarianism and its simple-minded classification of individuals by race or group.
The second strand of right-wing thinking that held no appeal was the ersatz religion of "market forces", part consumerist cargo cult and part fundamentalist reworking of 19th-century liberalism. That approach is equally off-putting because of its personal heartlessness and its superstitious regard for the market's "hidden hand". In its naive, mechanistic view of human society, and its belief in permanent revolution, the neoliberal right resembles the most extreme variants of Trotskyism.
These two tendencies--traditionalist xenophobia and market fundamentalism--dominate the British right. They coexist quite happily within individual right-wingers, although they are contradictory. Market ideology gives economic forces precedence over nations and traditions, after all, and places corporate rule before "national sovereignty". …