The new leader of UKIP in the Assembly has made clear his belief that his victory in the internal election was a direct result of his policy of abolishing the Assembly and that he now expects the whole party to fall into line behind him and support that policy line. In a party with so few members, his 269-vote mandate is probably enough to carry the day and revert to the anti-devolution position that the party long maintained. The real surprise is not so much that the party is swinging back towards hostility to devolution as that it ever made its fragile peace with the concept in the first place. Still, as individuals and as a party, they have every right to campaign for the abolition of the Assembly, and indeed for the elimination of the Welsh language and all signs of Welsh identity if they wish. Itâ€™s up to those of us who disagree to make the positive counter arguments, something which necessarily involves rather more than name-calling.
Itâ€™s not so long ago that UKIP were arguing that devolution in Wales was all part of an evil plot by the EU to divide and conquer. Indeed, just two months ago, UKIP Scotland was still arguing that Brexit would expose â€œâ€¦ the Scottish Parliament and devolution for what it really is. An EU plot to by-pass National Parliaments and create a Europe of Regionsâ€�, and that â€œOutside the EU there is no need for the devolved assembliesâ€� because â€œAll the assemblies have ever done is administrate and implement EU legislationâ€�.
Their basis for this strange belief has always been a complete mystery to me; itâ€™s as though the history of campaigning for domestic parliaments in Wales and Scotland before the EU was even established is somehow completely erased, and the national movements only sprang into existence at the instigation of the EU in order to help those horrid Brussels bureaucrats implement their dastardly plans. It also somewhat glosses over the less-than-helpful response of â€˜Brusselsâ€™ to the campaign for Catalan independence â€“ if they really wanted to create a â€˜Europe of the Regionsâ€™, an objective observer might suppose that theyâ€™d be actively supporting a movement for independent membership of the EU by a â€˜regionâ€™ like Catalunya.
As another line in the statement by UKIP Scotland makes clear (â€œFor the first time in 40 years, people are realising that sovereignty and legislative supremacy lies in the UK Parliamentâ€�), the partyâ€™s outlook is based very much on a centralist Anglo-British nationalist perspective. From that perspective, the idea that anyone could ever espouse an identity which is any way different is anathema; it is the state which defines and gives identity, and the people must accept that. And the British state is the only â€˜naturalâ€™ unit of government – there should be nothing above and nothing below that level; independence and sovereignty are absolute and indivisible and belong to the centre. We should remember though that itâ€™s not only in UKIP that we find this dangerous form of nationalism; UKIP is merely the party which displays it most clearly. There are plenty in the Conservative and Labour Parties whose core beliefs differ little when it comes to the question of where sovereignty lies.