Ukip is an “anti-politics” movement, appealing to voters who see the old parties as socially liberal, politically correct and captured by minority interest groups. Major party membership has haemorrhaged and many people no longer believe in the messages coming from Westminster, proclaimed by baby-faced politicians who speak as if they are members of another species.
This disengagement from mainstream politics echoes the growing detachment from mainstream religious groups. White, working-class Brits have deserted the pews, which are now occupied by immigrants from India, Nigeria and the Philippines. In England’s former Catholic heartlands, such as Liverpool archdiocese, fewer than one in 10 baptised Catholics attend Mass. Nearby in Preston ”“ the very heart of recusant Catholicism ”“ a historic church was about to close before the Syro-Malabar faithful from India agreed to take it on.
The trend is clear: more and more British people no longer belong to our country’s great institutions and care little for our leaders, whether they are bishops or politicians. Instead, they believe in nothing and everything.
Out of this political wasteland has emerged Nigel Farage, whose chief attraction is his very unpolitical way of saying what many think and his ability to annoy the po-faced liberal establishment.
Nigel Farage is not especially religious, though he describes himself as an Anglican. But recently he has started talking about Britain’s “Judeo-Christian” heritage, a phrase associated with the American religious Right. Woolfe also drops the term into our conversation. For him, the party is more than just a working-class protest vote. He regards Ukip as a true “one-nation party”, with support across the country, and “a natural party for Roman Catholics like myself”.
Catholic bishops would dispute that ”“ but not, it seems, by engaging with representatives of Ukip. If they do regard voting for the party as un-Christian, they have yet to explain precisely why. The same is true of their Anglican counterparts. Ironically, the only Church leader to have met representatives of Ukip, and debated Britain’s Christian heritage with them is the Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, a Pakistani immigrant.