Many observers of the political scene in Britain have been surprised by the news that three prominent YouTube figures loosely associated with the country’s online alt-right movement have formally joined the tiny, ultra-nationalist United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). The latter grouping had a fleeting impact in the UK during the early and mid-2010s, playing a significant role under its former populist leader, Nigel Farage, in the country’s anti-European Brexit referendum of 2016. However since that successful plebiscite the party’s meagre electoral fortunes have fallen even further, its disproportionate influence on British politics dissolving as its xenophobic raison d’être was fulfilled, with the Conservative Party and other rivals adopting its isolationist clothing.
The rabble-rousing writer and InfoWars star Paul Joseph Watson, the would-be comedian Mark Meechan, better known as Count Dankula, and the video provocateur Carl Benjamin, who publishes under the name Sargon of Akkad, have all pledged to work for UKIP, in a sign of its growing appeal to the libertarian-right and hard-right in Britain. An appeal which may result in its takeover by those ideological forces which had formerly confined themselves to the internet, given the leadership vacuum and chaos left behind in the party by the absence its larger-than-life ex-boss, Nigel Farage.
According to the Guardian newspaper in London, the move will,
…alarm some senior Ukip members already concerned at the struggling party’s direction under Gerard Batten.
Batten, who took control of the party in February on an initial one-year basis, has defined himself largely though anti-Islam rhetoric. He has also backed Tommy Robinson, the founder of the anti-Islam English Defence League (EDL) street movement, who was jailed in May for contempt of court.
The party’s rules forbid former members of the EDL or other far-right groups from joining. A Ukip spokesman confirmed that Watson, Meechan and Benjamin had joined, saying he “took issue” with the notion they were from the alt-right.
All three had spoken via social media of their intention to join Ukip, a process seemingly sparked earlier this month when Meechan promised to do so if the pledge was retweeted 10,000 times.
Batten’s sympathy towards such figures is not a surprise. He has spoken alongside Meechan and Benjamin at events connected to Robinson, and was recently photographed alongside Benjamin and Watson.
While the alternative-right in the United Kingdom has no readily identifiable or fixed centre and periphery, it is clear that UKIP now lies within its ambit, however loosely defined. However, in the case of the three trollish characters mentioned above, no one should be surprised if the sudden enthusiasm for electoral politics is no more than an elaborate 4Chan stunt to amuse their fringe followers and befuddle their mainstream critics.