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My first reaction to the Ukip poster was that it just didn’t feel right, that it was out of place in English discourse. As we come up to St George’s day I have been looking into what being English means. More and more of us now define ourselves as English, despite the fact there hasn’t been a big conversation about what this means. The Scots and the Welsh have a clear idea about what being Scottish and Welsh means to them, mainly because thanks to devolution they have had a national conversation about their identity.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the English character can be broadly defined by our tolerance and open-mindedness towards those who politely respect the way we do things. (If you want to find out why you can download my podcast on Englishness.) This explains why Ukip’s poster jarred. Some commentators say we should ignore this blatant bit of publicity grabbing, in the same way you ignore the pub character once he has had one drink too many and turns from a being laugh into a lout. But it doesn’t seem right to “let go” of something when it is factually wrong, aggressive in tone, and intimidates those who have done nothing wrong.

It is plainly obvious that there are not 26 million people after my job, or anyone else’s job. The poster screams “I WANT TO SCARE YOU NO MATTER WHAT THE TRUTH IS.” Most people – no matter what their view on immigration is – know that the poster is untrue and suspect that Ukip’s leadership knew it was untrue when they commissioned it. I don’t think it will sit well with many to be emotionally used. The tone is them v us, with the emphasis on “them” being bad. Foreigners who work here are stealing something from “us”, even if they abide by the law and pay taxes. It can’t be a nice experience for a Polish person to walk past the poster on the way to work. This is not an environment we want to create in England. It is simplistic to say that you can stop “them” from taking “our” jobs by controlling UK boarders when a lot of people work for foreign owned companies. If we leave the EU Nissan (“they”) my decided to move their factory to Poland, taking (“our”) jobs with them. Ukip ignore the positives foreigners have brought.

The poster tell us something interesting about where Ukip are heading. Ukip, though they have UK in their name, are an England-protectionist Party. Their mainstream populism is based on trying to limit the impact globalisation has on England – including the fragmentation of the Union. The three main Parliamentary parties were very slow in dealing with the Ukip question. By shying away from asserting their own versions of Englishness they allowed Ukip to be the only political party who talked about an issue which a rising number of English people care about, even if Ukip paint a highly nostalgic picture. The Parties also did not give enough attention to the communitarian instincts of many English people. Julian Baggini, author of Welcome to Everytown observes: “The average British person… thinks that in order to receive benefits and privilege and rights you need to be a fully paid up member to your community, your locality…” This is the space that allowed Ukip to establish.

The poster, coupled with Farage’s Spring Conference Speech, has seen Ukip move away from being the voice of the average Englander. There is now a nasty edge to Ukip’s message, which goes against our instinct for tolerance. Ukip now present the choice as being as stark as the difference between black and white, when most of us know life is a lot more complicated than that. The fact that Ukip are led by a man named Farage and the head of Comms is called O’Flynn suggests that the leadership should be more aware that England has successfully assimilated outsiders for centuries. Our history tells us that we are at our best when we look outwards and are involved around the World, not when we pull the barriers down. Ukip seem to have made the decision to double down on the fear and ignore the open-minded side of Englishness. This will solidify some of their supporters, but also put off some of those who were flirting with them. The three main parties should react to this by talking about Englishness – an identity that is confident enough to adapt to the world as it is.

Nick Denys is Head of Digital at Bright Blue. He tweets @betapolitics.