It sounds as though the Conservatives are a bit rattled about the growing popularity of the United Kingdom Independence Party. They've let out their attack-dog, veteran incoherent big-mouth Ken Clarke. He has described all those who vote for UKIP as racists and its politicians as clowns. This does little more than echo Cameron's 2006 assessment that UKIP is packed with ‘fruitcakes and closet racists’.
... incoherent big-mouth ...
“Clarke’s astonishing onslaught came,” the Daily Wail says, “as polls showed that Nigel Farage’s Eurosceptic party has overtaken the Liberal Democrats and is set for its best local election results ever on Thursday, when 35 county councils and unitary authorities in England and one in Wales go to the polls.”
Clarke and Cameron could well be right about the fruitcakes. There seems little doubt that some pretty shady figures have flocked to the new party.
People like Peter Cruddas who offered interviews with the Prime Minister for £250,000 ... oh no, wait, he was a Conservative. Or criminal expense-cheaters like Denis MacShane, Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Margaret Hodge ... no, wrong again, they were Labour. Or Lord Hanningfield ... no, Conservative again. Or Chris Huhne .... no, LibDem. Or Liam Fox .... oh well, you can see where I'm going with this, can't you? They're all f*cking twisters, so what's the difference?
Sure, UKIP is a young party with no track record and no experience. But Labour was a young party once, and did valuable and essential work representing a previously unenfranchised section of society, before under Tony Bliar it came of age and scrambled into the dizzy sunlit uplands of privilege, expenses claims, seats on the board, highly-paid consultancies and speaking engagements.
Sure, leader Nigel Farage is a bit of a plonker, but he's engaging and likeable. Ken Clarke is a bit of plonker too, but no one could call him likeable. Harriet Harperson is a plonker as well, and she's not just unlikeable, she's bloody dangerous. Being a plonker has never prevented anyone from being quite successful in politics – look at Boris Johnston, look at Lembit Opik, both of whom are idiots of the first water but who have over the years expressed some of the most sensible views we've heard.
... a bit of a plonker ...
Sure, UKIP doesn't appear to have a particularly well-thought-out manifesto, but as political manifestos are regarded (by politicians) as vote-catchers rather than a statement of any real intent, what does that matter? Remember that Cameron always promised us a referendum on EU membership?
Sure, UKIP stands little chance of gaining any real power either locally or nationally. But what they do have is the power to rattle the other parties, to put the wind up them as Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement has in Italy. What politicians need is a stark reminder that they enjoy their power and privilege only by courtesy of the voters, and that while they can ignore the public and treat them with contempt most of the time, just occasionally they need to shape up and take notice of what ordinary people think and want.
And would it be so bad if UKIP actually grew strong enough to have a deciding voice in real politics? We have in this country a deep-seated suspicion of coalition government. Look at Italy, we say, do we want to be like that? Well, no, we don't. But never forget the enormous self-interest our political masters have in perpetuating the two-party, first-past-the-post system. It's what keeps them in power. There hasn't been a single government since World War 2 that was elected by as much as 50% of the electorate – the two-party system ensures that we always have the government the majority of us didn't want.
We now have a coalition government, and has it actually been so bad? There's food in the shops, crime is falling, there's no more civil unrest in the streets that there has been in the past, our economy is stagnant but it's in slightly better shape than many in Europe. No, we probably wouldn't be any better off if the Tories had got an outright majority, and we'd be flushing ourselves down the pan if Labour had. There could be worse things than a coalition, and there could be much worse things than a coalition that included a few UKIP ministers and depended on the votes of some UKIP MPs.
Some years ago in a small town near the GOS, a young man was arrested for having indecent pictures of children on his computer – you know, the usual thing. The difference in this case was that the young man was a parish councillor, and also a district councillor. He'd left school and university, and immediately plunged into politics instead of getting a proper job. His career plan was to get elected as a local councillor first, and then stand for the county council. After that, he'd seek selection as a candidate for parliament, and a full-blown career in politics would be launched. He'd then join the thronging fight for power and advancement along with all the other political tadpoles beneath the surface of the pond, struggling and wriggling, pushing some aside and forming brief alliances with others, gobbling up any that seem weak, f*cking one or two who seem tasty (so not quite like tadpoles, then) until one day he'd pop above the surface, gaining a foothold on the heads of his erstwhile friends, and emerge as a beautiful junior minister frog, and the rest of his life would be gravy. Or whatever frogs eat.
Before Thatcher you were either a Tory, representing the landed gentry and the fat cats of business, or you were Labour and came up through the unions, representing the interests of the common working man. Or perhaps you were a wishy-washy Liberal and represented the intelligent middle-classes who spawned you. Either way, you'd probably have held down an ordinary job at some time, and at least people could easily see where you were coming from and what you stood for, even if they didn't like it. These days, all you stand for is yourself. Politics is just a job you choose in preference to real work, and has nothing to do with the real lives of the people – rich, poor, clever or stupid – who are expected to elect you.
So this is why The Grumpy Old Sod will totter along to the village hall on Thursday and put his cross against someone he doesn't know but who stands for the UK Independence Party. It'll probably be a wasted vote, but what the hell. He doesn't know the man, he doesn't know what he's like or what he stands for. He has no idea what UKIP's policies are on education, the economy, badger-culling, road-pricing and so on, and he can't be arsed to find out.
He's just going to vote for someone who represents the views of a largish section of society instead of being intent on feathering their own nest, who has a strong position on a real issue that affects a lot of us, rather than just trying to carve out a lucrative career in the manipulation of power. It doesn't matter whether the GOS agrees with that position or not. It'll be a vote for ordinary people whether the GOS is one of those people or not.
And that's something that's been missing from British politics for the last forty years, and something we badly need to recover. Ken Clarke is right about one thing: a vote for UKIP is a vote for “none of the above”.
And “none of the above” is just what we need. We've seen how The Above perform, and it was crap.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
Copyright © 2013 The GOS