‘…the ultimate irony… that a politician and former investment banker with a German wife and a cosy relationship with the media should have made himself so popular with a constituency that viscerally loathes all politicians, bankers, foreigners and media types.’
I’m getting a bit worried about this country.
It’s probably an exaggeration to believe everyone is going to vote at the next General Election for UKIP, our version of the US Tea Party only with bad teeth and negative equity.
But it’s looking horribly likely.
Having come from nowhere in the past five years, since the 2008 banking crash provided a godsend to political outsiders who can blame the resulting misery on just about anything and anyone they want to get shot of (luckily this time it isn’t, or isn’t yet, the Jews), UKIP would like Britain to be a fictional paradise, completely independent of the rest of the human race, which it regards as being somewhat less than British.
Practically every day, another UKIP candidate is hounded out of the party for claiming that floods are caused by gay marriage, that we should stop sending aid to ‘Bongo-bongoland’, or that one of Britain’s best-loved comedians should be sent back to a ‘black country’. (Amusingly, Lenny Henry was born in a part of Britain known since the Industrial Revolution as the Black Country. Don’t tell me it was a joke?)
Controversy has flared this past week as UKIP unveiled their European election campaign. Among the stronger statements their posters and TV commercials are making, are the bizarre claim that 26 million unemployed people in Europe are planning to invade across the English Channel and steal our jobs; that 74% of laws oppressing UK citizens are imposed from Brussels; and that British building workers cannot get work on British building-sites because their wages are being undercut by foreign labour.
Now, none of these propositions is true. But it doesn’t matter, because (I am sure Dr Goebbels would have approved) they tell the stories that many unhappy people WANT to believe. In the first instance, I am sure most people would rather stay and work in their own countries, as we would. But two million Britons work in other European countries; which, when we secede from the Union, they won’t be able to, so they’ll have to come back and take jobs away from other Britons. (I’ve never seen any figures for how many jobs have been created in Britain by inward investment from other European countries, or by Objectives One and Two funding from Brussels. There must be some.)
So the logic of UKIP’s claim is somewhat lost on me. Secondly, 86% of laws affecting Britons are in fact made in Westminster and 74% merely ratified by the EU, as is required under the convention. (I’ve made that up, UKIP-style, but it might be true.) The other 14% of laws originating in the EU ( a genuine statistic) most probably safeguard the rights of individual Britons against the bad laws made in Westminster.
And thirdly, the Building Trades Federation has been squealing all last week that we are so short of qualified builders, we can’t meet our housing targets and brickies are pulling-down six-figure salaries just for turning up. The idea that any Briton who can lift a hod and be arsed to get off the sofa can’t get a job because of Romanians swarming over here on minimum wage is just self-pitying crap.
Then the actor playing the ‘unemployed’ British builder turns out to be an Irish immigrant… Quite properly, since most of the hardworking immigrant labourers who built modern Britain were Irish, and we owe them a huge debt; as indeed do we owe the Nigerian cardiologists and Philippino nurses who keep the Health Service running and just about affordable. Blundering, blustering UKIP racists, bigots and quasi-religious nut-jobs just keep on giving. And so, horror of horrors, it appears, does a vast swathe of middle England voters keep on taking, who identify with UKIP’s fuzzy logic and DON’T CARE if it is all bollocks!
For, as of this weekend, UKIP are at 38% in the polls, and they don’t even have a proper party organisation or any people with higher-level experience in government.
A rag-bag of disempowered, disappointed, disgruntled, middle-aged, lower-middle-class ex-Blair voters and disaffected Tory toffs, they’ve been brainwashed by forty years of downright fibs pumped-out by our rabidly xenophobic tabloid press about Europe and immigrants and Muslims and Westminster politicians – and bludgeoned by incomes that have been steadily falling behind prices so the CEOs of listed companies can hand themselves multimillion pound bonuses. No surprise, then, that they’ve convinced themselves democracy isn’t working, our way of life is threatened (whose way of life? Ed.) so we might as well hand the country over to them, never mind the bully-boys waiting in the wings.
Lacking infrastructure, UKIP is mostly a one-man-band, led by a publicity-vulture so preposterous that in any other era he would have been laughed out of court. That’s why we have to take him seriously. Nigel Farage is so Teflon-coated that he can afford to actively court the ridicule of the chatterati. The more people with education, discrimination and a sense of history point to the absurdities and bigotries and dangers and incompetence and gross distortions of the UKIP manifesto and sneer, the more people without those virtues love him.
Like the ex-Balliol scholar, Pipe-Smoker-of-the-Year and Socialist prime minister, Harold Wilson, before him, the well-educated, ex-investment banker and sitting Member of the European Parliament (when he turns up), the abolitionist Farage likes to present himself as a man o’ the people, a veritable goldmine of homespun wisdom and commonsense. We haven’t seen his like in fifty years, a time to which we suspect his supporters are longing to return. He’s an old-style pork-barrel politician, and that’s his shtick.
Farage the huxter just loves to be photographed in a pub, enjoying a pie and a pint on the saloon bartop, where many of his followers have bored for England. Nobody goes to pubs anymore, they are closing at the rate of two a day, but the pub is an indelible symbol of British culture and so Farage seeks them out to promote, among other causes dear to Mittel England, his populist policy of overturning the ban on smoking in public places: just one of the ideas he knows will win him votes, but which, were he to come to power, he almost certainly would not risk doing.
And then, there’s that coat.
Another of Wislon’s favourite ways of cosying-up to the link-detached, lower middle-class voter was to affect a ghastly beige-coloured car-coat made from Gannex, a cheap-and-cheerless fabric invented by his wealthy friend and benefactor, Victor (later Lord) Kagan. In a similar vein, Farage likes to sport one of those cheeky-chappie, 3/4-length camelhair coats beloved of slightly dodgy characters and solicitors’ clerks, both in life and in fiction.
Dung coloured, and slightly grubby-looking, it features a little brown velvet collar, like moleskin. Two famously shady characters who wore similar coats were, of course, Arthur Daley, the engagingly persuasive backstreet entrepreneur and rustbucket car-dealer played by George Cole in Thames TV’s Minder series; and the late Jeremy Thorpe QC, the former Liberal party leader who somehow survived a criminal trial for hiring an incompetent hit-man to try to murder a rent-boy who was allegedly blackmailing him.
It’s a coat, in short, that might once have been worn to the racetrack by a cashiered army Major with a nice line in surplus Bulgarian champagne and the phone number of a cute bit of totty lipsticked on the rattling glovebox door of his Mk-11 Jag.
Farage of course knows the coat makes him a figure of ridicule. He’s clever enough to know that the class who find him absurd and pitiable are hated by the far greater number of people who will therefore vote for him. It is genuinely astonishing, the ultimate irony if you like, that a career politician and ex-banker with a foreign wife and a cosy relationship with the media should have made himself so hugely popular with a constituency that viscerally loathes all politicians, bankers, foreigners and media types.
Even when accused of riding the Strasbourg expenses gravy-train, his answer is breathtakingly insouciant: if they’re corrupt and foreign enough to give him scads of European taxpayers’ money, he has every right to spend it how he likes. And what he spends it on, apparently, is paying his German wife to work as his PA, while he goes around helpfully sneering at people speaking foreign languages on buses.
Now, given that the mere mention of politicians’ expenses is enough to cause heart failure among not only UKIP supporters, you would think, wouldn’t you, that 38% of the voters would twig that they are not going to see much change for the better when they vote this Teflon-coated caricature into power?
Instead, UKIP supporters are deliriously happy to overlook all of his obvious failings and absurdities; projecting onto Non-Stick Nigel, their desperate, unfocussed hopes of re-empowerment and the reinstatement of a Golden Age, located in time somewhere around 1954, when Britain was great, you knew what was what, and foreigners were people who lived abroad.
Nigel Farage is a Harold Wilson de nos jours, a smart politician who needs to do almost nothing and say almost anything to make people feel they’ll soon have never had it so good.
The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of The Boglington Post. We think they might be Uncle Bogler’s, but he is not here to defend himself.
© The Boglington Post 2014.