The European elections are over and now everybody has to sit back and as how on earth did it come to this? How did UKIP, of all parties, come first in the European elections in the UK? How did Labour only just scrape in ahead of the Tories four years in to this disastrous coalition? How did so many millions of people look at a ballot paper with UKIP on it and decide to put an ‘x’ next to them? A party of dim witted racist, homophobic xenophobic reactionary bigots led by the sort of bloviating fuckwit you’d edge away from in a pub has done better than every other party. It’s no use, is it? No use complaining about it, time to examine why.
1: Nobody has a clue what the EU is for.
Go on, tell me what the EU does. Don’t be pejorative, don’t say something pithy that doesn’t actually answer the question, I want to hear details about the common agricultural policy or the working time directive without you having to look it up. I already know a bit, because I make it my business to try to understand how I’m governed, but the odds are you have no clue what I’m talking about (and if you do you are a staggering rarity). There are no news crews covering meetings of the European parliament, nobody ever reports new pieces of legislation that aren’t in some way ill judged. The EU has a big, big problem; it’s boring. It’s so boring, in fact, that it becomes dreary to talk about it and the words ‘bureaucrats in Brussels’ are about as exciting as it gets. The only time anyone in any media ever talks about it is when it’s done something stupid or something’s gone wrong so the overwhelming opinion of it is negative. People here in the UK hate the EU but can’t really tell you anything about it. Personally I think it’s got problems but I’d far rather see it fixed than see it destroyed, if I’m going to have to submit to being governed it doesn’t really matter where from as long as I have a say.
The left does badly in recession, the right makes hay while the sun shines. It’s always been this way; Thatcher, Hitler, McCarthy, Pinochet, these are just some of the right winger who have risen to power in times of financial crisis (and before anyone harps on about Godwin’s law I have to point out that I’m not actually likening Farage to Hitler. Much), When people are growing worse off for reasons they can’t actually see they turn to the right and look for a scapegoat, when they’re being pressed by something or someone they can identify they turn to the left (broadly, there are, of course, exceptions). The EU makes a great scapegoat for the recession and financial slump, bankers simply aren’t getting blamed any more even though it’s their fault.
3: The bay at Boston.
The right in the UK have been in something of a malaise for a while now and it doesn’t look likely to stop at any point soon. Cameron didn’t manage to secure a parliamentary majority after the last election despite going up against Gordon Brown and the old, reactionary policies are dying a death. There are still people out there, however, who think that gay people shouldn’t have equal rights and that foreigners are not to be trusted (amongst other old right wing bugbears) and this has led to a fertile breeding ground for a fourth party. UKIP are the Tea Party of UK politics and I don’t think most politicians here have realised this. They are a grass roots movement full of nutters with a vast number of differing opinions and a taste for shaking up the status quo. None of this would be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that they want to return to an old, dead status quo that died for damned good reasons.
Let’s be honest; Farage is a charismatic figure. I hate him, I find him and his policies repellent and his manner irritating in the extreme but he has broad appeal because he is a ‘man of the people.’ I have no doubt whatsoever that he enjoys a pint, a smoke and would probably be quite fun at a party (if I wasn’t busy nicking his coat and filling the pockets with ice cream which I’m sure, to be honest, is the least I would do at a party with Nigel). Seeing Miliband conspicuously eat a bacon sandwich or Osborne conspicuously eat a hamburger is pitiful and sad, frankly. You don’t need to be a man of the people to govern effectively and the tired charade of mainstream politicians trying to appear more ‘normal’ (as if there is such a thing) is never going to work when they’re going up against him. They should not be afraid to appear to be clever.
5: Useless, awful, laughable, terrible incompetence.
The two main parties (I would say ‘three’ but I think it’s a bit mean to get the LibDem’s hopes up) have absolutely no appeal to anybody any more. The Tories are by turns incompetent, clueless, out of ideas, grey faced empty vessels and labour are just the same. Policy is almost indistinguishable apart from a couple of headline grabbing bits and bobs and neither side seems willing or eager to capitalise on the rampant gaffs of UKIP. Make no mistake, UKIP are racist, they are homophobic, they are almost certainly corrupt, they are hypocritical, they are liars, they are xenophobes stuck in the early twentieth century and they should be an electoral blip but the sheer, vital emptiness of the two main parties is enough to drive people away. The Tories need to define themselves in a post Thatcher era and Labour need to do or say something. ANYTHING. Right now they’re getting their arses handed to them.
6: Rays of hope.
Not every cloud has a silver lining but this one does. ‘At least we’re not France’ is, unfortunately, not good enough and I am deeply worried about the rise of Front Nationale across the channel but that’s a story for another time. The rays of hope are limited but they’re certainly worth mentioning.
With turnout of around 34% and UKIP securing around 27% of votes cast only about 9% of the electorate actually voted for them.
The BNP have no seats any more.
The LibDems have reaped some of what they have sown.
The Greens did rather well in terms of vote share across the UK (though this did not translate in to seats, even in the PR system).
Many voters, according to canvassers, wanted to send the main parties a message, they have certainly done that.
The Tories came in third place in a national poll for the first time in their entire history.
UKIP can’t actually get the UK to leave the EU without getting seats in parliament.
All we have to do now is put up with seeing Farage’s face all over the place for ages. Much as we have for the last month or so. I was going to write a bit about the press and how they’ve given huge, disproportionate coverage to UKIP and Farage but it was so massive and overwhelming that I would have ended up typing a stream of swearwords with the occasional UKIP member’s name thrown in there as well.