This week I drank a pint of Old Speckled Hen with an MEP from UKIP, Britain’s europhobic party, which has been dragging the Cameron government even further to the right than it was before – like a lurching ship, or a broken shopping trolley, or a bunch of annoying twats.
UKIP won a lot of council seats – and even more media attention – during last week’s mid-term local elections in Britain, and since then the media has been rattling on about how the “national debate” has been changed by this party, whose policies are mainly anti-immigration and anti-renewable energy and for “common sense” and “doing things the way we’ve always done it”.
It’s also the anti-politics party – its leader Nigel Farage, with the help of friendly interviews from the Murdoch press and the Daily Mail, has consciously styled himself the beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking man of the people (despite coming from the same public school background as the main party leaders). It’s a canny position to take, the anti-politics pose, and it’s one that has been successfully employed by all kinds of different parties – the Pirate Party in Germany and Beppe Grillo in Italy have all made massive advances on the back of it.
The problem with it is that being anti-politics and anti-politicians, and anti-establishment and anti-the-system, always comes very close to being anti-democracy. Obviously the European leaders currently in power are partly to blame because of what they have imposed on their countries, but it’s a bad sign when all elected politicians are thrown under blanket suspicion by large sections of the population.