I don’t know about you, but I was already sick of seeing Nigel Farage’s horsey grin even before last week’s elections, and I’m now beginning to think that I may have to start wearing a blindfold, because this is one face we are going to be looking at for some time.
That is a great pity for the left and even the centre-left, and it’s ultimately a great pity for British society. On one level, Ukip’s 147 seats are a mid-term protest vote, by an electorate that is clearly – and rightly – disenchanted with ‘mainstream’ establishment politics and the horrendous marriage-of-convenience that has been running the country into the ground for the last three years.
It’s also an electorate that has a great deal to be resentful about, whether it’s unemployment and underemployment, falling living standards, stagnating wages, cuts in public service provision, rising prices, and a future that all the three main parties insist will get worse before – if? – it gets better.
The Coalition has managed to convince much of the population that all this is inevitable and necessary in order to reduce ‘the deficit’ and ‘heal’ the economy. At the same time it has – with the help of the rightwing press – channeled the bitterness, anger and fear that has resulted from this situation towards immigrants and ‘scroungers’.
Nevertheless it hasn’t made itself liked as a result – or escaped the general taint that has hovered over the British political class in general as a result of the expenses scandal and the increasing uniformity of presentation – and quite often substance – among all three main parties.
Into this vacuum, comes the grinning Nigel Farage, quaffing a pint like the simple, straight-talking son of the people that he is, with a message designed to appeal to the absolute worst instincts of the British population.
Xenophobia, racism, chauvinism, fear of the unknown, selfishness, deference to the status quo accompanied by a willingness to kick the weak rather than stand up to the powerful – this is ultimately what lies behind Farage’s grin.
It isn’t that Ukip are clowns – they are vicious clowns, offering the electorate a phony utopia in which everything would be alright and everyone would be happy again if only we weren’t in the European Union and there were no immigrants. For all their populist rhetoric about not being part of the ‘mainstream’ and the Westminster bubble, Farage & Co would clearly love to be part of that bubble themselves, and are clearly looking to ride the anti-establishment mood and see if it could bring them some parliamentary seats.
Of course, Ukip’s 147 seats may be just an opportunity by a disgruntled electorate to give the government a kicking. After all Labour did well too, even though Ed Miliband’s tepid One Nationism hasn’t exactly set the hearts of the nation on fire.
But that can’t change the fact that 26 percent of voters in last week’s elections voted for a party that was recently praised by the EDL because it says ‘exactly what we say, just in a different way’ .
The fact that Ukip has few coherent policies beyond getting out of the EU and kicking out foreigners only underlies still further the nihilism and political illiteracy that has pushed the party into the centre stage of British politics for the first time.
In the short term, last week’s ‘breakthrough’ – despite Nick Clegg’s bleating – is likely to encourage Lord Snooty and his Pals to tack even further to the right than they have already done, which is actually quite a lot, and the Labour Party may also follow suit regarding the EU and immigration. Ukip may also harm the Tories by attracting some disgruntled defectors who hate Cameron.
In the worst case scenario, it is even possible to imagine a Tory/Ukip coalition in government, in which case Nigel Farage would no longer be smiling but rolling on the floor in a fit of helpless giggles.
But for many of us – and for many of the voters that currently believe that Ukip can save them – that would really be nothing to laugh about.
It would in fact, be a nightmare.