As Walter Mitty characters go, no-one lives the dream quite like Nigel Farage.
His party has never won a Westminster parliamentary seat and he’s personally never polled higher than third place, yet he’s goaded squeaky-bum Tories into UKIP tribute band mode, cranking up the xenophobia. On TV, his atrocious grasp of detail allows even Andrew Neil to use him as a chew toy, but it’s still news editors, not comedy producers, who have him on speed-dial. When barracked by an irascible Edinburgh mob, he’s able to summon his uncanny powers of pub detection to escape them, and the polis even give him a taxi ride home. Burping contentedly, no doubt, at his charmed life.
Still, when a jammy fourth place in the Cowdenbeath by-election is comfortably the high point of the party’s week, it’s time to wonder whether the Farage carriage is reverting to a pumpkin. UKIP’s lately been encountering increasingly stormy weather, which is what happens when you disobey God by being a bunch of hateful bigots.
Hang on, fair-minded readers will protest, surely there’s more to UKIP than simply yelling about the EU, foreigners and whatever sub-section of the population has disgusted them this week? Sorry, folks, we’ve just discovered there isn’t. It turns out Nigel can’t remember a word of what was in their 2010 manifesto, although he does recall it was written by an “idiot”. But that’s OK, because he’s completely disowned it anyway. (Bet Nick Clegg wishes he’d thought of that one.)
Amnesia is an essential defence mechanism for Nigel. How else could he witness his colleagues’ constant horrendous gaffes without waking up in a cold sweat to find he’s eaten half his pillow? But, even if he’s truly blanked out the manifesto’s contents, it’s a teensy bit weird that he managed to put his name to its foreword without spotting at the time that the whole document was drivel. Surely he’d have noticed little clues here and there, such as the cover being decorated with glitter and a picture of a pony, or the N and S of “MANIFESTO” being written the wrong way round.
Could it be that Nigel – and, mind, I’m not implying this was after a few pints - just scribbled down whatever popped into his head for the foreword, without actually reading the manifesto? It’s a daring time-saving strategy, to be sure, but it does lead to dodgy results. Can you imagine if it were standard practice? “Jeffrey Archer’s elaborate word-pictures sparkle with literary virtuosity.” “Oedipus Rex: the perfect Mother’s Day gift.” “The New Testament is packed with handy tips on carpentry and wine-making.”
Nigel may not have known what was in the 2010 manifesto, but he certainly knew where to find it, since no sooner had he confessed his ignorance than it was deleted from the UKIP web site. That’s a shame, for it contained some charming ideas, such as painting trains in jolly colours. Wouldn’t that be a huge tonic for jaded commuters? Who’d give a monkey’s about overcrowding, tardiness or outrageous fares if the front carriage were done up to look like Thomas the Tank Engine? Let’s stick to primary colours, though. Once you begin mixing shades, you never know what sort of beastliness will follow.
The 2015 UKIP manifesto isn’t yet written, folks, so it’s up for grabs. There’s a lifetime subscription to the Daily Mail to be won. Stop barking at the moon, put on your tinfoil hat, dig out a felt pen and stick your suggestions on a postcard! (Please keep polysyllables to a minimum. Use nuance only when making snarky comments about homosexuals. Entries postmarked “Bongo Bongo Land” will be disqualified.)
There’s still time for UKIP to get their ideas sorted out. They don’t need coherent policies for the coming Euro elections, since all UKIP MEPs ever do is pick up their humungous expenses and hurl abuse at Herman van Rompuy. Most MEPs manage only the first part, so that’s pretty impressive productivity. Sadly, however, the plooks erupting on UKIP’s puss go beyond lack of policies.
The party’s Scottish branch, which once startled everyone merely by existing, is now providing a rollicking adjunct to the pantomime season by hilariously falling apart. One senior figure’s been sacked by e-mail, another’s flounced off in sympathy and a third is currently dynamiting himself through Twitter misbehaviour. Six Euro election candidates have already jumped ship, and it’s rumoured that the other three are waving at passing UFOs to see if they can hitch a lift with the aliens.
Of course, Scotland is expendable for Nigel, since UKIP is about as popular here as anthrax, and its name may well make no sense after 18 September. But there’s also plenty to fret about in England, where Godfrey Bloom’s potty mouth eternally lurks, and you have to keep watch for councillors talking to the hatstand, thinking it’s God. Of professionalism and “good, solid people” there is not a sign. Is UKIP attracting the wrong sort of candidate, wonders Nigel?
No, Nigel, it isn’t. It’s attracting exactly the right sort of candidate. If we’re going to have deranged numpties entering politics, it’s far better for them to join an unelectable shower of half-wits than winkle their way into one of the mainstream parties and accidentally get near the levers of power. Our existing political classes give us enough bother as it is without an extra layer of homophobia, bigotry and racism shovelled on top. I could go into more detail, but you’d probably forget it, so I’ll keep it broad-brush.
Sorry if that seems a bit harsh. As an olive branch, remember you’re always welcome to make your home in the new flourishing Scotland once you’re a busted flush in politics. We’d need to avoid disturbances on the streets, obviously, but we have plenty of uninhabited islands where we’d be quite happy for you to be king.
In your Walter Mitty dreams, anyway.