Nigel Farage: The victor in last week's local elections
When in the May local government elections, a party of "clowns" and "fruitcakes" got about a quarter of the vote, commentators went giddy with polling projections in search of what such voting would mean for the main political parties. They were missing the point. Here was a mass expression of derision for the whole British political establishment. In a small democratic way, it was nothing less than a revolution against the "soft despotism" that has prevailed in British politics for more than a generation.
Kenneth Clarke, a sentimental wet and the embodiment of the soft despotism of recent times, got it precisely right in the abusive terms he chose for these revolutionaries. As "clowns" and "fruitcakes", they were precisely the sort of people who should never (in his view) play any part in politics. Yet now more than a quarter of Britain's electorate had waved two fingers in the air in an unmistakable rejection of the established politicians who claimed to speak for them. Many who don't bother to vote feel the same way. And the first question must be: what was it about the political class they were rejecting?
One thing might have been the corruption that had been revealed in the recent expenses scandal. Britain's politicians felt they should be better rewarded, and had found a sneaky way of getting more. But politicians notoriously seek both power and money, yet this was a political class without much power. It was constantly being frustrated by the rules emanating from Brussels and Strasbourg. And what it actually managed to do, it did badly, such as spending money like water to little purpose. The result had been to create a massive national debt.
The odd thing was that in spite of this curious lack of power, Britain's politicians presided over a regime that actually seemed to be highly controlled and oppressive. "Political correctness" was the ironic name for a system that encouraged people (and especially some immigrants) extensive encouragement to be offended. The proliferating rules of so-called "hate speech" became a standing challenge to basic common sense.
Again, the Government had responded to the endless demands of pressure groups seeking to manipulate employment and get promoted in British life. Feminists, immigrant groups, students with dubious results were examples of those demanding benefits on supposed grounds of fairness. It sounded great, but as everybody realized, it also meant harming those who were more competent. Great for the mediocre! Commerce, the universities, speech and much else was constantly subject to regulative manipulation. Employers, observed Lord Sugar in the Telegraph on Monday, must now worry about the "political correctness of things, the claims culture, and health and safety." No wonder they often give up, and business lags.
You can sum much of this up by saying that British democracy had degenerated into a kind of oligarchy. Government was being used to impose the opinions of the few upon the many, and democracy was fading away. It's true, of course, that every democracy has something of this character, because "government by the people" is a piece of visionary humbug. It can only mean some degree of consultation while politicians and officials get on with the job. But Britain's political establishment has quite lost touch with democratic realities.
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