… ssss…. kill them all… eat their egssssss….
Russian leaders have followed a strict pattern since 1825: lisiy–volosatiy, bald-hairy. A bald leader has always been followed by a hairy leader, a hairy leader by a bald leader. In the UK we do things a little differently. While in Russia hair sprouts with the furious fecundity of Stalin’s purges and Yeltsin’s shock treatment before receding in Khrushchev’s secret speech at the 20th Party Congress or Putin’s managed democracy, in Britain nothing ever changes. Russia has dialectical progress, we have dynamic stasis. Our prime ministers come in two types: the slimy and the greasy. Our politics is a contest between opposing forms of oleaginous unpalatability. David Cameron is slimy. Call me Dave, he says, as he stares at you with hunger in his slitted eyes. Gordon Brown is greasy. He may as well have been made from leftover chip fat. Tony Blair is slimy. The Iraqi blood slides right over the shiny coating on his hands. John Major is greasy. His leftover Y-fronts could supply the UK’s energy needs for the next decade. Thatcher was slimy. Callaghan was greasy. Wilson slimy, Heath greasy, Wilson no less slimy the first time. And on and on, the eternal pattern cycling back through the centuries to that distant day when the first poor wretch scrambling around in Albion’s mud took it upon himself to rule over his fellows. But all that might be about to end.
Ed Milliband is greasy, perhaps the greasiest man ever to lurch his way into the House of Commons; he looks like a blob of Vaseline with a haircut and an awkward smile drawn on. Even so, something is changing in our world; the old rules no longer make any sense. The air resounds with governments and economies falling like hailstones. The ice caps are melting. The rain is poison. The sea is plastic. The End of Days is upon us. And Nigel Farage is both slimy and greasy.
Nigel Farage. Say it. It’s horrible, like a slug sitting on your tongue. It fits him perfectly. There’s not a photo of the man in which it doesn’t look like his skin’s about to split open, fall away so the crawling thing inside can rear up in all its insectoid glory. And Ukip is a party in his image. You can see it in that tacky purple and yellow logo, which makes it look like the political wing of Poundland (which, in a sense, is exactly what it is: a cheap, exploitative alternative, feeding off the common desparation). You can see in the language they use, too. We’re not racist, but. It’s common sense. Brussels wants to get rid of your curtains – your curtains, the ones you spend so many hours happily twitching – and replace them with Venetian blinds. Vote Ukip, save our snooping. Barmy Eurocrats want you to eat food with more than two colours. Vote Ukip, save our slurry. Gays want to paint the cliffs of Dover pink. Vote Ukip, save our staidness. Muslims – yes, all of them – want to bring wild-eyes mullahs in to inspect your pantry. Vote Ukip, save our sausages. Be afraid. We’re not racist, but. It’s common sense.
What does common sense mean here? Petty viciousness, the kind the British are so fond of, that’s all. In the run-up to the local election in East Chersterton, candidates were fielded a series of questions by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign. “Do you support plans to allow cycling on Green Dragon Bridge?” asked the Campaign. Most of the candidates mulled it over and tried to give a vaguely reasonable answer, or at least one that would endear them to voters. Not Peter Burkinshaw of Ukip. He applied some common sense. “I don’t use Green Dragon bridge,” he said, “so am not able to make an informed comment. However, I am constantly subjected to verbal abuse from cyclist riding of the footbridge at Jesus Lock when I ask them to stop ignoring the please dismount signs.” It’s a perfect image. Burkinshaw, the shit Napoleon in his purple rosette, standing by the lock, waiting for a cyclist to come by so he can remind them of the rules. And the cyclist, speeding past: oh, do fuck off. It almost makes you proud.
The needling puritanical side of what I’m calling the ‘There is a sign-Oh do fuck off’ Axis has always been a part of British life, but its recent resurgence has a precise aetiology. Successive British governments have for decades wormed away at people’s livelihoods and communities: affordable housing has been deprioritised, healthcare gutted, schools turned into businesses. In the place of the industrial sector that once secured the livelihoods of millions we’ve been left with the terrors of the service industry. No unions, no job security – forget alienation, there’s no end-product of labour to be alienated from; and to cap it all off, you might at any point be replaced by a beeping machine that querulously complains of an unexpected item in the bagging area. A few bones have been thrown our way, of course. You can go on a Saturday night talent show to be ritually humiliated by a panel of wankers in the hope of one day reaching international fame as That Guy Who Won That Show Once And Now Mostly Does Panto. (If you have intellectual pretensions, you can try BBC1’s The Voice, a daring televisual adaptation of Theodor Adorno’s On the Fetish-Character in Music.) Everyone must have a talent, and if yours doesn’t propel you to stardom then you probably deserve to work nine hours a day in a windowless office. If that doesn’t placate you, our political class has a solution of last resort: blame the immigrants! Don’t blame us, or at least not too vociferously, don’t blame our friends in the financial sector, blame the immigrants! Blame the poor and vulnerable, the huddled masses, they’re not like us, we don’t owe them anything. Blame the immigrants, hisses slimy Cameron. Blame the immigrants, rumbles greasy Brown. And somewhere, in a disused sewerage pipe in Kent, the slime and grease of their duplicity blends together and forms a hideous blob, growing with every new outrage, until it assumes human form and a wonky grin tears across Nigel Farage’s face…
In yesterday’s local elections, Ukip gained 136 councillors across the country. Farage claimed that he’s reshaped British politics. It rained a little this morning. As I watched, the rain drew thick, viscous trails across my window.