“No we don’t like that. We don’t want that here. It was better before.”
Tuesday, 1 October 2013
“No we don’t like that. We don’t want that here. It was better before.” - The Grumpy Old Bloke Party
On a previous occasion I wrote some Conservative thoughts from somewhere elsewhere than our annual conference. It struck me that, at these conferences, a game is played to filter elements of the “agenda” – good and bad – and that these were not necessarily the big issues.
This year, as always, the media’s preference is to focus on rows and, if there are no rows, to manufacture the row. This year we are supposed to be especially excited at Nigel Farage calling everyone names – as if that is either helpful or edifying. To be fair, Farage comes across as the sort of bloke it would be great to have a beer and a bluster but as a serious politician he simply doesn’t cut the mustard.
I always felt the same about Neil Kinnock. Always seemed a decent bloke, didn’t start with any great advantages in life but made the most of the talents he had – tub-thumping rhetoric, tactical nous and a sort of public bar charisma. Kinnock also did Britain a great disservice – on one day in 1985 he saved the Labour Party.
Nigel Farage is very similar – good rhetoric, a thick skin and a personality that appeals to the saloon bar. And Farage has placed himself as the authentic voice of the Grumpy Old Bloke Party.
You know the sort. When there used to be pubs, the Grumpy Old Bloke would be leaning on the bar, pint in hand telling – and I mean telling – all and sundry about the ills of the world. The chosen subject of the Grumpy Old Bloke would vary but you can be assured that, in most cases, it would include foreigners (and the iniquity thereof), homosexuality (usually described in more derogatory terms), how no-one running anything can manage their way out of a wet paper bag and, above all, how it used to be better back in the day when there was national service, the death penalty, rationing and rickets.
Back in those days footballers were just blokes who went home to their council house on the bus, policemen wore capes and clipped naughty kids round the ear (before using said ear to drag the child back for Dad to thrash), schools actually taught children the three Rs and there weren’t TVs or computers to make us fat and lazy. Those were the days – as our Grumpy Old Bloke will tell us – when Britain Made Things and blokes worked in factories or workshops not open plan offices.
Nigel Farage has taken a single issue campaign – let’s get out from the awful European Union – and transformed UKIP into that Grumpy Old Bloke Party. Gathering together all the annoyances that our Grumpy Old Bloke has described – foreigners, the Internet, children, gays and, above all, anyone employed by the government in any form other than actually digging holes or emptying bins – Farage has moulded a successful insurgency. The Grumpy Old Blokes accompanied (assuming the fridge is clean) by their wives – no ‘partners’ in The Grumpy Old Bloke Party – flock to hear Nigel being rude about all the people they don’t like. And they love it.
UKIP – the Grumpy Old Bloke Party – has gathered together all those gripes and mitherings, taken this contradictory pot-pourri of prejudices and turned it into a campaign. I hesitate to say programme, for beyond withdrawing from the EU, UKIP has no programme, and it isn’t yet a manifesto. For sure there’s some stuff I support in there – it would be hard not to do so given I’m most of the way to being that Grumpy Old Bloke. But, in the end, the UKIP position on almost everything can be summed up as: