What a lot of choice there is nowadays in elections!
Well, not for me. For me, it’s the Greens or nothing. Or maybe a clothes peg on the nose and look at Labour, an awkward, looming flush of shame and unhappiness filling my face.
On the other hand, if you’re a racist, an idiot, a scumbag or a jerk, a bit suspicious of foreigners, are worried about women starting to become a little too equal with men in the workplace or you’re generally a reactionary, hateful, horrible little turd, then bully for you. What a wealth of choice you have! Never before have there been more options for the bigoted, terrified, worried little Briton. The only problem now is that the sheer range of candidates, all with relatively similar manifestos, makes it hard to put an X in the right box.
On my ballot paper, which plopped apologetically through the letterbox the other afternoon, there are four flavours of swivelling wonks before you even consider voting for the Conservatives.
There’s the Ukips, of course – we’ve all heard of the Ukips, with their colourful pound symbol logo, their lovely tweed jackets, their bright red faces and their troublesome relationship with not being able to make a tit of themselves by saying things on record that make it sound like they might very well be racists, blowhards and assorted misfits. Even when they’re trying to make themselves seem presentable, they look like they’re a scruffy, risible bunch of losers taking out their collective failure of privilege on everyone else who isn’t slightly like them.
That’s the impression they seem unable to stop giving, anyway.
But it’s not just the Ukips. There is, out there, a whole raft of divorced Top Gear fans crying into their tankards down the Dog and Duck and trying to create even-more-daft policies to appeal to awful, horrendous, xenophobic men like themselves. If you happen to be suspicious of brown people, or even pale people who don’t look exactly the same as you, you can rest assured that even if everyone in the Ukips fell down a well and was crushed forever under a mountain of human excrement tomorrow – a nightmare scenario that no-one, of course, would ever delight in imagining – then there would still be at least three parties to vote for. Phew.
What I like about the English Democrats is the dog’s dick. “Putting England First!” says their cheerful (or is that shouty?) slogan on the ballot paper. There’s a touch of class there, like Westward Ho! or Oklahoma! – a little bit of levity among the thinly-veiled policies that involve, let me see, making St George’s Day a public holiday, an English parliament and… well, here’s a thing… controls on immigration. Surprise surbloodyprise. “It’s time to put an end to mass immigration!” (note the exclamation mark again) says their website, above what appears to be a photo of people waiting to go on holiday from an English airport. Never mind, though, they’ve made their point.
To be fair it’s not just immigration, though, that the English Democrats have in their sights, but that other blight of modern life. The thing we’re all worried about, that makes us lose sleep. “Let’s put an end to political correctness!” roars their website again. “We unreservedly condemn this intolerant creed, and reject the self-righteousness of political correctness and condemn the ideology as an evil”. Imagine that! Having to watch what you say around other people. Being nice. Not being a bastard. Thank Christ someone is finally targeting the real villains.
The bigots I really feel for in all this are the BNP. Time was when you hated other people because of who they were but couldn’t articulate your thoughts beyond “Send em all back!” you only had one choice on the ballot paper; it was them or nothing. Now, they look almost genteel in comparison to the others – there’s something approaching charmingly naive about their union jack heart logo. Aww bless, you want to say, squidging their chubby cheeks, you! You silly old unreconstructed fools, you. How sad it must be to have fought for intolerance and unpleasantness for so long, only to see your policies plucked from your grasp by a few posh types in wax jackets and wellies. How galling. And you kind of knew where you were with the BNP – you’d get the shaved heads and bomber jackets, obviously, but more than that: they weren’t shy about what they felt. They didn’t pretend their intolerance was all about wringing hands over precious resources. It was about intolerance. They were the gentleman racists, if you like: a dying breed. And of course, we shall mourn them.
Which leaves me with the astonishing An Independence From Europe campaign. Of all the dunces crowding for the dunce vote this time around, these are the most brazen. Their policies don’t seem to extend beyond getting their name on in front of the Ukips on the ballot paper and hoping that their voters won’t read down that far. Do you know, it might even work. Big EU flag with a line through it? Hmm, that sounds like the Ukips on the TV every five minutes; I’ll vote for them. On their election leaflets, there’s a design that looks like, well, a beermat – the beermat on the back of which they presumably wrote down their ideas*. Or idea. “Make another party that doesn’t like immigration and make it begin with an A. Lolz.”
So many questions. Are righties the new lefties, splitting into smaller and smaller hair’s-breadth differences until you’ve got a hundred different splitters representing largely identical views, but who can’t bear to be in the same room as each other? (It might raise a wry smile from anyone who’s ever spent more of their time than they should have done in leftist politics, trying to get two people who agree on EVERYTHING except one sentence of Marx to stop arguing and bloody well do something.) Is this how our politics has been shunted to the right? Is this because Labour consistently refuse to give anyone who (a) doesn’t hate immigrants and (b) would really, really like to vote for a genuine left-ish alternative something they can actually vote for?
But there are no answers, not yet. There are only questions. And names on a ballot paper. So many to choose from, if you don’t like people being different. Ah, now there’s an irony.
*h/t @FelixRatbastard for pointing this out