Next Time It’s For Real

1399478639688_wps_UKIP_leader_Nigel_Farage_Does anyone else feel a profound sense of relief that the European Elections are over?

I mean that, in the most literal sense, by the way. I am not kidding.

For the last few months I’ve felt like a guy who’s turned up for a show three hours early and has to watch a shockingly substandard series of support acts troop on and off the stage, when all he really wants to do is see the one he came for.

These elections were a minor skirmish, a warm-up, for the one we’ve all been waiting for. For that reason alone they were a full-on, and greatly unwelcome, distraction from the real business, which is the independence referendum in September.

I will also be glad not to see Nigel Farage on my television for a while, something that, night after night, was becoming harder to stomach. Has the BBC given him his own anchor desk yet? If I turn on Question Time and see him on the panel one more time I am simply refusing to pay the license fee.

Had he been the leader of any other party, his political rivals would have been enraged at the coverage  they gave this purveyor of narrow minded, racist views. Most of it was more flattering than he deserves.

It’s little wonder they were so successful. They had their own broadcasting service, running all the way through the run up to the vote.

I didn’t enjoy these elections, not even a little bit. European politics has never been terribly sexy to me, although I am a Euro enthusiast.

It’s just never grabbed hold of me like national politics has, and I really don’t believe for one minute that we saw any General Election outriders this past week, except perhaps (fingers crossed) the voters deep seated desire to burn the Liberal Democrat party and its preening, smug halfwit leader into cinders.

The rest, and the whole UKIP love-a-thon in particular, was just white noise to me, the annoying kind, the kind you want to trace to its source and that you go round the house unplugging everything to shut up. Yes, I am glad that it’s over.

On the day of the election, when I went to vote, I did so with a lot of good cheer and a smile. The good cheer evaporated and the smile quickly vanished, when I was handed a ballot paper so toxic I felt like I should have been handling it through a radiation suit.

It is, quite honestly, the chilliest experiences I’ve had casting a vote in my life.

I felt, for that moment, as if I was trapped in an Orwellian nightmare, looking at a list of parties that had everything on it from the mad to the very, very bad, starting with the Britain First party, then the BNP, then the Conservatives, followed by Labour, Catherine Stihler and all, and then the Lib Dems.

For a moment I thought sanity had returned, with the Scottish Greens and the SNP, and then finally I came face to face with the Monster Raving UKIP’s at the end.

For someone who has, on occasion, described the choice in UK wide elections as “the lesser of who cares” holding that horrible list in my hands was as stark a reminder of what it really is that we’re voting for in September as I will ever need.

We are voting, in part, for an end to elections like this. How many of those parties, in their present form, will we never have to endure again? How many could we wipe away entirely? That ballot paper was an appalling reminder of what the present political system has done to the level of the debate.

Holding it brought home to me the impact the rightward tilt of British political life has had on public discourse.

We should be grateful, I suppose, that the extreme right is so fragmented and utterly without a clue, or we might have more to concern us this evening than the UKIP seat.

Yet, for all I try to console myself with the notion that it could be worse, that one purple blot on the electoral map is an affront to Scotland, and we will now have to live with it like the tenants in certain English councils have had to live with the sight of swaggering BNP officials over the years.

The whole farrago over Farage is nonsense, to be honest. Like these elections, it is a sideshow. Voters across these islands are pissed off, but I do wonder at those who think a vote for this circus of freaks is an answer.

Their youth spokesperson was on television last night, as the results were coming in, and when asked what attracted him to UKIP he rolled out a litany of policies and ideas from the last manifesto, the one they basically tore up and binned.

One of their prospective councillors was elected after insulting every woman in the area he was running in, and the following day his reputation was defended by none other than Neil Hamilton, who said it proved some women enjoy being talked dirty to …

He later said he had been joking, with no sense of remorse or regret at all.

In that sense, every one of those purple spots on the map is a little local disaster. In Europe their rabble rousing will fade into the louder noise of an anti-European group who see their position in that Parliament as an insurgency, and that will be a small slice of Hell for those who take their roles in that big building seriously.

But it’s here in the UK, where they have just won a slew of seats on councils all over England, that ordinary people will most clearly be confronted with the appalling consequences of their “protest votes.”

It stops becoming fun when these people are your local representatives. It stops being a protest when they are in charge of council committees and responsible for budgets and have jobs and local economies in their palms of their hands.

This is the future, however, unless we act resolutely and vote to end this kind of nonsense, and then build a Scottish politics where the level of debate exposes these creatures for what they are, and their utter lack of engagement with reality for what it is.

We are being told we should pay attention to the views of the voters who have chosen these people to represent them. Many of them have only the vaguest understanding of what they were voting for, but those people worry me less than those whose actually did check out what UKIP and its rag-bag of candidates really believes in.

That we should bend all political debate in this country to suit those views is an offensive suggestion, made worse by the realisation that every London based party will now do just that, and seek to scramble onto their political ground.

It should terrify every man, woman and child in Scotland who cares about this nation.

All of it will fade come September though, even the sense of “I need a shower” shame some of us feel at that impossible purple error on the map.

Because we can render all of it, the whole Farage/Miliband/Clegg/Cameron Muppet Show, utterly irrelevant in one day, and with one sweep of our pens.

I am glad this deranged warm-up act, with this circus of freaks, is off the stage. The main event is almost upon us. That is the last ballot paper of jokers I will ever hold in my hands.

Next time it’s for real. Next time is for keeps.

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