By Hugh Ash
IF I were a betting man – and it’s odds-on I’m not – I’d wager that whatever constitutes the next United Kingdom government, post the General Election of 7 May, 2015, it will be another hastily-cobbled coalition.
Labour may currently be a gnat’s nose ahead of the Tories, but they’re not dead certs to lead the field a year from now, especially after Chancellor Osborne’s crafty budget that unashamedly played to Lamborghini-lusting wrinklies.
Meanwhile, showtime has kicked off with the warm-up acts slugging it out to determine which also-ran might be a junior partner, should the great British electorate again decide to inflict a plague on both houses of the major parties.
So, last Wednesday, Nick ‘Nicey’ Clegg, champion of the sagging Lib-Dems, went head-to-head with UKIP’s Nigel ‘The Nightmare’ Farage the second time in a week to keep the Westminster chatterati buzzing, as if a 1,000-volt charge had been thrust up their bleached posteriors.
The BBC debate was fiercer, more personal, than LBC/Sky TV previous clash, but each produced only one winner – and it wasn’t the crestfallen Deputy Prime Minister.
Many, yours truly included, wondered why a Coalition Goliath like Clegg had thrown down the gauntlet to Farage, a self-styled David and, proudly by his own account, a ‘non-professional’ politico.
So, if it was intended as an exercise in rubbing the underdog’s nose in the doo-doo, it backfired monumentally.
Because hubris did for Clegg as he totally misjudged Farage’s gift of the gab and in both debates the second most powerful man in Britain reeled under a welter of verbal blows, the most withering being the accusation of ‘wilfully lying to the British people.’
The jousts’ outcome have further signalled a radical shift in the UK’s political sands.
Even the ‘hung’ parliament of 2010, which gave the Lib-Dems their first a whiff of influence since Lloyd George, could be eclipsed by the bonfire of political vanities that threatens. The cardinal errors the big battalions – Labour as much as Conservative, let alone Clegg’s political harlots – made were a) Trivialising UKIP as swivel-eyed, Little Englander loons (true, some are); and b) Utterly underestimating Farage’s connect with non-metropolitan have-nots.
This emphasises how divorced from reality the elite truly are, with rare exception all too comfy in their Westminster bubble, inured from life north of Northampton, west of Woking and east of Epping.
Interestingly, a similar arrogance afflicts the commentariat, as a horde of talking heads demonstrated in the Spin Room after the LBC/Sky altercation, disparaging Farage as ‘looking sweaty’ and praising Clegg for appearing ‘ministerial’.
The You Guv poll of real people saw it differently: feisty Nige licked lacklustre Nick 57% to 36% first time out, then bested him 68% to 27% in the re-match.
No wonder that snotty scribbler, Yasmin Alibhia Brown, of the fast-fading Independent, demanded furiously the media should be ‘controlled’ in giving coverage to Farage.
If Ms YAB’s remark didn’t smack of Lefty fascism and a curb on free speech more redolent of serfdom than democracy, I don’t know what does.
What her witless ravings echo is how much fear the smiley man with the pint has instilled in the smug mugs, who believe they reign over Britain and Europe by divine right.
As an MEP, Farage is a first-hand witness to the impotence of colleagues and the power wielded by a faceless, ruthless Europratocracy.
He’s utterly dismissive, too, of the unelected cabal of non-entities that rule the EU roost, reserving special scorn for Herman Van Rumpoy (anonymous President of the European Council), Manuel Barroso (ineffectual President of the European Commission) and Baroness Ashton (vacuous Foreign Minister), all of whom he dismisses as political pigmies on the world stage.
Irrespective of an artificial currency choking progress, Farage has exposed the EU faultlines and the dire need to restructure the project around its original, core principles of a free-trade Common Market.
In Eurosceptic Britain, his damning verdict will undoubtedly translate into votes in next month’s EU polls and UKIP’s nine MEPs are tipped to see their number swell dramatically.
Not that all who’ll vote for the party buy into their message of cutting loose from Europe or to Farage lauding the tyrant Putin for defying the West over Ukraine.
But there’s no denying, after the economy, immigration – and loathed Brussels diktats on the issue – is the most festering sore in British electorate thinking. The reality, though, is the UK opened its door too wide too long ago and the floodtide of Rumanian and Bulgarian incomers Farage predicted hasn’t materialised.
Nevertheless – for now, at least – the country’s voters admire Nige’s chutzpah in putting the frighteners on the vested interests, whose paucity of ideas and personalities is woeful.
The EU polls, then, will be the first chance since 2010 for the people to bash the Westminster clique and they’re practically salivating to register their disgruntlement with the mish-mash Coalition government and Labour’s lame opposition
However, General Elections tend to concentrate voters’ minds, so it remains to be seen how much of an X Factor UKIP will pose in a year’s time.
My prediction is they’ll pick up at least a few House of Commons seat come the big day a year from May and have a hand on the helm of power.
A greater spectre than Farage’s mavericks, though, looms with September’s vote on Scotland’s independence. And, should Westminster’s worst nightmare transpire, Labour will lose its 41 Scottish MPs, the Lib-Dems their 11, but the Tories only one.
Still, if I were the gambling man I’m not, I’d place a wee wager on the ‘No’ campaign shading it, despite SNP leader, Alex Salmond’s brazen ballot-rigging that allows 16 year-olds to vote, yet bans ex-pat Jocks south of the border from participating.
Assuming I’m right – that Britain remains a united kingdom and Nige nets a clutch of MPs, plus potential Tory defectors – a successive, ruling Coalition is on the cards.
And I would bet on Squire Cameron and Red Ed Miliband sounding out the UKIP upstart over a pint of Tetley’s best British bitter to see which way his once swivel-eyed loons will jump.
To read more of Hugh Ash’s comments, follow his award-winning, online blog – Views From The Mallorca Pier – at hughash.wordpress.com