Thursday, 4 August 2016
'Kipping on the Job
A cub reporter is sent out to review the local entertainment scene and happens across a pub talent show where he sits through the usual dreary melee of wannabe singers, comedians and hideous child/animal novelty acts. He is just about to leave when his attention is arrested by a strikingly featured man juggling heavy hammers. The crowd is mesmerised as he keeps the hardware spinning and dancing above his head; one mishap and serious harm could result. But it is the finale of the act which is truly novel. One by one, instead of merely catching the hammers, he opens his mouth and swallows them. Interviewing the act later the reporter asks if he earns a living doing this to which the man replies “No, I’m just an ‘ammer chewer.”
I frequently ask my classes the question “How do you get good at anything?” to which the clear favourite response is ‘practise’. Whatever the profession those at the top of the game make it look easy when in fact their actions, especially in times of stress, are the result of hard-won experience, preparation and sheer dogged determination to learn from mistakes and continue to improve. When politicians slickly dodge the bear traps that journalists set for them, concealing their allegiances and avoiding making promises to which they can later be held they are not merely busking; this is meat and drink to figures in public life. Politics is a brutal line of work, leaving many corpses by the wayside and it is no place for the amateur.
Enter the United Kingdom Independence Party, which, having become arguably the most successful political movement of modern times (which other single issue party can claim to have actually achieved their only purpose?) is now struggling for survival. Unseasoned but passionate political hobbyists in the main, they reached out to a dissatisfied populace and gave them a cause. But they also overreached their brief and became an alternative home for the many who had vowed to never again vote for the main two parties and in doing so sowed the seeds of their own demise.
There is an old adage that it is better to stay silent and let everybody think you’re stupid, rather than to open your mouth and prove it. Many of Ukip’s refreshingly direct and open spokes-thousands wear their hearts on their sleeves and are proud to display their thoughts for scrutiny; their National Executive Committee is no exception. Give a child a gun and leave the safety catch off and sooner or later somebody is going to get hurt. Despite all the best efforts of a partisan and hostile press, it now appears Nigel Farage was actually the man in charge of that safety catch.
It'll take more than that to re-vivify Ukip
I like the idea of UK Independence and I think that Ukip still has a role in keeping the government to its commitment - ‘Brexit means Brexit’ - but its determination to run before it can walk and become a fully-fledged administration-in-waiting puts it firmly in the glare of the spotlight and the tough crowd are not enjoying the act. Mind you, having started out as a club for disaffected Tories, Ukip has since come more to represent an alternative to old Labour. Whatever they think they want to be when they are grown up – and this is by no means clear - Ukip needs to get a grip and turn professional if it is to have any chance of survival.