Sunday, 19 May 2019
Once again the Eurovision Song Contest was political and once again the UK’s place in the political pecking order in Europe was established. Nul points; last again. Just as in realpolitik the substance doesn’t matter; we could have had the best act in the competition but still we would have been judged on our level of buy-in to the project. In truth we know that Eurovision is a camp little exercise in frivolity, vacuity and daftness and we have always been rather too earnest about it all.
But the timing could not have been better. As inconsequential as success in Eurovision is to the wider and rather more serious issue of the EU, coming last in the run-up to the real Euro elections will have done nothing to dampen enthusiasm for Nigel Farage’s insurgent Brexit Party. Hopes run high for the BP, come Thursday, but I have to caution that for many people their optimism runs a risk of tipping over into fantasy. Yes, the Faragistas have a real chance of dominating the poll this week, but beyond that I fear it will be somewhat less ‘earthquakey’ than many will wish for.
In short, Nigel Farage is not becoming Prime Minister in any decade of this century, if only because the forces he rightly rails against have far more power than we, the people, can possibly muster. Yes, he will make a dent – he will certainly, I feel, fatally damage the Conservative Party – and yes, people will begin to disbelieve what they are told when the evidence they see goes against it, but I fear we will have to endure the setback of a decade of Labour wrecking before sense prevails again. I wish it were otherwise; I truly do, but...
The first step for a bona fide non-violent full scale Political Revolution is trust. And whereas people no longer place much trust in the old party system, the establishment has inflicted deadly wounds on the corpus of Farage himself. Fake tweets, accusations of dark money, the Russians! But worse than that, for a movement that seeks to attract and mobilise the disenfranchised, the seedy notion that somehow Nigel is getting rich out of it. It is true that every attack piece increases the determination of supporters but it also damages the chance that the undecided will come on-board. This is exactly how the ‘Democrats’ in the USA go for Trump.
And it matters not how popular Farage is with the crowd; what matters is how that translates into power and influence; this is the real problem. We rejected an alternative to our first-past-the-post system in 2011 and the electoral game strongly favours entrenched, if outmoded parties, almost regardless of who they put up for office. Brexit will take a few Tory seats but they will almost certainly run second to Labour, even in places where the new party is gaining huge support for the EU elections. Most people simply don’t turn out to elect MEPs and come a general election old habits die hard.
At best the Brexit Party might – might – get to be potential king-makers to a minority Labour Party, a role they cannot possibly accept as it means certain death to Brexit. As a new party they have undoubtedly hooked into the zeitgeist and the appetite to fight the same old politics is clear. But they now have to settle into the long war, build a real party, unite hugely disparate ideologies among their candidates and future MPs and develop policy which has a chance of appealing across the board.
Propping up the same old dinosaurs...
As much as I want change and as much as I heartily endorse our withdrawal from the EU, this alone is not enough. We need to tackle the enormous departure of our society as a whole from what once made us the model for democracy the world over; but the forces that caused our current national distress are deeply entrenched and will take generations to overcome. Tony Blair may have accelerated the decline, but he didn’t start it. And the Brexit Party are going to have to be even more influential than he was before any tectonic shift will begin. I’m not investing in any earthquake defences just yet.