Setting aside the slapstick buffoonery and deeply unpleasant hate-mongering, the one they call Nigel Farage has already achieved something quite remarkable. Before a single vote has been cast, he has managed to engineer a febrile atmosphere where the local and European elections will be contested on one, single issue. That single issue is the one they call Nigel Farage.
The audacious strategy is based on the assumption that the electorate are stupid and that if you scratch the surface of a patriotic British voter then unbridled racism will ooze out regardless of any connection to actual facts. Less attention seeking and more mature political parties are grateful that the tawdry sideshow is deflecting examination of their own failings and have responded by assuming that the electorate are stupid, moving a little bit more to the right and joining in with the unpleasant hate-mongering.
In the picturesque if rotten borough of Walsall, queues are already forming outside polling stations as the massed ranks of the people enthusiastically embrace the democratic process. Obviously the major issues concerning the good people of God`s other Eden are the Common Agricultural Policy, the Eurozone exchange rate mechanism, fishing quotas and the hoards of alien cut-throats massing on our borders with Staffordshire, Birmingham, Sandwell and Wolverhampton. Ignoring years of incompetence and failure in health, education, social care, regeneration and basic book keeping, the citizenry will deliver their judgement on the performance of councillors and the parties they represent or the parties they independently prop up.
Interestingly, two Walsall cabinet members have wisely decided not to face the ultimate scrutiny of the ballot box which, given the dreadful state of both public health and education in the borough, is probably a very good thing. Unlike the departing pair, the portfolio holder for leisure and culture and the portfolio holder for resources at least have mustered the courage to face re-election albeit in previously “safe” wards. One augments his modest allowances by owning a funfair and the other uses social media to promote a tribute band. This, in so many ways, captures the very essence of local government in Walsall as does the behaviour of the only cabinet member belonging to another political tribe who is there to prop up an inept bunch of shysters. Practically the first act of the portfolio holder for community engagement and voluntary sector was to stop “doing” twitter presumably because he found engagement with the community distasteful especially when his more bizarre tweets were challenged. Mercifully for him, he is not required to face the electorate this time but he might have parted company with his seat at the cabinet table.
What is astonishing is that given a disgraceful history of holding the public in contempt and a scandalous record for wasting money, not least in cabinet rewarding themselves an increase in their allowances, the control of Walsall council remains too close to call. The mathematics is very simple but the outcome difficult to predict and this cannot simply be attributed to the Farage circus. With a corrupt and venal coalition government in Westminster and a woefully inadequate coalition in Walsall, you might expect Labour to be confident of a local landslide. There is, however, the possibility of the council remaining without overall control as the predominately white, working-class core Labour support are attracted by the luminous xenophobia of the one they call Farage.
Walsall is not unique in suffering from pitifully low turn-outs in local and European polls but this time the number of votes cast might actually increase as the spurious magic of a one man band mounted on a one trick pony takes effect. Labour needs to challenge this nonsense; Labour must challenge this poison. If not, “fighting” for every vote in every ward will be meaningless because, if this jingoism goes unchecked, there will be fighting in the streets. I don`t think I have ever been so fearful for the future of the nation of my birth and the nation that I love.
So it is important to go to the polling station and mark the paper. Vote for whoever you think is best for Walsall, Britain and Europe. Even if you loathe all the parties and candidates listed you still have the right to be heard. Spoil the paper, write “none of the above”, draw a rude cartoon but just exercise your right to vote. A spoilt paper is a vote against the status quo and a vote against a descent into bigotry. In the future, don`t complain if you didn`t bother to turn up.
By then, it will be too late to turn the horsemen of the apocalypse back into a one trick pony.