So Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar proper-uppers have scored a three figure number of council seats from Thursday’s local elections. Is anyone even slightly down-hearted at this news? You are? You shouldn’t be: with elections to the European Parliament (EP) next year, and a General Election the year after, this is an ideal time for the Farage fringe to get itself a taste of power.
Because, unlike the power wielded by the Fourth Estate, which got itself in such a tizzy over how to approach UKIP’s new-found popularity, getting elected comes with something called responsibility. And here is where Nige and his pals have every opportunity to come unstuck, because they have to apply themselves to these jobs if they are to make a success of them.
But, you may point out, UKIP already has a number of MEPs, and this must come with responsibility, surely? Think again. Even when the Farage fan club bothers to turn up at the EP, they frequently don’t make it through the day. And if they do, this often involves spending some of the session fast asleep. Much of the time they don’t pay attention to what is being debated.
You find this difficult to take in? It shouldn’t be: the whole modus operandi of UKIP is to tell anyone who will listen that the EP, as part of the EU, is rubbish. The average UKIP MEP devotes most of his or her activity at the EP towards churning out press releases, telling the press why whatever has been passed that day is an affront to UK sovereignty and puts us one step nearer to that mythical superstate.
Those MEPs tell how the EP is a colossal waste of money, but then claim every last Euro in expenses – Farage himself has set the example here – and leave for home at the end of every week having done very little by comparison with their counterparts from the mainstream parties. And because they’re so far removed from the voters, they get away with it.
Serving on the local council is at the polar opposite: there can be no hiding behind the usual platitudes about how Johnny Foreigner is imposing straight bananas on unsuspecting Brits. Voters will want to know about their priorities for schools, the fire service, waste disposal, environmental standards, noise nuisance, potholes in side streets, pub and club licensing, and more.
And if those UKIP councillors fail to get off their backsides and apply themselves, the news will be quickly spread by the other parties, local press, bloggers, and ultimately the broadcasters and the nationals will be on to them. Euro-excuses and press releases blaming “Eurocrats” will not suffice. So don’t think of UKIP’s success this week as anything but A Very Good Thing.
Because when the voters rumble them, they won’t trust them again. Ever.