22 May 2014

An election day like no other?

What a strange election campaign indeed.

Never before can one man have so dominated local and European elections. The media could not get enough Nigel Farage.

With the exception of a remarkable interview on LBC, the media never laid a finger on him. The more the media tried to probe him, the more he presented the classic man-in-the-pub Englishman, game for both an argument and a laugh.

Somehow whatever the media brought in criticism and bad news, the more popular he and his very English party became. In this presidential age in British politics, it’s the man, not the party that counts.

Party Leaders Vote In European and Local Elections

It seems that Mr Farage was fighting a campaign that was about persuading punters that he was the only man around they might stop and have a drink with. Clegg? Cameron? Milliband? None of them seemed likely to last long at Mr Farage’s bar.

It wasn’t even a question of wanting him in power. The electorate seemed to be in a none-of-the-above mood. Indeed, today’s vote will almost certainly be won by those who won’t vote at all.

In talking to voters it is hard to find many who seriously think that the votes they cast will make much difference. For many, coalition life at a national level has led to a more or less comfortable loss of party identities. But coalition life seems to have been accompanied by an estrangement from politics altogether. Maria Miller’s expenses didn’t help, nor did the “sexminster” allegations aired on Channel 4 News.

The estrangement in Scotland continues to put wind in pro-independence sails. “Blame Brussels” has had a field day, and I find a lurking fear abroad in the country that we might drift into the break-up of the UK accompanied by a departure from Europe.

I suspect that neither will happen, but the stage is set so that both could happen.

Casting ahead, it’s hard to see how political choice will be re-energised. Perhaps in the Internet age of me, you, and my mobile, people don’t want them re-energised.

There’s no evidence that political life elsewhere is any more exuberant. War and banking seem to have taken their toll on public life in the past few years. Maybe Iraq, Afghanistan, and the crash took a much greater toll upon us than we knew.

I hope I’m wrong, but this election day feels unlike any other.

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