So how much choice will the voter get in May’s general election?
The supposed collapse of two party politics (Labour and the Conservatives together polled 95 per cent of the vote in the 1950s and today struggle to get much above 60) suggests we are living in a political supermarket.
Lost faith in SainsTory? Try TescoLab. Fear that the big boys are ripping you off? Then there’s AldiLib, AsdaKip, LidlGreen or CoopNat to choose from.
But just how real is this so-called voters marketplace? The way things are going, one suspects not much.
It has become a commonplace to observe that the three supposed established parties are mirror images of one another. LibLabCon is a term of abuse across the internet as the public cottons onto the simple fact that the likes of Cameron, Miliband and Clegg all attended similar schools, all never did a decent day’s work in their lives, all entered politics as “advisers” in short trousers, all married the same kind of upper middle class PC women, all mouth platitudes about the wonders of the NHS and state schools, all pledge to consign their offspring to comprehensives (unless they get kicked out in the mean time), and all are fully signed up to Harriet Harman’s feminist “equalities” agenda. Not a reactionary thought must ever pass their lips.
True, there are some minor differences over how quickly they might reduce the nation’s chronic indebtedness. Miliband and Clegg are in St Augustine’s camp – Oh Lord make me chaste, but not just yet – while Dave talks a good game while putting off the day of reckoning until some convenient point well after the next election and at least 3-5 years hence. His supporters are like a crowd dying of thirst in the desert. The oasis on the horizon is an ever retreating mirage.
So what is left? The fisherfolk running the Scots Nats (Sturgeon now, Salmond before, and now doubt Shark to come) offer an aggressive, self-righteous , narrowly drawn brand of outdated socialism in which the politics of grievance, nicely in tune with today’s culture of victimhood, loom large. Every problem in the impoverished north is to be solved by a large dollop of public money. Since the Scots are broke (just look at the plunging oil price), the money will have to come from the hated English, who in popular Caledonian legend, spend their time lounging around in a land of milk and honey while denying their deserving kilted cousins so much as a spare groat.
LibLabCon may be facing hard times on May 7. The SNP is on a one-way bet. Want to screw more cash and powers out of the Sassenachs? Then vote for the Sturgeon/Salmond ticket. You can’t lose. England will be paying them in golden elephants next (see Clare Short on the subject of volcano-torn Montserrat a few years back). And then, hilariously, we could wind up with Salmond, in coalition with Miliband, running England.
That leaves the Greens, a back to the Stone Age version of our beloved Left. Who says the world is round? A surprising number of unhappy Labour and Lib Dem voters are prepared to believe barmy Brighton MP Caroline Lucas and some woman called Natalie Bennett, who appears to be their leader, in their assertion that the world is flat. Bennett, in case you missed it, has just told The Economist, that you are better off being poor in India (average wage about £200 a year) than being on benefits in the UK (capped at about £35,000 a year before tax, £26,000 a year net).
Last but never least is Ukip. The problem here is that Ukip is fast morphing from being a low tax, small state, patriotic, non-PC Thatcherite party, epitomised by Nigel Farage’s jolly saloon bar quips, into another ghastly liberal charabanc.
Take, for instance, the lecture delivered by Douglas Carswell, its first MP, in the Mail on Sunday last weekend. It could have been straight out of the Cameron playbook.
Various BBC-type Aunt Sallies were erected only to be assailed by the heroic St Douglas. “We must stop insulting immigrants,” asserted the hair-shirted one. “Dislike of foreigners is not merely offensive, but absurd.” Various other Harmanesque pieties followed, including the laughable observation that there has never been anything splendid about isolation. How about May 1940 after the fall of Paris? Our “isolation” then proved the salvation of Western civilisation.
Mr Farage has never made it his policy to go around insulting foreigners (though no harm in cracking a few jokes about them). He has made it his policy to ensure that foreigners, by and large, remain foreigners by living in their own countries, which is not entirely unreasonable. After all there are 200 countries in the world. Not every one of the seven billion people on the planet should assume they have the right to live in Knightsbridge or claim benefits in even some where as ordinary as Middlesborough.
Carswell wittered on in Pollyannish fashion about how today’s generation of UK citizens are the most blessed in our history. Indeed they are. But can they be sure of such good fortune in the world to come? What about the competition we face from the two billion people in India and China who would also like to enjoy an annual income of £35,000 a year (before tax and without working). Are we just going to roll over and let Britain slide down the OECD league tables?
He also appeared to have discovered “interdependence” as if Britain had not been trading with the rest of the world for 2,000 years and had not been at the heart of the dawn of globalisation in the 18th Century, when we began the creation of our vast trading empire.
Even worst was his prating about the need for an “inclusive” Ukip agenda, presumably in some way different and superior to the “inclusive” agenda paraded by the like of Cameron and Co.
Many people have had quite enough of “inclusive” agendas and would prefer some judgement and discrimination aimed at rewarding and encouraging constructive behaviour and penalising the anti-social, destructive variety.
Ukip kremlinologists will see Carswell’s manifesto as another chapter in the party’s internal power struggles in which a “libertarian” faction, of which Carswell is a self-proclaimed advocate, is pitted against the traditionalists who have defected from the Tories and who are best represented by Farage.
Whatever the explanation, the message is obvious enough as we enter 2015. All political parties, even the once splendidly isolated Ukip, revert to a dreary PC mean. May be Russell Brand is right. Voting for any of them is a waste of a good pencil.