Mr Bigot’s Halloween….

MR BIGOTs Halloween cover

 

 

Mr Bigot liked Halloween.

It was one of his favourite celebrations. Mr Bigot liked scaring people – it was one of his favourite activities. Only that morning he’d tried to scare all the listeners to a radio programme about how all those nasty immigrants were coming over here to take their jobs, to claim huge amounts of money in benefits, to destroy their health service, fill their schools, and much, much more. Just like every other morning.

Oh yes, Mr Bigot liked Halloween a lot. And this Halloween was going to be particularly special. UKIP had organised a very special party. Mr Bigot was really looking forward to it.

He didn’t really need a costume. He was scary enough as it was – and he knew it. Just a set of fangs and a cloak would do. He could put on a Romanian accent – everyone knew Romanians were scary. Oh yes. Terrifying.

The party was happening at one of London’s best clubs. Mr Bigot was a member – as were a number of his friends. There wouldn’t be any riffraff let in.

Mr Bigot didn’t like riffraff. Oh, he always liked a good photo-shoot with common people, but that was quite enough. Mr Bigot liked to portray himself as a man of the people, but really he wasn’t sure he liked people very much.

He put on his cloak and fitted his fangs as he approached the club, and smiled spookily at the liveried man at the door. The man smiled back and touched his top hat deferentially, welcoming Mr Bigot in. Mr Bigot found him entering a place of wonder: the entire club had been decked out in a spectacularly spooky style. There were heavy cobwebs on every chandelier, jack-o-lanterns on every window sill, curtains of black velvet and much, much more. Long tables were filled with silver platters filled with steaming food. The aroma was wonderful.

MR BIGOTs Halloween blank

One of Mr Bigot’s oldest friends, dressed up as Frankenstein’s monster, complete with bolt, lurched quickly across the room to greet him with a strange kind of smile. Mr Bigot leaned over to him.

“Looks great, old boy,” Mr Bigot whispered, “must have cost a pretty penny.”

“Oh,” said his friend, “no need to worry about that. Thanks to our new Polish friend, we’re quids in these days.”

His friend pointed across the room to a slightly disreputable looking fellow dressed in a black military uniform. The man smiled and gave a straight armed salute. Mr Bigot smiled back.

Then Mr Bigot took a closer look around the room. People were dressed in all kinds of different costumes. There were a few witches, a lot of skeletons, and plenty of zombies – though those might just have been some of the party members who hadn’t read their invitations carefully enough to realise it was supposed to be fancy dress.

Then Mr Bigot had an uncomfortable thought. He whispered again to his Frankenstein’s monster friend.

“There aren’t any reporters here, are there?”

“Oh no, Mr Bigot,” his friend replied. “Just Nick and David over there, and they can be trusted completely.”

Mr Bigot looked over to where his friend was pointed, and there were Nick Robinson and David Dimbleby, rather poorly disguised as neutral, independent journalists, sipping at their drinks and sharing a laugh.

MR BIGOTs Halloween close

“Excellent,” said Mr Bigot with a smile. “Now, I really need a drink!”

“Beer?”

“God no,” said Mr Bigot, “do you know how many photo-shoots I’ve done today? I’m sick of the taste of the stuff. Get me a claret, and a good one.”

While he waited for his friend to bring him his drink, Mr Bigot wandered around the room, listening to the undead band playing UKIP Calypso, and chatting with a few of the more unusually dressed guests. The first he came to was dressed in a pink shirt and very tight trousers, and had an obviously false handlebar moustache.

“What have you come as?” Mr Bigot asked.

“I am a gay Bulgarian,” the man said with a guffaw. “Scary, eh?”

“Very,” Mr Bigot agreed, “just don’t go getting married – we could do without more floods!”

“How about you?” Mr Bigot asked the next one, who was blacked up and wearing rags.

“I have Ebola,” the man replied, with a faux African accent almost as good as Mike Read’s Jamaican one.

“We should never have let you in,” Mr Bigot laughed, “or anyone like you.”

Mr Bigot strolled past a pair dressed in business suits with blue ties with yellow stars, wearing blank face masks. Eurocrats, of course. Another had even come as José Manuel Barroso.

MR BIGOTs Halloween closer

Just as Frankenstein’s monster lurched up with his drink, Mr Bigot saw another costume he couldn’t quite place. Skin darker than Mr Bigot was comfortable with, torn clothes soaking wet, heavy fronds of seaweed draped over his shoulders and head. The man saw him staring and smiled.

“I’m a drowning migrant in the Mediterranean,” he said, and Mr Bigot grimaced.

“Damn those Tories,” he muttered under his breath, “why did they think of that idea first? It’s brilliant.”

The drink tasted a little strange to Mr Bigot – not a claret at all, but some kind of mulled wine, thick with spice. Mr Bigot took a large swig, and felt the drink go straight to his head. He shook himself, wondering what was coming over him, and went to sit down in a large, comfortable arm chair. It had been a long day. He was tired. He drank down the rest of his drink and leant back in his chair, closing his eyes.

When he opened them, he found a strange man approaching him. The man was unshaven, and wearing a T-shirt with ‘LBC’ in small letters on the chest. In his hand he held a microphone, attached to some kind of tape recorder. What’s going on? thought Mr Bigot. I thought there were no reporters here. Then he relaxed. It must be a costume. The man’s first words confirmed it.

“I’ve come as James O’Brien,” the man said with a smile, “I thought you might find it scary.” Mr Bigot couldn’t help a silent shudder – he still remembered being ambushed on LBC. Whoever this was, he had a nasty sense of humour. Should go far.

MR BIGOTs Halloween closest

“Perhaps,” the man said, “I could give you a quick interview?”

“Of course,” replied Mr Bigot with a sharp-fanged smile. The man held out his faux microphone, clicked a button on his faux tape recorder and started asking questions. Boring stuff to start with, just like most interviews. How nice it must feel to be so high in the polls, to have one MP and another on the way. Mr Bigot gave the usual answers – he could do this in his sleep.

“You must be delighted that the public has realised,” the interviewer said, “that immigrants are responsible for so many problems – taking away jobs, costing a fortune in benefits, destroying our health services and so on.”

Mr Bigot smiled again, but then, to his complete surprise found himself saying something he hadn’t planned. And laughing.

“Surely you don’t actually believe that,” Mr Bigot couldn’t stop himself saying, “do you? I mean, even I don’t believe that. I know very well that immigration doesn’t cost jobs, or any of that other rot. Are you stupid? I’m not. This is politics, matey.”

Mr Bigot felt thick-headed. It must have been the drink. And yet he still couldn’t stop himself.

“It’s brilliant, isn’t it? So many dopes take what we say at face value. All those idiots vote for us – it’s worse than turkeys voting for Christmas. I mean, workers vote for us though we want to take away their rights! As though anything we say would make any difference at all except to make their lives harder, and make us richer. We know it’s rot, you know it’s rot. But better to blame Johnny Foreigner than my mates in the banks. And when they vote for us, we get all this,” he waved his hand around the opulent surroundings. “There’s no gravy-train like the Brussels gravy-train,” he finished, “and long may it continue.”

“What?” said the interviewer, “don’t you want us to leave the EU?”

“God no,” said Mr Bigot with a laugh, “if we leave we all know business will be down the tubes – and all these lovely expenses will stop flowing. Still, we’ve got to keep saying we want to leave. That’s the point, isn’t it?”

“And immigration? What about immigration?”

“If we don’t have immigration,” Mr Bigot found himself saying, “where will I get my chauffeurs from? Where will we find women to clean behind the fridges? Just so long as immigrants are properly frightened, that’s good enough for me. That way we can pay them a pittance and they’ll have to accept it. And just as long as there’s enough hate and fear to keep people distracted, everything’s just the way I want it.”

The man pressed the button on his tape recorder and suddenly looked stern. “That’s great,” he said with a sly smile. “You do realise that I really am James O’Brien, I hope? This will be great on the LBC news.”

MR BIGOTs Halloween closest white

Mr Bigot’s face went white. He felt cold inside. What on earth had made him say all of that? It wasn’t like him at all. He was usually so good at keeping up the pretence. Even when he made little slips he got over them with a laugh and a smile. This time, though, he couldn’t see how he could do that. It was a nightmare. A complete nightmare. He closed his eyes and could feel the tears begin to come. What a horrible Halloween.

Suddenly he felt an arm on his shoulder. He opened his eyes. James O’Brien was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Frankenstein’s monster stood before him.

“Are you alright, Mr Bigot?” his friend whispered. “I think you must have dozed off for a while.”

“But…” Mr Bigot shook himself. Had it all been a dream? Had he imagined it all? He sighed, long and slow, the composed himself. It must have been. Oh, it had felt scary – but there was no real need to be scared – at least not for Mr Bigot. The rest of the country, well they had plenty to be scared about.

For everyone else, the nightmare had only just begun.

MR BIGOTs Halloween cover

 

 

Words by @paulbernalUK, art by @kaiserofcrisps and @paulbernalUK

For the original Mr Bigot, see here.

Immigration, xenophobia and racism…

Every so often, these days, someone says something about immigration that makes me think about racism, xenophobia, or both. Often it’s someone from UKIP, but recently Tory politicians have been joining in pretty regularly – and even Lib Dems and Labourites have been triggering the same reaction in me. Whenever I mention this on Twitter, in amongst the other reactions there will pretty much every time be someone who says something like ‘why does someone wanting to limit or control immigration have to be racist or xenophobic?’

The answer I generally give is that of course they don’t – but these days, all too often, the reasons behind such statements have racism or xenophobia in the background. That is, not all those people wanting to control or limit immigration are racists or xenophobes, but a lot of xenophobes or racists use the relative respectability of opposition to immigration as a cover story from xenophobia or racism.

I had three interesting altercations of this kind on Twitter last week – from what I remember, they came after the revelation that UKIP had done a deal with a Polish MEP who happened to be a Holocaust Denier. In all three cases, the starting point was a seemingly rational objection to immigration. I engaged with the argument – I don’t always, because these kinds of arguments can be exhausting and depressing – and in all three cases the ending was memorable. The first finished with the suggestion that Labour councils had been engaging in ‘ethnic cleansing of whites’ (the words of my opponent). The second peaked with the remarkable statement that everything always goes downhill when the proportion of whites in an area goes below 60% – a ‘fact’ that I was assured couldn’t be racist because my opponent has been told it by a black person. The third argument was much more rational, and specifically about immigration from the EU. It ended with a suggestion that one of the biggest problems with EU immigration was that communities didn’t integrate. When I pushed on this point, asking which EU communities didn’t integrate, the answer came Poles and West Africans. Aside from my own experience of the Poles as integrating very well into British society (as they have since their great contribution to the Battle of Britain), the way that West Africans somehow fitted the ‘EU migration’ story made that old feeling of racism and xenophobia come back again.

It happened again when I read of Michael Fallon’s comments of towns feeling ‘swamped’ and ‘under siege’ by EU immigrants. If he really was talking about EU immigrants, what was it that made him feel ‘swamped’? Too many Polish shops on his high street? Too many shopping aisles in his local Tesco with Eastern European specialist products on them? Hearing Czech spoken at the bus stop? Does he think he can tell an Eastern European from a Western European just by looking at them – I mean, Nigel Farage may be able to ‘know the difference’ between a Romanian and a German, but…

To me it feels like dog whistle politics. When Fallon talks about feeling under siege, he means that ‘they’ look different from ‘us’. ‘We’ should feel threatened by ‘them’. That’s feeding into racism and xenophobia – and I’m afraid that’s all too common in the anti-immigrant rhetoric going around at the moment. That’s where the ‘too many black faces’ talk comes from, the ‘ethnic cleansing of whites’, the ‘going downhill when the White faces go below 60%’, and the non-integration of West Africans goes. And whilst we’re at it, non-integrations is often a cypher in itself. It suggests people shouldn’t talk their own languages, even amongst themselves, shouldn’t wear any clothes that aren’t ‘British’ enough – and certainly shouldn’t practice any religion other than Christianity openly.

Of course there are rational arguments against immigration – though most of them fall apart under serious scrutiny. Those twin myths of ‘health tourism’ and ‘benefit tourism’ keep being trotted out though the figures show they’re negligible – and indeed immigrants tend to be younger, healthier and less likely to claim benefits than non-immigrants, as well as contributing more in taxes than they cost in terms of health and benefits. ‘They’ aren’t taking ‘our’ jobs either – in general immigration creates as many jobs as it takes, and boosts the economy. The problem problems we have with housing are connected with chronic underinvestment and a dysfunctional market – not immigration.

All this, however, is lost in the morass of misinformation, much of it fuelled by racism and xenophobia. What are also lost in this mess are the real causes of the real problems in places like Clacton, Rochester and elsewhere. Whilst focussing on the immigrants, the unscrupulous landlords, dodgy employers and tax-avoiding rich people and companies who mess up the housing market, pay poverty wages and massively reduce the tax take necessary to make the investments those communities need, are laughing all the way to their off-shore banks. Politicians wreaking havoc through austerity and ‘reform’ are left to enjoy their subsidised drinks in the Commons’ bars. The real villains are happy to see immigrants and immigration take the blame. Of course they are.

So no, talking about wanting to limit or control immigration isn’t racist or xenophobic – but plenty of xenophobes and racists talk about wanting to control immigration. And plenty of others are selfish enough to encourage them to do so, because it keeps their own actions away from the limelight. It keeps them from being held to account – and it allows the story to keep on going in exactly the same way. The side effects of the encouragement of racism and xenophobia are hideous, and the damage it does to us as a whole, as a culture, as a community, is incalculable. It divides, it stigmatises, it spreads suspicion, distrust and fear. It’s what makes people suspect any Muslim could be a terrorist, every African a carrier of Ebola, every Serb a war criminal, every Romanian a thief. It diminishes all of us. That it’s allowed to grow, to fester, is something that makes me, for one, deeply sad.

Valuing the human…

When I heard that UKIP had forged an alliance with a Polish MEP who was, amongst other things, a Holocaust denier, a man who joked about beating wives and beating children, who thought disabled people shouldn’t be on TV, and that had described Hitler as a ‘rascal’, my first reaction was to sigh. Not because these things aren’t terrible – but because they are, and they’re sadly typical of something I see in so many places. It’s about a failure to place value on the human, but instead only on certain people.

The whole nature of the Holocaust was about that – and so is Holocaust denial. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think UKIP is a party of Holocaust deniers – though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were a few in UKIP’s ranks – but that they don’t think Holocaust denial is such a big deal. Certainly not a ‘deal breaker’, as they’ve demonstrated by making their deal. Why would you not think it was a big deal? The most obvious reason is that the millions of deaths, the brutal and systematic nature of those deaths – not just of Jews but of Roma, of Slavs, of disabled people and others – simply don’t matter that much to you. For some people such an attitude is almost inconceivable – but for others, it seems long ago, those ‘people’ don’t really register as important enough to make a difference. They’re not valued.

Holocaust denial is one of the most obvious, but the failure to place value in the human is in all those other things. You can only joke about ‘wife beating’ if you don’t really value women – they don’t quite class as human, somewhere in your mind. The same for beating children. Saying that disabled people shouldn’t appear on TV can only really be because disabled people don’t count as quite, well, people. Human. And it’s part of a bigger pattern. Racism, ultimately, means thinking that people of one race are less valuable than others. Xenophobia, of the kind demonstrated by UKIP towards Romanians and Bulgarians, for example, says the same. ‘You know the difference’, as Nigel Farage said to James O’Brien, comparing Romanians to his German wife, is about valuing one kind of human above another.

It’s not just UKIP. Lord Freud’s comments about some disabled people being ‘worth’ less than the minimum wage has the same origin – and in some ways a more pernicious one. It takes the idea of value to a more calculated level, treating people not as humans but as ‘assets’ whose only ‘worth’ is their ability to contribute as productive economic units – and as a result finds them wanting. It’s not just treating disabled people as less than human – it’s treating all of us as less than human. It’s not valuing humanity at all. Labour’s Rachel Reeves gets in on the act too. In her recent speech on social security began by talking about ‘decent, hardworking people’ – which implies that there are some people who are not as valuable. Not decent. Not working hard enough – and hence not as valuable, not as worthy. That would include people who can’t work as hard – disabled people for example, older people, kids – and people whose lives are not filled with what is commonly described as ‘work': carers are perhaps the most obvious example, the majority of whom are women. These people, the indecent, non-‘hardworking’ people are seen as less ‘valuable’ than the decent, hardworking people, who ‘deserve’ support. The value’s in the ‘decency’ and the ‘hardworking’, not the ‘people’. Not the human.

That’s also why the Tories can see an attack on ‘human rights’ as something that’s not just politically acceptable but politically valuable. Many people seem to think that there isn’t any value in the human, just in certain kinds of human.  That’s why the recent survey that suggests many more Britons think that they should have the right to work anywhere in Europe than think Europeans should have the right to work in the UK. It makes sense – if you understand that we Brits are inherently more valuable, more worthy, more trustworthy than all those dodgy foreigners. We brought civilisation to the world, you know, of course we’re better than those Europeans – particularly those dodgy Romanians and Bulgarians, who are mostly beggars and thieves anyway. Even if people don’t articulate it in those terms, that’s what underlies it. ‘We’ are better than ‘them’.

We seem to see just the differences, and use them to ascribe value. We forget the human, and undervalue it. That’s why UKIP can just shrug off the Holocaust denial and the wife beating jokes. That’s why the casual racism inherent in the UKIP Calypso doesn’t matter – and why even if Lord Freud does eventually lose his job, the attitudes towards disabled people are seen by far too many as just common sense and economic reality. That, to me, is deeply sad.

Not Ed Miliband’s speech on immigration

Now a lot of people have asked me how Labour should respond to UKIP.

I have thought about it a lot, and I tell you this: I will not cede the issue of immigration to those offering fear or falsehood.

I promise, we will listen to what people tell us on the doorstep. Not just if those people are called Gareth. We do listen. And we do understand. We hear many things that people say about immigration – and about many other things. About poverty. About jobs. About the cost of social security. About the NHS. About housing. And we understand when people seem to make links between immigration and those other things – but we have to be clear about whether those links are true or not. Where they are true, we have to be bold, and strong – but when they are not true, we have to be bold and strong too.

So when people say that they are worried about the NHS, and the strain being put on the NHS by immigration, we will say that we are worried about the NHS too, and that we will do everything we can to make sure the NHS is properly funded. That we have doctors and nurses that are looked after and supported. That we will not allow the NHS to be driven down into despair so that it can be sold off – but we will also be clear that immigrants and immigration is not putting a strain on the NHS: quite the opposite. Immigrants do not come over here to use our health service – they come over hear to work in our health service. The contribution made by immigrants as doctors, as nurses, as support staff of all kinds, is critical to the health service. And immigrants use health services less than most people. They’re not a drain on the health service. They support it. Immigration is good for the NHS. What is bad for the NHS is the creeping privatisation – and we’re sorry that we in the Labour Party made the wrong moves in initiating Public Finance Initiatives. We will prevent any future privatisation – and ensure proper funding for the NHS.

And when people say they are worried that about housing, and that immigration is putting a strain on housing, we will say that we are worried about housing too, and will be ensuring that more affordable – and by that we mean genuinely affordable – houses are build. We will look at ways to make the currently dysfunctional housing market work better for everyone – but it needs to be entirely clear that it is the housing market that is the problem, not immigration. It’s not the immigrants but the unscrupulous landlords who cause the problems in the housing market – and we will make sure that tenants have proper protection, and that rents are kept at affordable levels.

And when people tell us that they are worried about the amounts we have to pay for social security, we will say that we understand – and we do – but we will also make it entirely clear that the idea of ‘benefits tourism’ is also a myth. Immigrants do not place a burden on the benefits system any more than they do on the health service. Indeed, they pay more in tax than they receive in benefits. Immigration does not cost money – it contributes, and those who suggest otherwise whilst knowing the real figures are doing so to mislead, to confuse, and to try to make people blame those who are not to blame.

Now, let’s talk a little bit about jobs, and about unemployment. It’s a common suggestion – one made by UKIP at the European elections – that people from Europe are coming here to take your jobs. That to is a damaging and disturbing myth, one often deliberately intended to spread fear and division. Overall, immigration – and immigration from Europe in particular – creates more jobs than it takes. Now unemployment is a problem – and low wages are a problem – but they’re not caused by immigration, and to suggest so is disingenuous at best. We need to be quite clear about that. It is true, however, that particularly at the lower end of the wage scale immigration can put pressure on, and in some particular local areas it can put pressure on – in the short term. We will address this directly – by raising the minimum wage, by enforcing that minimum wage, by clamping down on those manipulative and unscrupulous employers who take advantage of both British and immigrant workers – and by providing a social security system that supports those in need rather than stigmatising them and demonising them.

Now it’s important to understand that there are those who would use immigration as a scapegoat for the problems we face. I could have mentioned education – some suggest, falsely, that immigration puts pressure on our education system – or crime, which is also falsely blamed on immigration. It’s easy to blame immigrants – but it’s wrong, and it’s damaging. It means that the people who are really responsible for these problems – the dodgy landlords, the unscrupulous employers, those who actually caused the financial problems we face – are let off the hook. What’s more, it means we don’t do what is really needed to sort out our problems. We don’t address the dysfunctional housing market. We don’t provide proper funding for our health and education systems. We don’t sort out our social security system in a way that really works – all we do is find people to punish.

For that reason, I won’t be announcing punitive new measures on benefits for immigrants. I won’t be announcing figures to limit immigration.  Instead, I’ll be dealing with the real problems, not basing policy on lies.

Because they are lies – and we will fight those lies, because the lies hurt. They hurt immigrants. They hurt you. They create division and damage, foster hatred and ignorance. They hurt the country. They hurt us all.

————————————

…but of course he won’t say any of that, because it’s too late. They’ve let the lies go unchallenged for so long that it’s too hard to fight. So instead, on goes the damage, on goes the hatred, and the problems remain unsolved…. and instead they fester, like a sore.

UKIP’s idea of freedom…..

Reading about Nigel Farage’s idea to ban HIV+ immigrants from the UK made me shake my head…. and as @auntysarah reminded me on Twitter, this is pure dog-whistle politics. As she put it:

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 13.10.27

I’m pretty sure she’s right – and it’s not the first time. Farage’s line to James O’Brien (see here), about his line that ‘you know what the difference is’ about Romanians moving in next door is just the same kind of thing. It’s about making people afraid of ‘the other’. All those people you ‘know’ you should be afraid of….

That in turn reminded me of a classic Tom Robinson Band song: Power in the Darkness, which parodies the kind of politics that UKIP represents, and that many of us hoped we’d seen off back in the 80s. The video is below, but here are the key lyrics.

And it’s about time we said ‘Enough is enough’
And saw a return to the traditional British values of discipline
Obedience, morality and freedom
What we want is

Freedom from the reds and the blacks and the criminals
Prostitutes, pansies and punks
Football hooligans, juvenile delinquents
Lesbians and left wing scum

Freedom from the niggers and the Pakis and the unions
Freedom from the gypsies and the Jews
Freedom from left wing layabouts and liberals
Freedom from the likes of you

I hoped we’d seen that kind of thing off in the 80s. We haven’t. It’s still there, and being dog-whistled at all the time. It really IS time we said enough is enough – but to this…

The rant is a little more than 3 minutes into this video. If you don’t know the song, you really should!

We have met the enemy and he is us…

pogoI suppose I shouldn’t have been upset by the results of the two by-elections last night – but I was. I suppose I still had a slight hope in my mind that things weren’t really as bad as the opinion polls, and my gut feelings, suggested they were. I was wrong. I often am. As it was, UKIP triumphed in Clacton, and came very close to triumphing even more dramatically in Heywood and Middleton.

The post-mortems are already happening in so many places. All kinds of people are looking for all kinds of reasons, and all kinds of people to blame – and it’s easy to find possible scapegoats. I do it myself, regularly railing against the BBC – I even run my own parody account based on the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson, portraying him as the founder of the Nigel Farage Fan Club. We can – and often do – try to blame the Daily Mail and its tabloid companions, for their seemingly incessant campaigns against immigrants, trying to blame them for everything from unemployment and housing problems to the challenges facing the NHS. We can try to blame the Labour Party for failing to stand up for what is right – failing to appeal to its core voters, failing to understand ordinary people. We can blame them for accepting the anti-immigrant agenda of the Mail etc without question – or we can blame them for not accepting it, and hence not understanding the genuine concerns of the ordinary people.

We can try to blame Nigel Farage and his band of chancers for pulling the wool over the voters’ eyes – and they do, portraying themselves as different from the ‘ordinary’ politicians when in almost every way they are indistinguishable. We can blame them for using dog-whistle politics, appealing to the lowest common denominator, using racism – sometimes direct, sometimes just with a nod and a wink- and they do, no question about it. We can blame the Tories for pandering to their extreme right – or we can blame them for not pandering to their extreme right, so leaving a space for the likes of Farage.

We can blame the banks and so forth for trying to distract us from the real reasons for the financial crash – and hence convincing us to accept the neo-liberal agenda of austerity. Oh, there are a whole lot of ways in which we can find people to blame. The blame game is an easy one to play – which is part of the reason for the success of UKIP. They play it better than almost anyone, convincing us sometimes that the EU is to blame for everything, sometimes that immigrants are to blame for everything, sometimes both. Sometimes they blame ‘LibLabCon’. It’s easy to do. And yet it misses the point.

In the end, the problem isn’t with ‘someone else’. It’s us. The Pogo comic above has been used for a number of purposes – initially highlighting the dangers of McCarthyism, where people who were ‘un-American’ were effectively hounded, scapegoated and persecuted, and later for ‘Earth-day’, highlighting how self-destructive we are in the way we treat our environment.

That’s the scariest thing about yesterday’s election. Not that it’s somehow unrepresentative of how we are, but that it might be. The things that UKIP uses as dog whistles, the racism, the homophobia, the xenophobia, the desire to blame people weaker than ourselves, only function as dog whistles because there’s a lot of racism, homophobia and xenophobia about. It taps into something about us. Of course it’s only part of UKIP’s appeal, because the other call to arms, the one against the self-serving Westminster Elite, hits another critical nerve. The Westminster elite are self-serving, disconnected and deserving primarily of contempt. Farage is quite right about that – though he conveniently fails to mention that he’s one of them in almost every way. The trouble is, it is us that have let them get that way. And we continue to do so – even by voting UKIP.

I don’t have any answers. I don’t think there really are any answers. When we’re fighting against ourselves, it’s hard to find them. We really are our own worst enemies.

What to do when you make a mistake – an object lesson!

A little earlier in the week I posted a piece on how difficult it is for politicians to admit they’ve made a mistake. Well, if they were paying attention during the Lib Dem conference today, they’d have learnt an object lesson, from the BBC’s Louise Stewart. Here’s what she tweeted, before Nick Clegg’s speech:

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 19.29.56

Stunningly brilliant – hilarious, and entirely unintentional. A mixture of a typo and the joys of predictive text. It caused immediate hilarity… so what did Louise Stewart do? Delete the tweet, and pretend it didn’t happen – one of the many dodgy techniques used by the Conservative Party Press Office in their altercation with David Allen Green earlier in the week? Suggest that someone hacked her account, as is the standard excuse when MPs tweet something racist, sexist or stupid?

No. Louise Stewart just admitted it straight out.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 19.30.13

And she didn’t delete the tweet. She admitted it, apologised and saw the funny side – as did others. In the last conference of a conference season full of lies, reinvention of history, dissembling and misinformation, it may well be the first piece of honesty on the political scene.

Louise Stewart, I salute you!