About to be led by a perfect triumvirate of Trump in Washington, Johnson in Westminster and Farage in Brussels, are we all asleep at the controls?
Unanswered questions hang around Trump's election; Johnson may well become prime minister with little or no external oversight; and Farage is getting money – tonnes of it – from God only knows what base source. Finally Gordon Brown, a has-been-prime-minister, has had the guts and the gumption to ask the fundamental question about where that money comes from. No one seems to know – except Farage, possibly Trump, and perhaps even Johnson as well – and none of them are saying. How can this possibly happen?
Farage has gone very quiet since the Peterborough by-election, but he won't stay quiet for long – and he's still Britain's main man in Brussels. For better or worse, he will be viewed as the UK's standard bearer and main spokesman over there.
There was a very conservative candidate in a student election at a Canadian university in 1968. His views were fairly extreme (not so by some of today's standards apparently) and every time he stood up to make a speech, a fellow called Peter Axhorn would leap out of the crowd in a black Nazi stormtrooper outfit and stand slightly behind and to one side of him. After every sentence the unfortunate candidate uttered, Peter would click his heels and raise his right arm in the rigid, mindless salute. The candidate, who unfortunately had a German name (although he came from a long established Canadian family), could do nothing about this. Over the course of the student election his candidacy was destroyed, and we never saw him again. It was all done with great good humour – although that would not have been evident to the victim.
Is it possible in this day and age to so effectively destroy a charlatan candidate? Or have we all been turned into some version of the candidate? My wife tells me the storm-trooper act wouldn't be allowed these days; that it would spark riots and violence, and would only excite and encourage the far-right people. Farage, she suggests, would be better accompanied by a
robot with a large key in his back. From time-to-time a heavy-set, Russian-looking person would jump up and wind the key.
Our discussion continued from there. It was early in the morning, before my mind was properly tuned in. But my wife was wide-awake. 'Why doesn't someone point out that Farage looks like something drawn up by Dr Seuss?', she said.
Dr Seuss? My memory of Dr Seuss is thin, but I looked him up. 'The Cat in the Hat' looked a bit like Farage. Yes, that would be how some people see him – jolly, fairly vacuous... But harmless enough. Trustworthy? Well...
Then she showed me an evolution image of the Grinch. It was amazing. It had all the expressions that Farage uses. He must have studied the Grinch to get all of them off so cleverly. It was too much of a coincidence.
Inspired by my wife's perspicacity, I looked up some more allusions, and then I found myself at a quiz. Which Dr Zeuss character do you most resemble? There were 11 questions, all with multiple options. I decided to answer them in the way I thought Nigel Farage would.
Question 1: You have brains in your head and shoes on your feet. Which destination would you choose? There were five options.
I/Nigel chose the 'amusement park'.
Question 2: Pick a mode of transportation.
I/Nigel chose the 'hot air balloon'.
Question 3: There's a huge spider on the floor. What do you do?
I/Nigel chose 'leave the room'.
Question 4: You've got the house to yourself tonight. What are you planning?
I/Nigel chose 'a game night with lots of snacks'.
Question 5: Your partner in crime is?
I/Nigel chose 'literally the person I commit crime with'.
Question 6: Which non-Seuss children's book character do you relate to most?
I/Nigel chose 'Eeyore'.
Question 7: Be Honest. Do you like people?
I/Nigel chose 'people are the worst'.
Question 8: Hey, there's some mysterious purple goo in the refrigerator. Would you eat it?
I/Nigel chose 'of course! Try some with me!'
Question 9: See that No Trespassing sign? How does it make you feel?
I/Nigel chose 'like, I must trespass. Rules are meant to be broken, right?'
Question 10: Are you outdoorsy?
I/Nigel chose 'No'.
Question 11: How do you like to say goodbye? Again, there were several options.
I/Nigel chose 'with a wink'.
The verdict I got in my impersonation of Nigel Farage? 'You are Thing One or Thing Two. You are a highly skilled agent of Chaos. An energetic burst of
energy with a limitless supply of antics and pranks. While you're totally cool stirring up trouble alone, you really work better with a team – specifically with a partner in crime as out of their mind as you.'
In the end it's all down to us, the voters. We are in charge, are we not? You have to believe, surely, that the discerning citizen, the thinking voter has more clout than the clockwork, suggestible voter. No? Yes? I mean, would you buy a used car from Nigel Farage? Would even the most ardent Brexiteer buy a used car from him? Exactly! So, how on earth does he have
any credibility in matters of state? Who gives it to him – and are there more of them than the rest of us?
in charge of the clattering train? It is indeed us. Remember that one of the oldest tenets of management or government states that those who govern lead only with the consent of the people they govern. Edwin Milliken's poem 'The Clattering Train' was a great favourite of Winston Churchill's. In the 1930s it signified to Churchill that the government and too many British people were fast asleep to the dangers that, to him, were in full view. Milliken's poem had much to say about who is in charge of the clattering train, including this:
Only a Man, but away at his back,
In a dozen cars, on the steely track,
A hundred passengers place their trust
In this fellow of fustian, grease, and dust….
The hiss of steam-spurts athwart the dark.
Lull them to confident drowsiness. Hark!
What is that sound? 'Tis the stertorous breath
Of a slumbering man – and it smacks of death!
A hundred hearts beat placidly on,
Unwitting they, that their warder is gone.