It felt very odd voting in the European and local elections this morning, simply out of too long a sense of disconnection, perhaps. But have you rushed out to vote, to prove we aren’t that apathetic and to stop not only the rise of UKIP but far right parties right across Europe? Which brings up Nigel Farrage, Cheese, sewers and Romanians! The night before last there was the most tragic and terrifying report not on sewers, like those terrible Paris sewers of a blogged musical, but the tunnels beneath Bucharest, in the Romanian capital and especially the abandoned young people living there. I heard about them nearly 25 years ago, when I went to Romania just after the ‘revolution’ and the shooting of Ceaucescu ad his wife, that bitter winter. Which somehow highlighted the brutality of Romanian politics itself. A society where somehow the twentieth century met a kind of rural peasant world, stuck back 200 hundred years ago, before even the Russian Revolution. That brave Newsnight film might well make us count our blessings, know how hugely lucky we are, because in those hot house tunnels everyone is HIV positive, mostly out of sharing needles, or hooked on glue sniffing, to cut through the pain. It is still a tragedy and rather than clearing it just to try to cover up, EU money and help must be given to Romanians to help themselves, bit by bit, which will be much harder than any band aid. It is also tragic greater advances have not been made there in nearly a quarter of a Century.
Yet on the day of the elections does that make Nigel Farrage right about his supposedly throw away remark on Romanians living next door or coming here? Of course not, as the comic Stuart Lee so brilliantly spoofed one UKIP councillor talking about the Little England mentality of ‘them’ ‘stealing our jobs’, by ploughing through the history of vital British immigrant influence, from now to the Huguenots, back to the Anglo Saxons to the Beaker peoples and then to fish crawling out of the sea onto land! I would add the Normans or the story of ‘aliens, foreigners and strangers’ settling in London and especially Southwark in Shakespeare’s London, especially the Flemish and the Dutch. Shakespeare’s plays are much the friend to strangers in all foreign lands. It was the Privy Council’s resistance to pot stirring voices like Sir Walter Raleigh’s that stamped a tolerance then, in a far more violent and brutal capital, and partly just to protect business.
I don’t have a huge problem with Farrage as a man, he’s fairly bright and seems to have decency too, while political correctness is also an enemy in any democracy. I do have a problem with such single issue politics, which so often both masks and encourages atavistic hatreds, fears and stupidities, not to mention lunatic candidates, and to give people power on the strength of such issues alone is totally wrong. It is the proper function of policing and real law and justice that must deal with true criminal elements, at home and abroad, for any arguments about specific border powers and controls, not prejudice and projected fear. But it is also apathy that has for so long given the UK its real problem with Europe. Perhaps understandably out of traditions of uniqueness, independence and Empire too, we have always thought ourselves slightly better than Europeans and could have had far more positive impact on those institutions too, by playing a more direct and indeed leading role from the outset. Basically that means taking our sense of law, institutions, decency and self worth, if we haven’t lost them in little England fear and ignorance or the banking corruption that allowed the likes of Goldman Sach’s influence in Greece, back into Europe, to change the system, with the sense of what’s really Great in Britain. Then of course the truth of globalisation and the modern world is we need to see ourselves as part of one planet too. I think people should rush out to vote to mark their opposition to UKIP then, but whatever happens, voting will prove you are not apathetic or simply grumbling.