obama-and-trumpOut walking with a friend the day after the US Presidential Election, a huge boom could be heard in the distance, probably from some industrial machinery. ‘Sounds like Trump’s already pressed the red button,’ I quipped. Had I been in company less prone to laughing at the world and prone to taking every external event as a personal insult, my friend could well have burst into tears. Thankfully, I tend not to have friends like that, though there’s no shortage of such reactions at the moment. It’s fair to say the response both online and on streets to Donald Trump’s triumph in the early hours of Wednesday morning has bordered on hysteria. For those who have a different cause to promote on social media with their customary blend of bullying and blackmail every week, the result was a Godsend.

Oblivious to the climate they created that has facilitated the rise of a Trump figure, the humourless, sanctimonious and self-righteous elements within the left have expressed their outrage in numerous predictable ways. The teenybopper worship of Obama that conveniently overlooks his role as a sponsor of random drone slaughter has resurfaced on both sides of the Atlantic in the last 48 hours as means of coping with events, though some have gone a little further. Reminiscent of the Guardian’s condescending ‘Letter to America’ that lectured the US electorate on why they shouldn’t vote for George Bush in 2004, someone has even apparently petitioned Parliament here to rerun the whole horror show until ‘we’ get the result ‘we’ want. Perhaps they’ve given up on demanding a second EU Referendum now that something even more contrary to their immovable worldview has grabbed centre-stage?

From the unbalanced screeching on this week’s ‘Question Time’, which implied Clinton lost because she has a vagina, to the Millennials waving placards outside Trump Tower, the apocalyptic outcome was precisely what the doctor ordered – just as fundamentalist Christians in the US Bible Belt actively pray for Armageddon, the Day of Judgement that can’t come soon enough. Not only does it demonstrate a frightening inflexibility and absolute refusal to accept that people without a university education and wealthy parents to fund it are capable of putting a cross on a ballot paper, but it imbues the office of the Presidency with the kind of assumed clout it hasn’t had for decades.

For all Donald Trump’s mad crowd-pleasing promises during the campaign, having won the keys to power he will probably struggle to implement even the most modest of improvements to the lives of US citizens. When America chose to make Head of State and Head of Government the same person, the aim was to distinguish between the British system of King on one hand and Prime Minister on the other; but the role of the President appears to have leaned more and more towards being a constitutional monarch in all-but name in recent years. The well-oiled corporate security machine that runs the USA requires a face to front it, whether black, white or orange, so the changing of the guard every four years is solely staged because people like the comfortable familiarity of a personality nominally in charge of a system that doesn’t actually need him.

The divisive bitterness that characterised the campaign, both between the opposing candidates and within the two parties over the far-from overwhelming endorsement the eventual nominees received, will not now suddenly evaporate just because all votes have been counted. As we have seen here in the months following Brexit, losers don’t always accept defeat with good grace; and one only has to cast one’s mind back to the 2000 Presidential Election and the ‘hanging chads’ controversy to remember how these things can drag on. It’s a sad fact, but the reaction of certain sections of the left to this result serves to highlight their inability to come up with a plausible alternative; in a sense, stamping their feet and screaming ‘Not my President’ is a wilful denial of their own failure. If Trump’s not your President, who is?

As was pointed out in the comments that accompanied the previous post, the conscious neglect of so many sections of society over the last 20-25 years and singling out ‘prioritised minorities’ as special cases rather than bracketing them in the economic demographic most actually share with the supposed white working-class heterosexual enemy has played directly into the hands of the divide-and-rule right, who are secure in their position as long as plebs of all colour, creed, gender and sexuality are busy fighting each other rather than joining forces to channel their anger in the direction of the real powers-that-be in either Washington or Westminster. The more the left blame the ills of the world on a catalogue of ‘isms’ instead of getting their act together and genuinely speaking to everyone who has suffered from the policies of governments, regardless of skin colour or bedtime choices, the more actual change for the benefit of everybody will remain an idealistic and unrealisable pipedream.

LEONARD COHEN (1934-2016)

cohenA week wouldn’t be a proper week this year without yet another notable name to add to 2016’s roll-call of the deceased. Today it’s the turn of Leonard Cohen, a poet who turned to music because he was fortunate to find himself in an age when the poetic arsenal acquired an acoustic guitar. However critically and, at times, commercially successful he became as a singer (and at a relatively late age compared to the other bedsit troubadours at the end of the 60s), it was the strength of his songs, and often what other musicians went on to do with them, that will remain his real legacy.

Jeff Buckley’s version of ‘Hallelujah’ is one of the outstanding performances on record of the last thirty years, yet Cohen himself was shrewd enough to progress from the minimalist simplicity of his breakthrough albums and embrace numerous varied musical genres that continued to mark him out as a refreshingly restless spirit in the same vein as his fellow Canadians, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. His fairly limited vocal range wasn’t to everyone’s taste, yet he seems to have stayed on the ‘cool’ cult list throughout his fifty years as a recording artist, which can’t be said of many of his contemporaries.

Cohen’s grounding in an artistic landscape that encompassed far more than merely rifling through ‘Classic Rock Albums You Have to Hear before You Die’ for inspiration gave him a wider breadth and depth of vision as an artist than is commonly the case today. The level of literary and religious references that pepper his lyrics show he was an erudite individual of intelligence and substance, something that would disqualify him from entering the musical arena in the twenty-first century, let alone finding an audience willing to delve deeper for their entertainment. He came from an altogether different era, but even an era devoid of his kind of talent can still access it now he’s gone; and that’s something, I guess.

© The Editor


libertyThe famous still from ‘Planet of the Apes’ that accompanied yesterday’s post should really have been reserved for today. Confronted by the sight of the decaying Statue of Liberty rotting away on a beach, Charlton Heston’s astronaut character Taylor realises he hasn’t landed on some alien planet where man’s evolution occurred in reverse, but has been flung into the far future and is home – albeit a post-nuclear apocalypse home. Falling to his knees, he pounds away at the sand in despairing rage. ‘You finally really did it!’ he cries; ‘You maniacs! God damn you all to Hell!’ He didn’t add ‘You put Donald Trump in the White House!’ Who would? Who can even really believe this has happened? Donald Trump? Donald f***ing Trump? Yup.

Let me make it clear that I didn’t think Hillary Clinton was perfect by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, her absence of perfection on so many levels enabled Donald Trump to inflict a humiliating defeat upon the most qualified candidate for the Presidency America has probably ever seen. Had she won, however, it would have been an achievement solely based on her gender. History would have been made, though we shouldn’t forget that history was also made in 2008. Being America’s first female President would have been a big deal, as being America’s first black President was eight years ago. But had Hillary Clinton cruised along on that achievement alone – as Obama has often seemed to cruise along on his – the achievement would have paled very quickly.

When Obama came to office, the western world had just experienced its most severe economic collapse since 1929; though the climate has improved slightly since then, there remain vast areas of America that have yet to receive any signs of an upturn in their fortunes, and this was the climate prime for exploitation by Trump. Frustration with this state of affairs has manifested itself in many ugly ways in the US over the last twelve months, and having a black man in the White House doesn’t appear to have made a bit of difference to racial tensions whatsoever; if anything, they’re worse now than at any time since the Civil Rights movement half-a-century ago.

Barack Obama was swept into power on a tide of unrealisable optimism; hopes rested heavily on his shoulders after eight years of George II and the two unpopular wars he dragged the nation into, and Obama’s colour – coming from a country with such troubled history in that department – was an undoubted selling point that suggested America could finally shake off the toxic legacy of slavery and segregation. There was faith in the future again. When Americans got there, however, the limited extent of the President’s ability to enact the changes he and the country desired when confronted by a Republican-dominated Congress determined to thwart him at every opportunity seemed to highlight the impotence of the American political system. And that should serve as a timely warning to his successor and his myriad mad ideas. The Republicans may have retained control of Congress, but most of them don’t even regard Trump as a genuine Republican; one could argue that has been his ace.

Bernie Sanders was the anti-Trump candidate far more than Hillary Clinton was; the bullish billionaire tapped into the same blue-collar discontent Sanders could have appealed to. Two outsiders versus each other instead of one outsider versus the advocate of the system so detested by great swathes of the electorate would have been a far superior contest, and one I have a feeling Sanders could have won. A proud socialist against a shameless capitalist, both latecomers to the parties they represented – that would have dealt a fatal blow to the professional party machine more than a thousand Brexit’s.

Instead, we now have a President loathed by all but his fanatical supporters, a man whose very presence in the White House is the most telling example of an American political system that can be bought if you have enough bucks in the bank. The old cliché that every American child can grow up to be President in a way that every child can’t grow up to be a king has belatedly been exposed as the myth it always was. If your father is an extremely wealthy man, you’re certainly in with a shout. And JFK would have concurred with that truism.

Kennedy represented more than he ever delivered, and that probably would have been the case even if he had never travelled to Dallas in November 1963; he represented something so positive in the collective imagination, something youthful, regenerative, glamorous, new – a break with the grey old men who governed the nations of the western world, a man who appeared to be in tune with the spirit of the fresh decade he came to power in; and despite the unsavoury stories that have emerged in the fifty-plus years since his murder, that image continues to possess an irresistible allure. By contrast, it’s hard to think of any President in US political history – and I include Nixon and Dubya – who radiates so much negativity as Donald Trump. And yet, conversely, he represents a similarly radical break. This is a rejection of the American party system as well as the final rejection of the Obama era. Yet for all the expected talk of ‘uniting America’, it’s hard to see how somebody so divisive can unite after having alienated so many members of the electorate before even being declared the winner.

Trump’s combative personality and arrogant, unapologetic coarseness is seen by many Americans as a sign of his unvarnished honesty; what you see is what you get. He’s viewed as ‘one of the guys’, somebody you could share a few cans with as you watch the ball-game. He’d be the kind of guy you could go hunting with. Alien as that may seem to European sensibilities, in America it counts for a lot. But Trump’s tasteless braggadocio could be regarded as the same spiel a prize-fighter spews forth during the weigh-in alongside his opponent; having won the fight, his acceptance speech after Clinton conceded was remarkably subdued.

If the election of Donald Trump is the end of the world as we know it, I doubt many would dispute the world as we know it is a pretty bloody awful place, anyway. But it’s the world as we don’t know it that we now face; and God only knows what that’s going to be like.

© The Editor


libertyWe think we’ve got it bad over here. I’ve got friends in Canada – can you imagine what it must be like for them? They’re the next-door neighbours of the country upon which the world’s attention is focused today, yet they’ve no more ability to participate and affect change than we have. It’s akin to the Scots voting in an independence referendum in which the rest of the UK has no say and…oh, sorry, I forgot; we’ve already been there. Anyway, the disqualification of one half of North America in deciding the fate of the western world aside, the fact that the USA has to choose between a devious upholder of Washington’s status quo and a misogynistic billionaire narcissist is surely something nobody would envy. Suddenly, having to weigh-up the respective merits of David Cameron and Ed Miliband just last year doesn’t seem like such a terrible dilemma after all. The fact that both are now parliamentary toast shows how far we’ve travelled since the spring of 2015, whereas the US is now confronted with a similar scenario, albeit on a Hollywood blockbuster scale.

The first Presidential Election I was aware of took place forty years ago, when the incumbent occupier of the White House, Gerald Ford, took on the virtually unknown Georgian peanut-farmer Jimmy Carter. The former probably stands as the luckiest man in American history, becoming Vice President due to the resignation of Spiro Agnew in 1973 and becoming President due to the resignation of Richard Nixon the year after. I remember the Ford family being photographed during a visit to Disneyland in 1976, an image reproduced in the weekly I was subscribing to at the time, ‘Mickey Mouse’; but Ford’s luck ran out not long thereafter. He was defeated in November by Carter. Since Jimmy Carter ingratiated himself in the collective memory of my generation via his visit to the UK the year he was inaugurated, I have been a long-distance witness to nine further Presidential Elections, and this is the tenth. I can’t remember another like this one, though.

We’ve become accustomed to our own excessive political circuses in the age of 24-hour news media – two General Elections and two Referendums in the last six years – but being bombarded by Trump and Clinton these past few months has been especially frustrating in that we can look but not touch. Many comparisons have been made between the northern industrial wastelands that voted Brexit here and those poised to vote Trump there, and it’s hard to avoid such comparisons when the impact of globalisation has hit traditional providers of British and American economic prosperity with such devastating ruthlessness. Figures were bound to emerge to speak on behalf of those deprived of a voice, though it’s a shame they had to be figures like Nigel Farage or Donald Trump.

Donald Trump I find fascinating, if only as a classic American sitcom character ala Archie Bunker or Homer Simpson; that he’s actually on the cusp of being elected leader of the free world places this fascination in a state of disbelief. This can’t be for real, can it? So it would seem. History has taught us that a vacuum can be exploited by any opportunist, and if that opportunist be a reality TV star, that seems perfectly in tune with twenty-first century sentiments. In many respects, it’s a miracle Trump didn’t select Kim Kardashian as his running mate.

Trump may have attached himself to the Republican Party, but he has no real affiliation with the issues that have dominated Republican politics over the last decade or so; he certainly hasn’t played the God card, which has been the default position of every Republican candidate since Reagan, and one wonders if he’s hitched a ride on the Republican express simply because starting his own party would have rendered him a minority independent with no chance of gaining the keys to the White House. That he managed to blow the true Republicans (and their fanatical obsession with what their fellow Americans do below the waist) out of the water says all you need to know about that party.

Yes, he has galvanised the majority of fervent blue-collar Republicans who couldn’t get excited over John McCain or Mitt Romney, but he has also caught the attention of non-partisan voters in desperate search of someone to offer an alternative to the production-line politicians Washington produces with the same slick ease as Westminster.

Hillary Clinton’s FBI reprieve last weekend places the decision of the organisation that named and shamed her the week before in a curious situation; did the FBI announce the reopening of the email investigation to simply cover their backs on the off-chance that, should Trump become President, they could point to that announcement as evidence they were prepared to pursue it and therefore weren’t politically biased? The haste with which they subsequently declared there was no foul play on Clinton’s part makes their initial announcement appear even stranger. Why bother intervening in the campaign if there was nothing to report anyway? If that was the FBI’s strategy, it has ultimately backfired, as changing their minds just a couple of days before polling merely gives fresh ammunition to Trump’s avowed belief that ‘the establishment’ is against him.

Oh, well. Time’s up for speculation now. Come this time tomorrow, we’ll know where we stand – more of the same or a leap into the unknown. And no one here will have any say either way.

JIMMY YOUNG (1921-2016)

youngThe death of Jimmy Young aged 95 is yet another passing to add to an increasingly long list where 2016 is concerned. Coming just a few months after the death of Terry Wogan, this latest annotation to a dismal year’s catalogue of obituaries is especially poignant for anybody who recalls a time when a particular kind of diction dominated the airwaves. The handover between the two broadcasting mainstays that formed a crucial element of Radio 2’s morning schedule for years was one that those of us who grew up with grandparents or parents whose loyalty to old Light Programme routines governed breakfast listening habits cannot help but mourn the loss of.

The 50s chart-topping crooner may have been an unlikely addition to the original Radio 1 line-up, but Young helped make the journey from the ‘housewives’ choice’ school of 60s daytime broadcasting to the 70s concept of pop radio a largely painless exercise. He represented a bridge between the pre-pirate era and the generation that found fame on the high seas, an old-school personality DJ whose reassuring presence during the uncertain, formative years of Radio 1 was essential to the tricky transition. Transferring to Radio 2 in 1973, Young continued to speak to the same demographic for whom DLT or Johnnie Walker, and their insistence on spinning chart sounds, were anathema. As with Radio 2 listeners today, what Radio 2 listeners in the 70s wanted to hear were the sounds of twenty years before. In the 70s, that meant Doris Day or Guy Mitchell, precisely the kind of soundtrack I will always associate with Jimmy Young, courtesy of my grandma’s listening habits when I stopped at her home as a child.

Jimmy Young’s tenure on Radio 2 lasted until as late as 2002, when the periodical revamp tactics of new radio controllers finally caught up with him. But he had made an indelible mark over 35 years, and the station with which he will always be linked was poised to embark upon its most radical shake-up, for better or for worse. He belonged to a broadcasting era that was already drenched in nostalgia by the turn of the Millennium, and for anyone whose aural memory connects Jimmy Young and Terry Wogan with happier, more innocent times, this is indeed a sad day.

© The Editor


twatA post on here last week marked the 80th anniversary of the world’s first regular high-definition television service, which, as we all know, was brought to us by the BBC. Crucial to the service from day one was a theoretical impartiality when it came to coverage of political matters, emphasising the need to give both sides of a debate equal airtime to avoid accusations of bias or favouritism. This needed to be reemphasised due to previous clashes via the dominant broadcasting medium of the day. A decade before transmissions opened at Ally Pally, the BBC was accused of favouring one side over another during the General Strike, though a pattern was established in 1926 that the party in power is always the one that possesses a persecution complex when it comes to broadcast news.

In 1926 it was the Conservatives under Stanley Baldwin; sixty years later it was the same party under Margaret Thatcher that pointed the finger at the Beeb, declaring it a hotbed of lefty sympathies; fast forward another decade and-a-half and it was Tony Blair’s (or, more accurately Alistair Campbell’s) Labour that singled out the nation’s premier broadcaster as harbouring grudges against the government of the day, a feud that cost the BBC its Director General, Greg Dyke. Despite the perennial paranoia of the incumbent administration, the BBC has managed to maintain impartiality on political matters, though it is notable that HM Opposition has boarded the bandwagon in recent years, particularly with Jeremy Corbyn.

At times, impartiality can present viewers or listeners with a lopsided view of the country’s political landscape, something that was especially prevalent during the EU Referendum; the impression given on the BBC during the run-up to polling day was that the Remain and Leave camps were neck-and-neck, when in reality this wasn’t the case. The American media avoided this minefield thirty years ago when it abolished a broadcasting rule that had been in place since television began its ascendancy over US radio in the late 40s, the Fairness Doctrine.

Introduced by the United States Federal Communications Commission in 1949, the Fairness Doctrine was implemented in order that the holders of broadcasting franchises would offer the public a balanced view of an especially contentious political issue of the day. Its critics compared it to Hollywood’s Hayes Code or even the Comics Code, which governed the content of comic books, both of which had arisen following moral outcries over unlicensed and uncensored material entering the public domain without first being subjected to a ruling body – not dissimilar from the old British Board of Film Censorship. Along with the Equal Time rule, which was restricted to political candidates during an election, the Fairness Doctrine was an attempt to prevent radio and television from adopting the partisan approach to issues that was characteristic of the US press, which tended to reflect the personal opinions of each respective newspaper’s owner.

In terms of the nationwide broadcasters CBS, NBC and ABC, the Fairness Doctrine was enforceable, but when it came to regional TV stations, particularly in the Deep South, it was open to abuse. WLBT was NBC’s affiliated station in Jackson, Mississippi and openly operated a segregationist policy, opting out of its parent broadcaster’s coverage of the Civil Rights movement; as a result, it was threatened with its licence being revoked in 1969. Overall, however, the Fairness Doctrine worked as a means of preventing TV and radio from being utilised as the propaganda wing of a specific political party or single issue lobby group, and the US as a whole was considerably more united in its general outlook as a consequence.

This came to an end in 1987, following years of demands for broadcast media to be as unlicensed as the press; Ronald Reagan’s former aide Mark S Fowler had progressed to the chairmanship of the Federal Communications Commission and issued a report in 1985, claiming that the Fairness Doctrine contradicted the right to free speech as listed in the First Amendment. Two years later, the FCC ended the Fairness Doctrine, and to paraphrase Mr Burns, the media hounds were released. Despite warnings from his staff that ‘the only thing that protects you from the savagery of the three networks…is the Fairness Doctrine’, President Reagan gave the thumbs-up to the abolition of the Fairness Doctrine, even though numerous clauses – such as the ‘personal attack’ rule – continued to be upheld until 2000.

Over the last fifteen years, the spread of conservative talk radio across America, not to mention the increasing influence of the Republican-friendly Fox News, has shown that a ruling body need not be simplified and lazily caricatured as a totalitarian curb on free speech, but can be a necessary bulwark against the lunatics taking over the asylum. But Pandora’s Box is well and truly opened now, and there’s no way of reversing the rule. The Tea Party movement, which received extensive coverage during the 2008 Presidential Election, along with the grass-roots Republican upsurge that has propelled Donald Trump to his present position, has benefitted hugely from the end of the Fairness Doctrine, and along with the advent of the internet, ‘the voice of the people’ essentially translates as the voice of whoever rants louder than anyone else. One could argue the end of the Fairness Doctrine has been far more responsible for the erosion of public trust in elected representatives than the occasional misdemeanours of the elected representatives themselves.

Anybody who has inadvertently stumbled upon ‘Info Wars’ host Alex Jones, peddler of a thousand conspiracy theories and a man who likes to portray his bigoted bullishness as a heroic stand against Big Brother, will appreciate the potential dangers of giving a platform to any old idiot whose vocal chords can drown out the opposition. But such is media democracy – a million personal opinions all being aired at once; and nobody can see the wood on account of an abundance of bloody trees.

© The Editor


hareTiming is everything in a race. The old cliché (usually applied to the football season) that it’s a marathon rather than a sprint, has certainly been proved true on endless occasions, not only when it comes to the national sport, but also when it comes to politics. The 1970 General Election, in which serving PM Harold Wilson was expected to extend his Labour premiership to a full decade, was derailed by adverse balance of payments figures published during election week, though many believe world champions England losing to West Germany in the quarter finals of the World Cup just days before polls opened also played its part in the electorate delivering Wilson a bloody nose. It served as a warning to all hares speeding ahead of competing tortoises that the winners are declared as such only on the final day of the contest.

The timing of the FBI’s decision to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s ‘email affair’ less than a fortnight before election day in the USA has been downplayed as a political ploy, though the FBI certainly has history; under its first director J Edgar Hoover, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was far from impartial. Democrat President Truman had observed Hoover’s stewardship of the FBI as the emergence of a private police force separate from presidential control. ‘We want no Gestapo or secret police,’ said Truman in the early 50s. ‘The FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressman and senators are afraid of him.’

Instigator of the ‘dirty tricks’ wing of the organisation, which became known as COINTELPRO, Hoover was in charge of the FBI from its 1935 inception until his death in 1972, and it is generally accepted that President Nixon refrained from removing Hoover from office over fears that Hoover would release the hounds; bearing in mind the skeletons that Nixon had nestling in his closet it was probably one of Tricky Dicky’s most astute decisions. Since Hoover’s death, the head of the FBI has been restricted to a 10-year tenure in order to avoid the perceived abuses of power Hoover oversaw; yet one cannot but feel the announcement to renew the entire Clinton email saga so close to polling day has been a concerted attempt to kindle fresh doubts in the minds of floating voters regarding Hillary’s suitability as President.

Prior to the weekend’s announcement by the FBI, Clinton had established a comfortable (albeit not exactly commanding) lead over Trump in the polls, though this has been slightly destabilised since. It goes without saying that Trump has revelled in the reopening of the investigation, claiming with customary melodrama that ‘this is bigger than Watergate’. However, as much as it appears to be appeasing the Republican candidate’s constant demands that Hillary be exposed as a crook, the FBI’s decision to once again stir up a controversy that has already been dealt with and dismissed presents us with yet another unedifying chapter in a gory story that has dominated world headlines for the past few months.

Donald Trump’s failure to present himself to the American public as something other than an egomaniacal sociopath telling the disgruntled and dispossessed what they want to hear (without any discernible solutions to the nation’s problems) has sorely required ammunition to aim at his opponent; and the former First Lady has gifted him with a succession of dodgy rumours that has turned their TV debates into a theatrical equivalent of constantly arguing parents.

As to what impact the FBI’s announcement will have on the outcome of the Presidential race, it’s too early to say. Trump has uttered enough contentious statements during the campaign to have fatally damaged most candidates, though his blunt speaking candour has appealed to a sizeable majority of the American public that is thoroughly sick of Washington spin. Whether the official stamp of approval on his opinion of his opponent will affect the outcome of the election depends upon the don’t knows out there who have yet to decide between the most experienced (albeit allegedly corrupt) practitioner of the Washington Dark Arts or a billionaire TV celebrity selling himself as an outsider in synch with public disillusionment over the way things have been run in the American capital in the post-war era. And Jennifer Lopez flashing her gargantuan arse at a Clinton rally probably won’t make much difference either way.

There’s no doubt that Trump moving into the White House would utterly obliterate the vice-like grip the professional politicians running both Democrat and Republican parties have on American governance, belonging as he does to no real traditions of either party and being in possession of an ego determined to dismantle an ancient network of cronyism that has done few favours to anyone residing beyond the borders of the District of Columbia; and I suspect many mischievous critics of the system would welcome his tearing down of the status quo. But the stark choice the American electorate faces is that of the known knowns or the unknown knowns (as another Donald once said), and whether or not they are prepared to gamble the future of the western world on the outcome probably has little to do with anything the FBI has to say. Our life is in their hands; and if that doesn’t fill you with dread, I don’t know what will.

© The Editor


lincolnPerhaps if Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and the rest could have glimpsed 240 years into the future on the day they were poised to sign the Declaration of Independence, they might have come to the conclusion that taxation without representation wasn’t really that bad a deal after all. Would they have committed the Thirteen Colonies to breaking from the Mother Country had they been able to see what their great democratic experiment would descend to by 2016? Mind you, I suppose that bit about all men being created equal was somewhat contradicted by the fact that most of the Founding Fathers were slave-owners – an issue it would seem the nation that became the United States of America has yet to fully come to terms with.

The seven years of war that followed events on 4 July 1776 may have eventually established American independence from Britain, but it was a fragile independence that the huge land mass absorbed into the Union appeared to exacerbate. 78 years on from the Treaty of Paris, the new nation (now comprising 34 states) was at war with itself. The sheer size of the country – on a par with most continents – has always presented its President with problems, ones so persistent that it seems almost impossible for the US to really be regarded as One Nation. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, there was a slow, gradual forming of a new genuinely post-colonial identity that shaped the country we know today, yet it was still one that the old Confederate States continued to resist for another hundred years.

As post-Civil War America expanded, the speedy industrial overtaking of Europe that was to shape the forthcoming ‘American Century’ may have made it the richest nation on Earth, but jarring inequalities on a par with those of the Old World have never been far from the surface. The US now stands on the cusp of making a decision that seems poised to extend the various racial, regional and economic disparities beyond what they even have been since World War II, yet this is just the latest in a long line of challenges to the aims of the Founding Fathers; that it is undoubtedly the most ugly example in living memory doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the worst, but it sure as hell feels that way right now. A historical perspective is often the only reminder of how young a country the US still is, and the contemporary state of the nation suggests it remains in the throes of teething troubles – which brings us nicely to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, again.

The airing of an old recording in which Trump exhibited his gentlemanly charm when it comes to the fairer sex has been received as though his previous public image had been on a par with Cary Grant. Numerous Republican bigwigs have excommunicated Trump as a consequence; but wasn’t the truth staring them in the face the minute the billionaire celebrity first announced his intentions to run? How could anyone not know what Trump was like from the off? After all, he’s been a household name in the States for over twenty years, and he’s never been a shrinking violet when the camera points in his direction. It’s a measure of the dearth of talent the Republican Party can call upon that Trump even got this far, so they’ve only themselves to blame. For so many to now express shock and horror is a bit rich.

Anticipating the Clinton team to use such ‘revelations’ against him in the second TV debate, Trump ensured his apology would contain a dig at his opponent and her husband for equally reprehensible attitudes towards women in the past. Hillary would have to be very clever to successfully use the Trump archive as a stick with which to beat her nemesis when Bill’s own closet is crammed with enough skeletons to fill the grounds of a small provincial cemetery. With one more distasteful warm-up missive shot, the unedifying scene was set for the next head-to-head in the most vile and vulgar car-crash in American political history; and episode two made it to TV screens in the wee small hours of this morning UK time.

First time round, Trump’s shaky opening reminded me a little of Jemini’s memorably off-key live vocal at the 2003 Eurovision, though as soon as he was on the attack his bullish confidence surfaced and he was reborn as Dana International. This time, he didn’t hang around, with his response to a question about ‘that’ old recording the cue to revive some of Bill’s past misdemeanours whilst the ex-President sat just a few feet away. No knives were on hand to cut the atmosphere, but it was gruesomely electric. The nature of this debate was different to the first; there was a ‘Question Time’ vibe to proceedings, with selected members of the audience dictating the discussion. Both participants had stools to occupy when the other had the microphone, though as the programme progressed Trump prowled around the set when Hillary spoke, carrying the menacing air of a caged lion eyeing up the zookeeper when feeding time had been delayed.

During Trump’s most personal assaults, Hillary’s lengthy experience in public life was evident by the way in which she kept her cool and took the blows. Exhibiting the characteristics that have won him appeal amongst a sizeable chunk of the American electorate, Trump was more emotional; whenever he overran or wanted to respond to something Hillary had said about him, he questioned the fair share of time both had to make their respective points. He also sniffed a lot again, which will no doubt form part of his post-match criticism of how he was treated by the presenters. Hillary slickly skirted around some of the more probing questions of her own conduct, especially the ‘email’ issue, though whether her skilful avoidance of that perennial topic showed her expertise under pressure or preserved the popular image of her as a liar without compare remains to be seen.

What impact the second debate will have on the eventual result is too early to predict. Both contenders essentially lived up to preconceptions and nothing new was really learned about either of them. Its main purpose was as entertainment, a gladiatorial horror show that said more about the irresistible urge to watch two unpleasant individuals slugging it out to the death than it did about the optimistic ideals of the eighteenth century Enlightenment as a viable political blueprint that retains its relevance 240 years later. But who really expected it to?

© The Editor


trumpThe Luvvies are out in force again, though this time it’s the Hollywood left, that pious, humourless and self-righteous branch of the acting profession who turned this year’s Oscars ceremony into a sanctimonious PC rally that was straight out of ‘Team America: World Police’. Interpreting their participation in blockbuster movies that make millions as indicative that the audience stuffing itself with popcorn as they fly around in tights will also sit and listen to them preach as well is a measure of their colossal egos and sense of self-importance. They never learn. Lecturing the American electorate and commanding them to choose Clinton over Trump will probably be as counterproductive for Hillary’s campaign as their British equivalents promoting Remain were for that particular cause. Trump Republicans may be content to fill the multiplexes when actors are doing their day-job, but the minute thespians start preaching politics, the effect is to push a sizeable chunk of their audience into the arms of the enemy.

When Hillary Clinton referred to Trump supporters as ‘deplorable’, it was a rather sweeping statement that I have no doubt contained a grain of truth in the case of the narrow-minded bigoted redneck faction; the problem is that by tarring all Trump supporters with the same unsavoury brush, Clinton is delivering an almighty insult to those Americans whose fortunes have plummeted under the Washington regime of both blue and red persuasion over the last twenty years. Many Americans hold Hillary’s husband, Hillary herself and Obama responsible for the state they’re in; they may have previously voted Democrat and placed their faith in the man who said ‘Yes we can’, but the ultimate impotence of the office for resolving the problems of what Nixon referred to as the Silent Majority has hit them hard. In their eyes, Clinton’s statement seemed to represent both her contempt and cluelessness when it comes to vast swathes of a vast country’s population.

Many of that population have flocked to Trump simply because he’s telling them what they want to hear – not in an airbrushed and (for want of a better word) ‘politically correct’ way, but in the brusque, blunt and unvarnished manner of a barroom braggadocio; some of the things Trump has said in public are indeed deplorable, yet one could probably hear the very same things in any drinking den in any corner of the US; to hear them on the political podium is a novelty that makes some voters believe he speaks their language.

A showy, egomaniacal maverick multi-millionaire whose luxurious lifestyle was inherited from his father is hardly the kind of candidate one would imagine capable of captivating those struggling to make ends meet, let alone taking on and defeating the sophisticated Republican establishment; yet the elements of Trump’s personality that alienate his detractors are the same ones that have attracted his supporters.

Both Clinton and Trump have the kind of income and fortune that only a small percentage of their respective supporters will ever enjoy, so for either to declare themselves to be at one with The People is laughable; but the uncouth bluster of Trump has a kind of Homer Simpson appeal to many Americans, whereas Clinton’s public image is closer to that of Mr Burns. Trump has sold himself as the outsider, and pitching himself as an antidote to the formula so many blame for their ills is a pitch that has precedents.

The antipathy and envy Richard Nixon exhibited towards the Kennedys – seeing their movie-star glamour, wealthy privilege and aristocratic aura as everything he craved but knew he would never have – was to him the embodiment of East Coast elitism, a world that had been barred to him all his life, as it is to most; but the grudge he bore was one he used to his eventual advantage. Post-Watergate, it’s easy to forget that Nixon won a huge landslide in 1972; despite his many enemies, he connected with the same kind of voter that Trump is connecting with today.

Ironically, Clinton herself shares much with Nixon. Tricky Dicky’s political career had a vintage of over twenty years before he was finally elected President. He’d played a prominent part in HUAC activities in the late 40s/early 50s, spent eight years as Eisenhower’s Vice President, famously ran for President in 1960, and had a taste of future questions over his trustworthiness as early as 1952, when he utilised the relatively untested power of television by defending accusations of financial impropriety in the so-called ‘Checkers’ speech. After several years in the wilderness following his 1960 defeat to JFK, his capture of the Presidency in 1968 was undoubtedly one of the great political comebacks of all time. Clinton’s political career stretches back even further than Nixon’s did in 1968, and eight years after her first attempt to become the Democratic candidate she has returned for one last battle.

Like Nixon, Clinton has had her fair share of scandals that her opponents have pointed to as proof she cannot be trusted. There was the Whitewater controversy, which emerged even before her husband had been elected for the first time; there was her alleged compliance in buying off the victims of Bill’s extramarital philandering; there were a couple of ‘gate’ affairs – Travelgate and Filegate; there was the email controversy; there was her dubious recall of events when she landed in Bosnia in 1996; there have even been criticisms of her not being entirely truthful as to the state of her health during the current campaign – enough scandals, in fact, to fill a book, which Christopher Hitchens partially did in his merciless 1999 dissection of Bill, ‘No One Left to Lie To’. If only Hitch was still with us. What a mouth-watering commentator on 2016’s no-holds-barred battle he would have been.

This Presidential race is unlike any other in that both candidates are so intensely loathed by great sections of the American electorate. Hatred of Hillary goes back a long way, but Trump has done his best to catch up over the past twelve months. Perhaps it’s inevitable that someone as ghastly as Trump is the type that emerges when the masses feel disenfranchised and dispossessed, because it is only the Donald Trumps of this world that can boast the requisite ego, fearlessness and unshakable self-confidence in their own magnificence, the only ones that have the gall and gumption to push themselves forward for the job and genuinely believe they can do it. His complete inexperience in public office next to someone with more experience than anyone else is, on paper, a non-starter, yet his supporters bizarrely regard that factor in his favour, as much as it fills his opponents with dread.

The vacuous slickness of Obama and eight years of achieving very little beyond being the first black President can be perceived as a lack of guts, balls and the stomach for a fight; by comparison, Trump has convinced his supporters the opposite approach will achieve everything they desire. If recent events are anything to go by, America is indeed broken; but is Donald Trump capable of fixing it? And what does that say about the American political system that a man such as Trump is even in with a shout of fixing it in the first place?

The first TV debate between the two most polarising Presidential candidates in US history will air in the wee small hours of tomorrow morning. It could well be worth staying up for, if only as a dispiriting and masochistic wallow in how low we’ve sunk.

© The Editor


carterTo call this weekend’s New York bombing (and two other terrorist-related incidents on American soil) a potential game-changer in the ongoing US Presidential race is not necessarily exaggerating. Such events, and the way in which those hoping for power respond to them, can have an impact on public opinion; and it pays for the competing candidates to have stock responses in reserve just in case they occur. Thirty-six years ago, when President Jimmy Carter was running for a second term in office, his attempts to boost his falling ratings by staging an audacious rescue of the hostages being held at the American embassy in Tehran ended in tragic disaster and arguably cost him the Presidency as the country was won over by the untarnished Ronald Reagan.

The Georgian peanut-farmer and former Governor of his home state had swept to power in the wake of Watergate at a moment when the US was suffering from an acute decline in self-confidence; state-of-the-nation movies in that intriguing, immediate pre-‘Star Wars’ era, such as ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘All the President’s Men’ and ‘Network’, perfectly capture the uncertain mood of the moment in all its ugly albeit undoubtedly compelling glory. Despite being a relative unknown – and an unfashionable Southerner to boot – Jimmy Carter capitalised on the unpopularity of President Ford after his pardoning of Nixon by promising to lead the nation out of the untrustworthy darkness that had characterised the first half of the 70s and into a new era of more open and honest governance. Pardoning Vietnam draft-dodgers of the 60s on just his second day in the White House, Carter made an encouraging start, particularly in the field of foreign affairs.

Anyone who was around in this country during the late 70s will recall Jimmy Carter’s visit to the UK in 1977, and in particular the memorable diversion from the routine London meeting-and-greeting that constituted his unexpected trip to Newcastle. After the toxic legacy of Tricky Dicky and then the Presidency of a man who (to quote Lyndon Johnson) was so dumb he couldn’t ‘fart and chew gum at the same time’, Jimmy Carter seemed to be a breath of fresh air, and his overseas popularity was certainly strong, even if it couldn’t be replicated at home. His role in the building of bridges between Egypt and Israel won him considerable plaudits on the international stage, as did his joint signing of the Salt II treaty with Brezhnev, reducing the escalating arms race with the Soviet Union. Ironically, considering his success abroad, it was an event beyond America’s borders – the November 1979 capture of 52 American members of staff at the US embassy in Iran – that proved to be Carter’s undoing.

Operation Eagle Claw was the name given to the project planned as a means of releasing the US hostages from captivity in Tehran by force in April 1980. Had it succeeded, it would probably have been regarded as one of the American military’s greatest peacetime triumphs as well as a masterstroke on the part of the President that would have virtually guaranteed him a second term in office. But it didn’t. He’d already fought off a Democrat challenge from Teddy Kennedy (claiming he would ‘whip the Senator’s ass’) and then he was up against a former movie star whose Republican renaissance needed a calamitous blunder by Carter to give it the boost it required to ‘make America great again’. Funny how Republican aims always remain the same.

The Iranian Revolution of 1978/79 was the first tangible sign of Radical Islam as we know it today, and the end of the Shah’s unpleasant American-sponsored regime was marked by a new hostility towards the West (especially America) from former Middle Eastern allies. When students inspired by the Revolution took over the US embassy in Tehran, seizing 52 staff members for a period of what eventually turned out to be 444 days, American eyes turned to the President in the hope he would act. He took his time, despite the public clamour for action; and when a sequence of events contributed towards the failure of the mission to end the hostage crisis, Carter bore the brunt of the blame.

The hostages remained held against their will, whilst eight servicemen lost their lives in Operation Eagle Claw when the mission was aborted in the desert, just 52 miles from Tehran. An ill-thought-out project ended when a helicopter crashed into a transport aircraft packed with fuel for the intended operation and this was when the lives were lost. It proved to be a devastating blow for Carter’s re-election ambitions as well as one for national prestige; and Reagan couldn’t have wished for a better boost to his campaign. In fact, the Ayatollah Khomeini deliberately withheld the release of the hostages until the day of Reagan’s inauguration in January 1981, simply to deny Carter the credit for the belated end of their captivity. To his credit, Reagan offered his predecessor the opportunity to greet the hostages upon their return to the US, but he politely declined.

In many respects, Jimmy Carter’s post-Presidential career in the field of human rights has won him more admirers, and aged 91, he is currently the longest-retired President in US history, breaking Herbert Hoover’s long-standing record four years ago. In terms of history, however, it seems to be the failures rather than the successes that most associate with his term in the White House.

The situation in 2016 is somewhat different to 1980 in that the incumbent President isn’t seeking re-election, though Obama has given his endorsement to Hillary Clinton’s efforts to succeed him. However, Clinton’s recent health problems have served to momentarily stall her campaign, with a renewed terrorist assault on New York just a week after the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 the last thing she needed. Donald Trump’s ignorant willingness to play into the hands of ISIS by proposing a ban on all Muslims entering the US received a gift with the latest (mercifully failed) attempts at claiming American lives in the name of Allah, though his uncompromising reaction to the bombing has been utterly predictable and precisely what his supporters wanted to hear.

It is too early in the campaign to discern how much of an impact these events will have upon it, though Trump’s hardline approach is precisely the kind of rhetoric many in America welcome; that Clinton is prepared to dredge up her time as Secretary of State in relation to the assassination of Osama Bin Laden (presumably proving she’s not ‘soft’ on Radical Islam) is perhaps a measure of how far both candidates are prepared to go when it comes to exploiting an incident that is being promoted within the US media as more a case of what could have happened than what actually did.

© The Editor


fdr-and-hillaryThe health concerns surrounding Hillary Clinton now that she and Donald Trump are embarking upon the final phase of their run for the US Presidency – the coughing fits, the fainting at this weekend’s 9/11 anniversary ceremony, and the eventual diagnosis of pneumonia – are a reminder of the stamina required to hold the highest office in the land; and she hasn’t even made it to the White House yet. Ronald Reagan was 69 when elected in 1980, and if Mrs Clinton is elected in November she will have reached the same age – an age at which the majority would be enjoying retirement rather than beginning one of the most demanding jobs on the planet. She has so far brushed off any rumours of serious illness, though if the race itself proves to be a strain, how would she cope once behind the desk of the Oval Office (as opposed being under it, which was the preferred position of her husband’s female aides)? Aside from Kennedy, McKinley, Garfield and Lincoln – whose demises came as a consequence of assassin’s bullets – four other US Presidents have died in office.

First up was William Henry Harrison in 1841. An American Whig and ex-Major General, Harrison holds several notable records: He was the last US President born a British subject (1773), the first serving President to have his photograph taken, the oldest man elected to the job until Reagan (aged 68), and the first to die in office; his tenure at the White House also remains the shortest on record, just 30 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes; he died from pneumonia after catching a cold three weeks on from his inauguration. Less than a decade later, President Zachary Taylor died of suspected cholera, believed to have been infected by the open sewers of Washington; another Whig and former Major General, Taylor was just seventeen months into office when he passed away.

Warren G Harding had served barely two-and-a-half years as President when he died of either a heart attack or a stroke in 1923 (the cause remains debatable). Not only did none of these three men serve a full term of office; their deaths were all surrounded by speculation and rumour, proving that the JFK conspiracy industry had precedents. Zachary Taylor’s remains were even exhumed in 1991 to finally resolve the mystery of his death.

Perhaps the most famous non-assassinated President to die in office was Franklin D Roosevelt, who passed away on the eve of the Second World War’s ending in April 1945. Stricken by polio at a relatively late age (39), the then-practicing lawyer was paralysed by the disease from the waist down and could no longer walk or stand without assistance. Determined not to be broken by the paralysis, Roosevelt worked hard at walking again, supported by a cane and wearing iron braces on his legs; he was frequently wheelchair-bound behind closed doors, though he was careful never to be seen so physically incapacitated in public. Roosevelt tried various alternative therapies to mask the extremities of his disability and found the warm springs in Georgia conducive to improving his condition.

Roosevelt already had a career in public office before his debilitating illness in 1921 and he re-entered politics by successfully running for the Governorship of New York in 1928; his physical difficulties were no secret, though the extent of them was. Whilst sometimes supported by crutches or one of his aides when speaking in public, he could stand alone on a podium by gripping a strong lectern; the need to keep hold of it led to his trademark animated head gestures when making a speech. After being elected US President for the first of four record-breaking occasions in 1932, Roosevelt was careful to minimise the damage that his frailty could have on public opinion, avoiding the media when arriving at events in order that his difficulties in getting in and out of vehicles wouldn’t be publicised. Any photographers that attempted to capture the President at his most vulnerable allegedly had their photos censured by the Secret Service.

The heavy strain of the War years took a further toll on FDR’s health; running for his historic fourth term in 1944, it was evident to those around him that he was not a well man, though it’s possible he may have wanted to see WWII through to its conclusion. He was eventually elected, but the three months he served before his death were characterised by the need to broker peace in anticipation of victory; he attended the famous Yalta Conference with Churchill and Stalin in February 1945, returning home a month later. It was then that his increasing ill-health could be hidden no longer, especially when he was forced to address Congress sitting down. A few weeks later he was dead at the age of 63 – five years younger than Hillary Clinton is now.

That Roosevelt became the most dominant American politician of his generation and was the White House resident for twelve years is testament to his tremendous determination to overcome a crippling illness that would have broken many men. It also shows how badly some crave high office in the face of potentially impossible obstacles. The manner in which the media, both professional and social, has become so flustered over Hillary Clinton’s health makes one wonder how far FDR would have been able to hide his considerably more serious ailments from the prying eyes permanently peering into the modern goldfish bowl. Even John F Kennedy managed to keep his own chronic back pain from all but his closest friends, family and advisers, the severity of it (and the amount of drugs required to numb it) not becoming public knowledge until years after his death.

The pressures public figures – particularly politicians – are placed under in the 24-hour 365-days-a-year spotlight when compared to their distant predecessors are undoubtedly something ‘private’ figures are relieved to be spared. However, entering public life is largely down to individual choice, unless circumstances push the anonymous onto the front pages; and today the general public as well as the politicians choose to do so, whether running for office and having the miniature of one’s entire life forensically scrutinised or posting a gallery of selfies and being exposed to the wrath of trolls. And nobody yet knows if Hillary Clinton’s decision to try to get her hands on the Presidency will ultimately do her more damage than it will her country.

© The Editor


FarageWhere does one go once a lifetime’s ambition has been achieved? A singer who finally scores a No.1 single after years of trying, an Olympian who finally grabs gold following endless failures, a footballer who finally gets his hands on a cup winner’s medal, an actor who finally earns an Oscar – well, a career as a TV talking head might await, forever reliving that one former glory on nostalgia shows, eternally associated with a solitary victory in the public consciousness. It’s a living.

Alas, poor Nigel. Mr Farage saw his long-held dream realised when the UK voted to exit the European Union a couple of months ago, a dream few ever really imagined would come true when he embarked upon his career as an alternative politician with one fixed aim in mind several years ago. It took a good decade or so before the majority of the country came round to his way of thinking, but he managed a remarkable moment of synchronisation with public opinion in June, aided and abetted by an anti-EU tabloid press and a disgruntled mass who took a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to deliver a devastating bloody nose to the smug cosmopolitan countenance of a globalised elite that had shit on them from a great height for the best part of two decades.

So, now what? Resigning as UKIP leader for the second time in twelve months after Brexit, Farage took a month off and returned with an unbecoming moustache that provoked such ridicule on social media that it was hastily erased from the profile in record time. His party was left to stagger on without its sole selling point, desperately searching for available replacement leaders by delving in the booby-prize bag for the kind of people you’d studiously avoid at a social gathering, the kind of people in possession of prickly five o’clock shadows and slobbering lips you wouldn’t want within half-a-mile of your genitals.

Nige could continue to be the contentious rent-a-gob panellist on ‘Question Time’ if he so wished, but he has decided to take time out from his media career by giving a leg-up to Donald Trump, seemingly sighting kinship with the blustering billionaire’s efforts to claim temporary ownership of the White House. Addressing probably a far larger (and far more fanatical) audience than he has ever addressed before, Farage extolling the virtues of playing the political outsider to the converted – a converted with no real idea as to who he was – remains one of the most dispiriting sights to have ‘gone viral’ this week, and at the height of a very silly Silly Season to boot.

Whatever limited respect was afforded Farage in the wake of Brexit – and I mean limited – has been totally blown out of the water by his endorsement of Trump. Sharing a stage with a man whose cynical exploitation of disaffected voters makes Farage’s ill-advised ‘immigrants’ billboard resemble an 80s recruitment ad for the GLC is a bad move in anyone’s book. His error in allying himself with someone he mistakenly imagines is somehow representing the great political outsider that the western world has turned to after rejecting the ruling class of the last couple of decades raises fresh questions about his own personal judgement and makes him look like a character in search of a plot now that everything he set out to achieve has been achieved.

There’s no doubting the fact that there is a vast pool of previously-untapped frustration with our elected representatives out there; but how that is utilised by the renegade politician all-too often steers the electorate down unsavoury avenues of both ideological extremes – the neo-Trotskyite throwback of the Corbynistas over here or the gun-crazy, armchair redneck rhetoric over there. So-called outsiders are as adept at manipulating dissatisfaction with the old order as the old order itself, telling the dissatisfied what they want to hear without offering them a genuine alternative that challenges their prejudices. It’s an echo chamber of self-destructive dead-ends that will only ultimately benefit the promoted prophet, yet the fact that the prophet in question is portrayed as the Antichrist to the opposition is deemed sufficient to ensure the vote of the man or woman left behind by the perceived enemy who let them down before. It’s the political equivalent of a Daily Mail editorial, confirming every belief held by the reader and never once suggesting that vehement hatred of one political system is not necessarily enough in itself to bring about change that can improve the lives of all. There has to be more to it than that, but none of these rebel figureheads have a dream; they simply sell the electorate’s nightmares back to them.

Nigel Farage was a gift to satirists, cartoonists and impressionists after years of being subjected to interchangeable identikit Westminster androids straight off the Spad production line, a unique personality of a kind that catches the public imagination by virtue of his contrast with the mainstream produce, a Marmite man loved and loathed in equal measure. There have been past precedents, from Enoch Powell and Jeremy Thorpe to Sir Gerald Nabarro and Dennis Skinner, but the gradual eradication of these political ‘broken biscuits’ by the major parties helped to emphasise Farage’s uniqueness in an arena increasingly devoid of personality.

Now that Farage’s mission has been completed, however – and without him even having claimed a constituency, lest we forget (which perhaps makes his achievement even more astonishing) – what next for the man with a pint and a fag for every honest Englishman? Chat show, reality show, panel show – take your pick; but Donald Trump? I think not. In many respects, the Brexit vote was perhaps the worst thing that could ever have happened to Nige; it’s left him without his designated role in British public life. Had it gone the other way, he could have carried on forever stating the case for rejecting Brussels; yet seeing him reduced to acting as plucky little cheerleader for Trump was his own version of the Bush/Blair poodle parade. Time to hire a new PR firm, Nigel.

© The Editor