It's official - we hate Europe. Last week's elections are a pretty strong indicator that a big chunk of the population is opposed to any further collaboration with our continental cousins. And what better cheerleader could they have than arch-twat Robert Kilroy-Silk?
At first glance it appears that years of tabloid vitriol against every aspect of the European Union have finally paid off. Those hilarious headlines ('Fuck off, you frogs!') and relentless harping on about fat-cat Eurocrats and greedy Slavs eagerly anticipating EU handouts have finally tipped the vote strongly against greater integration with Europe.
Of course, that's not to dismiss the anti-EU vote entirely: there are good arguments against closer links with the rest of Europe: CAP, whether we get a fair deal from the allocation of subsidies, interpretation of EU directives and so on. But it's equally, if not more, likely that that UKIP's success was the result of the fact that England is, at heart, an extremely right-wing country.
Brits, or the English as we now seem to prefer to call ourselves, love to celebrate our tolerant society. We've certainly never had racial strife on a par with the United States or the former Yugoslavia. There are also big chunks of collectivism in the English psyche: on the whole we support the NHS and distrust creeping privatisation, and we've never embraced socially-divisive New Right economics with the same fervour as the Americans.
But from time to time you notice that England is a pretty isolationist, prejudiced and fearful place. Sometimes it's obvious - when someone says 'We've always hated the French' (an actual comment) you realise they're probably not going to be studying the pros and cons of greater European integration in detail.
And we've probably all experienced that heartsink moment in the pub when a friend of a friend starts making borderline racist comments. It's never 'We should send 'em back', it's always something more obscure, eg. 'When I worked in Dixons, it was always the black kids shoplifting', or something like that. Ooh, we can feel the social tension just writing about it.
Of course, if you want to take a look into the dark heart of little England, your first stop should be the Daily Mail letters page. You might recall that one contributor said that if MP Diane Abbott didn't like state schools (there was a minor controversy over her sending her son to a private school), she should 'send her son back to Jamaica and go with him'. Maybe the letters editor removed the words 'on a banana boat'.
When it comes to illiberalism, the subject of homosexuality is another worrying indicator of what goes on in the febrile minds of Brits. Everyone's met blokes who take the line 'It's just fucking disgusting, innit?' but somehow it's more surprising when you meet pleasant-seeming women who suddenly start making comments like 'It's perverted. They should put them on an island.' (This homos-deported-to-an-island idea is genuinely strange. What conceivable benefit could there be to the non-gay population? And frankly, if you're gay, living on an island with lots of other gay people sounds like quite a nice idea. No more awkward faulty gaydar situations! But we digress.)
It's this personal contact with bigotry that is especially depressing. This contributor can think of countless real-life examples of dumb prejudice. Actual, serious comments like:
- 'they're an ugly race, the Jews.' (ie. with their great big noses.)
- 'We get lots of coons coming here.' (What year is this?)
- 'They've got natural rhythm.' (You can guess who 'they' are.)
We're more sensitive to racism these days, but sometimes you think Britain, or England, is really just full of embittered, ignorant Little Englanders who hate everyone and everything. Maybe it's time to drop the pretence of a tolerant society and found a political party that stands for everything mean-spirited, petty-minded, bigoted, racist and generally unpleasant.
And Kilroy could be in charge.