Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett Column

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett Column

Article excerpt

Byline: By Karen Bartlett

"Who dear?" the old voice quavers down the line. "UKIP," I repeat.

Silence. "The UK Independence Party," I spell out loudly. Still blank. "I've heard rumours that you're defecting en-masse," I tell the leader of one Tory council.

"First I've heard of it," he harrumphs. No definitely not. Haven't even heard of them. Wouldn't vote for them." And so it goes on.

Up and down the country, Tory councillors I call the day before the election claim that UKIP is barely a blip on their radar, never mind a threat. But something is happening. Either they are simply cunning liars, pulling the wool over my eyes, or they are hiding a guilty secret.

Labour and Tory press conferences are slick modern affairs. Lib Dem events always seem to take place on a set borrowed from an Open University programme made in 1975. But UKIP explodes on screen, ironically, in gloriously vivid colour.

Joan Collins and Robert Kilroy Silk prance in front of purple and orange backdrops, with cartoonish pound signs and cut-outs of the flag that might otherwise be pointing the way to used car lots somewhere.

It is terrible, but compulsively watchable. UKIP has brought The Jerry Springer Show to politics, the trailer park trash of the middle class.

If we are to live in UKIP land we will no doubt be thankful for such eye-catching diversions. UKIP is the land where all our sandwiches are made of white bread. The time before real men understood leisure time and wore their work shirts to the beach with their sleeves rolled up and a knotted hankie on their head. People would stare at exotic looking immigrants on the bus, and wave at their neighbours pulled up by the side of the road trying to repair their rust coloured British cars. UKIP supporters are largely called Nigel and Roger and, most amusingly, Torquil Dick-Erikson.

They have appalling comb-overs and pot bellies and wear UKIP party ties made out of blue polyester. They are, in other words, fairly typical of a large section of middle class Britain.

Driving through the Home Counties the other day I was struck by how much this was the Britain you could easily forget. …

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