John Bercow is to be banned from all public buildings in Britain. Brilliant! A bit un-British, but a bold stroke in the Ukip manifesto. Clear, clinical, a little brutal, popular with all right-thinking people who regarded the Speaker's election as a stain on the Constitution.
I'd arrived for Ukip's manifesto launch and couldn't see very well at the back there, half in and half out of the packed little room. But there it was, loud and clear, "banning the Bercow" (he's already been banned, apparently, from public buildings in France).
"It's the burqa, you ass," a colleague interrupted. "They're banning the burqa from public buildings."
No, no, it's better the other way. We all know that donning "the full Bercow" conceals your appearance, masks your intentions and allows you to appear to your constituents as a Conservative – while underneath you're supporting the values of equality and high public spending of the Labour Party. On Ukip's analysis, many vulnerable Tory candidates have been forced into this depressing, restrictive and freedom-denying garb, limiting their natural expression of who they are and what they want to be. Yes, from Nigel Farage's viewpoint, as we were into the third pint of the morning, "the full Bercow" is the case with the Conservative party tout entier. "They're not Conservatives, they're a social democratic party like all the others, with piddling differences between them."
People wonder if Ukip is fit for executive power. I can tell you they'd got the pub to open half an hour earlier than allowed so we could drink beer and watch the Tory launch on the TV. A first for me, actually, drinking beer at 10.30am. I'd thought of asking Farage if he drank too much, but I had no follow-up to the question, "Too much for what?"
Farage laughs a lot, smokes, drinks before lunch, makes questionable jokes, made a lot of money in futures, and was perfectly at ease in the broker culture of what we now call sexist bullying. When asked what took him into politics, he doesn't say "to put something back" or "to make the world a better place". He says: "Anger."
He is, in short, what the people of Buckingham would recognise as a proper Tory. And to watch him watch the Tory launch is to watch what proper Tories think. That's very different from what the leadership thinks, and it's a measure of how far Cameron has taken his party. All credit to him and so forth, because proper Tories only number 30 per cent of the vote. But it's most probable that most Tories in most pubs think what Farage was thinking. That nobody wants to see Theresa May and Andrew Lansley talking about anything. That Osborne might at least have learnt his speech enough not to stumble. That there was "nothing you could get hold of", and "nothing about Europe or immigration". That the leadership manifesto consisted of "aspirations and platitudinous nonsense" – and that it would probably get Cameron into Downing Street.
That presents Ukip with its best opportunity, Farage says. "Two years into their term, millions of voters will realise they don't have a conservative government." And then... what? Ukip will strike? I couldn't follow the opportunity but asked how it might present itself.
"It'll be immigration that does it. In April of this year, the eastern European populations will get full benefit rights in Britain. After 12 weeks' work, all EU migrants will be able to claim all benefits that Brits can claim.
"There'll be the second wave," he said. How many's that? It was the best part of a million last time, who knows?
There's no answer to this in the political class – and no mention in the manifestos – because there's no way of controlling EU movement of labour. This sort of argument will be familiar to critics of Ukip, but let's see how the numbers come down, and on which side of the argument, and how the BNP do when the numbers are known.
Until then, the Tory party are telling us to revolutionise public service delivery: "Do your bit. Play your part. We're all in this together." They are "extending an invitation to join the Government of Great Britain". Who to? To everyone in the country. I'm thinking about it. But what are the hours? Do we get expenses? How do we get home? And above all, can we fire Osbo?Reuse content