It’s a dog’s life

Since an increasing number of people complain about trust issues in politics, Quark decided to put back the loyalty and faithfulness.

Using a popular app, we face-swapped a few politicians and dogs bearing some resemblance – the results are…interesting. They’re ordered alphabetically by party – will it influence your vote on 7th May?

The Conservative and Unionist Party

David Cameron and a labrador

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Sajid Javid and a Yorkshire terrier

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Boris Johnson and a golden retriever

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Green Party

Caroline Lucas and a lhasa apso

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Labour Party

Ed Balls and a shih tzu

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Ed Miliband and a beagle

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Dennis Skinner and a dog of unknown breed

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Liberal Democrats

Danny Alexander and an Irish red setter

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Nick Clegg and a Jack Russell terrier

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Scottish National Party

Alex Salmond and a pug

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United Kingdom Independence Party

Nigel Farage and a whippet

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Quark interviews…Nigel Farage

Quark: At what point did you personally become resolved that leaving the European Union was the best path for the UK – after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty or earlier?

NF: Let me be clear – I love Europe, it is a great place. I am married to a European, I’ve worked for European companies and I like European cultures. But I’ve always been wary of the European Project, and pretty early on I began to suspect it had gone far beyond a simple trading deal, which is what my parents’ generation thought we’d signed up for in the first place. The Maastricht Treaty was the final straw for me – it established European citizenship and laid down the agenda for the introduction of a European currency.

Quark: UKIP appear to be winning across quite a few voters from the left-wing – former Labour voters – as well as ex-Conservative supporters. Where does that leave you on the political spectrum?

NF: Well, the first and most important aim of UKIP is to return powers from Brussels to Westminster. National sovereignty is an issue that transcends the traditional left-right dynamic of politics, and so of course we are attracting support from across the political spectrum. Some of our greatest by-election results have been in northern Labour heartlands, which proves we aren’t just taking votes from the Conservative party.

Quark: What is your response to the criticism you receive? It has been said that UKIP is inherently racist, that you are not a party for the modern world and that you simply provide an easy alternative for disaffected voters rather than any serious political intention. How do you react to that?

NF: For years, the ‘old three’ parties have tried to create a narrative that UKIP is somehow extreme or xenophobic – and in the run up to the European Elections they did all they could to perpetuate this image. They found a small minority of our candidates who had said offensive or silly things on social media and got their friends in the media to present them as if they were representative of the views of UKIP as a whole. The fact is, we are a growing party, attracting an unprecedented number of new members and candidates – a very small number of inappropriate people have sadly slipped the net and so we are improving our vetting procedures. But on the whole, the British public have seen through the establishment  smear tactics and that’s why they voted for us in such huge numbers, that’s why we came first in these European Elections. The British public know that we are a party that embraces the modern world but has respect for our nation’s traditions, something the modern Conservative party seems to have forgotten.

Quark: In 2010, you received just under 1% of the vote in Scotland, where you hold no seats. UKIP are against Scottish independence. How difficult is it for London-centric parties to carry gravitas in this election, when some polls suggest that their arguments are merely turning more Scots to support Salmond in defiance?

NF: In the European Elections we recently got our first Scottish MEP elected and we got 10.4% of the vote – we think this is [a] foundation we can build on in the future. I believe Britain is better together and I hope that Scotland votes to remain part of the Union – a union that has benefitted us all for centuries. But I believe what Salmond is offering is a form of false independence; ‘freedom’ from being governed by politicians in Westminster but no referendum on Scotland’s membership of the EU. I hope in the near future that Scotland gets the chance to vote to continue to be part of the United Kingdom and also votes for independence from the European Union.

Quark: The deputy prime minister identified one of the 3 key priorities for the EU as action on climate change. In 2008 you were somewhat averse to HRH the Prince of Wales’ calls for the EU to be the engine of action in that respect. Was this more to do with your qualms about strengthening EU bonds or about the position of the monarchy in global politics?

NF: With all due  respect to HRH the Prince of Wales, climate change is a complex issue; with ‘true believers’ on both sides. One camp insists it is the major issue affecting mankind and the other says it is not happening at all. We in UKIP would like to see an impartial, neutral Royal Commission established to examine the entire issue of climate change and report back. Then we can formulate policy based on fact, not bias.

Quark: The UKIP manifesto includes a promise to develop more grammar schools and technical colleges. However today’s youth are ever more pressured to achieve the highest grades they can. Do you think that increasing the divide between academia and practical careers will help to alleviate this or simply worsen it?

NF: In recent years, I think the way we have demeaned in Britain the idea of people learning skills and trades is just stupid. UKIP would like to see young people offered more options – from trades, apprenticeships to higher learning with all being treated as equally valid.

Quark: A few weeks ago, you made an appearance on “Have I Got News For You”. How important is it for you, as a leader, to be able to be the focus of mockery and humour?

NF: I have always been able to take a joke, and I cannot stand to think that I could become one of these pofaced political drones we see so often on television. I firmly believe you can be a serious politician but still enjoy a laugh now and again, even if it is at your own expense.

 

These questions were sent on 12th May, thus accounting for a discrepancy in dates between them and the answers, and were answered 6th/7th June due to Mr Farage’s busy schedule.

Europe: The Final Countdown

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The scores are in, the stations have closed, and Europe has chosen.

Whilst mainstream parties overall have undergone a fairly significant decrease in their share of the vote, establishment-shocking parties, benefitting from the system of proportional representation, have made quite a gain.

In the UK, UKIP have lured discontented voters from not only their closest neighbours the Conservatives but also from the left (Labour) – the main opposition party who ought to have made the most gains, going on the premise that people tend to go mostly for the opposition in an attempt to flag up their concerns during mid-term elections. The Front National in France, who tried and failed to bind themselves to UKIP, have also come out of this with a pretty strong basis of support. In Greece, on the other hand, instead of an electoral contingent defecting to further right parties, ire at the EU’s fairly hefty austerity measures* have produced a win for SYRIZA (or Coalition of the Radical Left).

The BBC, and other UK news outlets, covered their front pages with this UKIP ‘earthquake’. This says more about the seismic waves than about the actual effects of having more UKIP seats in Strasbourg than of other parties; the widespread coverage largely is centered on shock more than anything else.

This shock is because, despite professional and social media campaigns to the contrary, UKIP has overcome all 3 main Westminster parties and have won a seat in SNP/Labour territory, Scotland.

So far, all I’ve said is obvious. It’s obvious that these results have shocked the Westminster establishment; they’ve shocked people who didn’t vote for them and thought nobody else would.

But actually, these results go deeper than Strasbourg. Deeper even than the soul-searching promised by the Liberal Democrats. These elections, the first for 100 years in which neither the Conservatives or Labour have won nationally, do not only show that a large proportion of voters are disenchanted with the 3-party grip on Westminster. They do not only show that the minor partner in a coalition stands to suffer damage. They show the danger of society dismissing a party or an ideal as a non-starter and failing to combat the political threat in sufficient time.

We vote in general elections via the first-past-the-post system, so I’m not talking about UKIP winning the general election – I may be wrong, but UKIP will probably come second in a lot of constituencies which under this system will gain them few seats. Yes, an increase, but not a huge one.

In September, Scotland decides. It decides whether it will cast off its 1709 bailout banker England, thus (according to George Osbourne, Mark Carney and most of the Westminster establishment) seeing an ostensible decrease to GDP and economy and severing a fraternity of nations which has stood since the Stuarts reigned, or whether it will preserve the union.

The problem is that most people south of the border (myself included) thought that the referendum on Scottish independence would end up with an easy win by No and an embarrassing defeat for the SNP (who have otherwise enacted some fairly good policies). But, just as many people discounted UKIP, there is a risk the same thing has happened with Yes.

Every time Westminster points out a fault with independence, polls (some commissioned by the SNP, some not) seem to suggest the Yes support increases. Whilst this seems to counter reason, if true, this suggests that the decline in support for the establishment is far more substantial than thought. Not only that, but the more ardent SNP supporters feel affronted by what they perceive as English interference in Scottish life in a mindset indelibly created predominantly through the devastation of the Highland Clearances – something which Yes feeds off, and No finds near-impossible to combat.

Not only has this disenchantment or want of a protest vote led to a UKIP victory and a seismic shock for Westminster, but it could also lead to a fissure in our country which is almost irreparable. The latest poll indicates Yes at 34%, No at 46% and undecided at 20% – a victory for No – but even the conductors admit the uncertainty of those results.

I’m British, neither English nor Scottish nor Welsh nor Irish**, and the logic of splitting up all my loyalties, history and heritage is non-existent. Coupled with the economic disadvantages and loss of connection as regards trade, entertainment and culture, I am concerned that the inclination to turn away from traditional parties is going to cost our island nation in a way scarcely anticipated.

With the referendum in September, these European elections signal the final countdown. Let’s hope the results thereof stir Westminster into even greater action to campaign more fiercely for No. It is no longer safe just to assume the failure of a radical change on the basis of its dramatic nature or obvious faults.

*(which were only designed to lift them from their national economic crisis so is it really fair to complain when the end goal is so important?)

**(even though Northern Ireland technically don’t count as Britain but there isn’t really an adjectival form of ‘United Kingdom’)