Hard to underestimate the excitement of a council election, with in cases up to 25% of voters rushing eagerly to the polling stations. Even more exciting, of course, when the boring old major parties get swept aside by a new clown on the block.
Yes, it’s the United Kingdom Independence Party, the politicians everyone loves to hate. Well, not everyone, maybe. Just right-thinking lower-case liberal democrats.
I mean, UKIP wants to get out of Europe and restrict immigration: they must hate foreigners, which is appalling. I suppose it’s possible that they think the European Union is an undemocratic bureaucracy, and they may think that this is a small country unable to support a huge influx of people, but that can’t be right, can it?
I have to admit that the sparkly new UKIP councillors I have heard speak do not seem models of intelligence and erudition, but few politicians are. As they say on Bargain Hunt, it’s a question of scale.
In any case, we don’t really want to see Nigel Farage as prime minister, do we? We just want to scare the hell out of those familiar faces who have no policies and too many advisers, who behave like out-of-touch parents who think they know what’s good for us but are really concentrated on what’s good for them.
In many ways they are behaving like a medieval church, with UKIP nailing some new ideas to the door and the smell of burning in the air. Or maybe it’s not that dramatic. UKIP may not have the staying power, or even the conviction. Or enough nails.
So are we going to go back to those dull old Tories and Socialists, with Lib Dems under the rather pathetic illusion that they’re a party of government and the Greens rapidly losing the argument?
Is there something to be said for the Conservatives? In the past they have represented law and order, the maintaining of traditional values, and economic security.
Nothing wrong with that, you may argue, but the Tories have lost sight of compassion and a sense of justice. What about socialism, then?
Socialism, as far as I can see, only works in a country where everyone is decent – where they love one another. Unfortunately that country has not yet been located. Experience shows that the best you can hope for is that people may love one another as long as it doesn’t put themselves at a disadvantage. People are largely interested in what’s good for them, which is why the late 1970s were so disastrous and so many of us were mightily relieved when Maggie Thatcher got elected.
Thousands who were not there, or not even born, will pour out rage against Mrs Thatcher in retrospect, but the self-interest that she is condemned for fostering is at the very least no worse than the self-interest promoted by trade union leaders in the late 1970s. Crisis? Yes, there was.
If you are looking for love, it’s no good looking at politics. You have to look at Christianity, I’m afraid, and as a society, we’re shelving all that. Love at any cost is the answer, but unfortunately no-one is asking the question.
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting,” said Chesterton. “It has been found difficult and left untried.” Or corrupted.
Politics is not a natural environment for love, and perhaps the best politicians can do is paper over the cracks in our edifice of self-interest. If so, where is our hope? Where is real love?
Is it somewhere we just don’t want to look any more?