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The Danger of the Nice Cup of Tea Party

26/01/2015 12:13 GMT | Updated 27/03/2015 09:59 GMT

I remember far too many years back, sitting in a radio station being laughed at by the host of the show when I exclaimed:

"Sarah Palin is basically Derek Hatton in a nice frock."

At the time he couldn't see my point (about Palin, not the frock, upon which we both agreed), we argued back and forth for a few minutes and left it with him saying:

"Well I suppose we'll just have to wait and see..."

And here we are, having waited and saw, and I think I was right.

Palin, like Hatton, was too extreme for the vast majority of the electorate. Certainly she appealed to a few of them, with her blunt policies and "charm."

But simple ideas for simple minds seldom work in complex times.

The problem for the Republican Party was they didn't have a Kinnock to see it, and deal with it.

They courted Palin, seeing the short term gain of the "down home charm" and the dazzling "aww shucks" smile. They gave her a platform, they hung around and listened to her and nodded their heads, but proved they were dumber than the electorate who, for the most part, had long since realised she was nuts and had shuffled out the room backwards nodding and smiling.

At least the Republicans, after being slaughtered by Obama, went away and licked their wounds for four years before coming back stronger, wiser, and having learned from the their mistakes and... oh hang on, sorry, no they didn't.

They did it again, they allowed Tea Party minority rhetoric to dominate the campaign, with even more "folksy faces" and clumsy policies... and got slaughtered again.

I'll wager the Obamas' knew they weren't moving house about two years before the election process even started.

Watching America from afar, it surprises me that the Republicans appear to be drifting down the same route again as another election looms in the distance, Bachman, Haley, Jindal, Paul and many more are shuffling and shedding sense to get their hands on the billion dollar cheque that will take them up to the gates of the White House... but not through them.

I wonder if, as the late night lamps burn in the Grand Old Party's grandees offices, any of them secretly wish that all those years ago, somebody had done what Kinnock did and had the guts to make a stand against a lunatic minority? Kicking out the Tea Party in the way that Kinnock put the boot into Hatton and co, a short term pain for a long term gain, would have maybe have meant America wouldn't be looking like a one party system for the foreseeable future.

Instead, they went the easy route, they avoided the fight and swung to the right, and there they stay, stuck in the Alamo.

It seems so obvious, watching from a distance, that they made a mistake, which makes it all the crazier that Labour and the Tories are doing the self-same thing in the UK.

We've got our own folksy charmer, with clumsy ill thought out political ideas that hardly constitute a manifesto, a party that is made up of "normal" people who think they are fighting to preserve their country, while supporting a movement which is funded by rich men who are only interested in getting their own way while staying in the shadows (although in fairness, this could probably be said of all the main parties to some extent).

In the last election I remember hearing the phrase "I agree with Nick..." over and over again.

I've a horrible feeling that this year's Nick is going to be Nige, and that scares the life out of me.

Because instead of showing UKIP up to be wrong, instead of engaging their prospective voters and debating the issues, I think the two main party leaders will take the easy route and just agree.

I can imagine the debates:

Nigel: "Too many immigrants..."

Ed and Dave: "Yes you're right, we'll stop it."

Nigel: "We don't need a human rights act..."

Ed and Dave: "Damn that pesky act..."

Nigel: "Too much money spent on the NHS..."

Ed and Dave: "Room for privatisation..."

Nigel: "Too much taxation..."

Ed and Dave: "Root and branch..."

All of that is a lot easier than telling Nigel he is wrong fro fear of upsetting his supporters.

I get that Cameron is worried about losing seats. and worrying about a future coalition partner, I get that he knows a lot of his voters are attracted by the clodding populist statements about race and immigration, I even get that he might secretly want to one day go for a pint with Nige when all this is over.

But I can't believe that he thinks that "out kipping" the "kippers" is a good idea.

If Cameron wants to save his party in the future this is his Kinnock moment, his opportunity to stand up, say he believes UKIP are wrong and show the wavering voters and wayward MPs why. As it is, the only thing Cameron has going for him is Ed Miliband, because if it was David Miliband, or even just someone who could manage to eat a bacon sandwich properly, Cameron would be dead in the water right now with a divided support, and a lack of ideas and backbone to win them back.

As for Ed? Well he is well aware that in the pockets and purses of most of his MP's are pictures of Tony Blair, their real true love. He knows they long for the old days, the "only get better days" of nice hair, big majorities and that weird "statesman walk" with the back of the hands swinging like something off Planet of the Apes.

Ed's on borrowed time, his party knows it, he knows it, we know it, even the bacon sandwich knew it.

If just one of the main parties had someone who was a bit normal, able to galvanise, able to connect with the man on the street, able to rise above the other weak willed leaders all around them, they'd walk this election.

It's just a shame that the only leader who fits that description is in charge of UKIP.