Imagine this. Theresa May, Home Secretary, announces to the British people that she plans to hold a conference to discuss the government's latest thinking about its immigration policy.
The response goes something like this. The bleeding hearts at the Guardian suffer from a paroxysm of self-righteous rage at the injustice of her proposals. The Daily Mail declares that only a sea wall spanning the length of the Channel can protect the UK from the grubby continentals. The Telegraph describes happier times, long since past, when immigrants simply didn't exist. The Times prints vacuous statements that don't really say anything at all.
In Westminster, the Lib Dems do their standard hand-wringing, whimpering that if they weren't in coalition, the Tories would have executed anyone not British-born. Ed Miliband mumbles incoherently about how awful the Tories are but that he thinks there are probably a few too many Romanians in British hospitals. UKIP thunders that if they were in power, immigrants would be politely told to f**k off.
Then the human rights groups start bleating about how the Home Secretary's initiatives contravene European human rights conventions. She deserves to be shipped off on the same plane as her arch-nemesis Abu Qatada. The judges at the European Court of Human Rights wag their collective finger at Theresa for saying naughty things that remind them of Hitler. One economist says that without immigrants, the UK would sink under the waves. Another says that without immigrants, the UK would rise phoenix-like into the stratosphere.
In the background, 63million or so Britons zone out and stop listening. While the media-political-think tank nexus begins to disintegrate under the weight of its own self-importance, the average man (or woman) on the street turns away and goes about his (or her) day.
On this occasion, however, Theresa does something astonishing. She sits down in front of the great and the good and says something that no politician has said for decades.
She says 'I've messed up and I need some advice'. She explains that she inherited a mess from the previous government and then made it even more of a mess by promising things that she knew weren't possible. She explains that she's really sorry about this, but would like to take this opportunity to ask for some advice from the people who know what immigration is really about. She also says that she understands why people are worried about immigrants taking their jobs, and for that reason will sit down and listen.
The audience, both inside and outside the room, are stunned into silence. What are they meant to shout about if she's just admitted she's messed up? How are they going to accuse of her being too weak, of pandering to the UKIP vote, of being a liberal pushover, of being a fascist? She just said she had got things wrong and seemed genuinely apologetic!
In this alternate reality, where politicians are not talking to their reflection in the headlines of the newspapers, the issues are not turned into political footballs. The politicians, astonishingly, admit they are fallible human beings, that they make mistakes, like we all do. They talk directly to the people behind the screen, not to the screen itself. They ask for help and they take responsibility for their actions when they bugger things up.
Sadly we live in a world when politicians rarely look outside the bubble in which they are trapped. You can't blame them really. If they say sorry, their rivals say 'you have failed'. If they admit fault, the ideologues of their respective parties start baying for blood. In a world where your position is only as secure as the amount of time you have spent climbing the greasy pole to political success, little wonder that they feel they can't be honest.
What is also sad is that the average man (or woman) on the street can see straight through the BS. When Theresa, and pretty much every other politician I can think of, goes on screen and says 'the government has successfully done [insert achievement that is not really an achievement]', the lie is there, visible for any sane human being to see.
That is why UKIP is doing so well at the moment. Established politicians and the ecosystem of think tanks and journalists around them aren't interested in the man on the street. The elected leaders of our country spend half their time looking over their shoulders for potential daggers and the rest of their time staring into the cameras of the British vulture-media.
The 63 million or so Britons who live in the real world can see this very clearly. They aren't stupid. It should come as no surprise that more and more are voting for the 'radical' alternative, because only the radical alternative seem to really 'get' it. They are outside of a system that seems utterly incapable of achieving anything but self congratulation.
I hate to say it, but the established parties deserve everything they get.