That great honking face burst out of the front of this week's papers like it was shot in 3D. You could practically feel the hot stale breath of a 1970's pub emanating from the pages. Mouth agape, eyes bulging like he was being goosed by a cattle prod, Nigel Farage looked as pleased with himself as someone whose number had just come up at the bingo and he'd won a Teasmade, a holiday in Morecambe and a bottle of Asti.
The man off the internet hit "Just who the Hell do you think you people are?" has barged his way into the political Champions League by telling some people what they want to hear VERY LOUDLY INDEED.
On the television news his acolytes were interviewed as they emerged from the voting booth. The quivering soft southern reporter types wanted to know why the lumpen, nylon shod proles in front of them had done something as mad as vote for a party that sounds like a chair from Ikea and each said the same: "I'm not being funny but..." And they weren't.
Any statement of belief that begins with an apology is not going to look edifying in close up and in high definition. "I'm not being racist but...I'm not being homophobic but..." The way it was packaged on the news was classic lefty, liberal, superior snorting at "ordinary hard working people" (copyright D. Cameron) that the intelligentsia can't quite believe exist in such numbers as to give UKIP such a stonking day at the ballot box.
These are people that feel as though they are not being attended to by the Westminster elite. These are the people that at the last general election did not vote for the usual suspects because:
A) they couldn't be bothered
B) it was raining, or
C) they didn't believe anything that the honed and smoothed out, plastic puppets of the main parties said and couldn't tell the difference between them anyway.
What they needed was an anti-hero. Someone who looked just like them and could articulate their vague and unformed fears into something with focus, something they could think: yeah, that's it...it's THEIR fault. Step forward the bellowing gas bag that is the leader of the party that the establishment hopes will be as much of a flash in the pan as the last lot who did about as well and faded soon after.
The Green party were the previous ray of light in the vista of dull despond that is British politics. At the last local elections they did about as well as UKIP did this week: a brace of MEPs and local council seats in numbers that about matched those won by UKIP. Where are they now, this party of difference and protest? All but invisible. Their success was pretty invisible in the press at the time too. The political mainstream is not afraid of some hippy in a beanie but it does fear a populist espouser of the prejudices and fears of the man in the High Street. The Greens also didn't make as much of a splash as Nigel Farage's party, partly because they didn't shout as loudly.
The vote for "none of the above" moved on. The hope that there existed a party of change probably went to the Liberal Democrats and their current fortunes are...what's the word?...unfortunate. And so it goes. Next!
Even though these were local council elections, they were not decided on local reasons. It was the protest vote about national issues that won them the vote. Some UKIP candidates were not the type you would want to run a whelk stand. Some were practically invisible to the electorate but won anyway.
In Dorset, UKIP's first ever councillor did no doorstepping, appeared on no leaflets, did not own a UKIP rosette and only agreed to stand three weeks before the vote. What exactly was it about this man that propelled him to win? Was it his detailed and costed plans for local amenities, his rousing speeches, his winning personality? Obviously none of these things if he did not even participate in the campaign. He won because he was representing the "I'm not being funny but they come over here and take our jobs" brigade. Local issues had nothing to do with it.
The route to electoral success Ukip used was to paint the picture of imaginary or exaggerated problems and depict themselves as the only party to fix them. The EU drains the country of £53m a day, said their manifesto. Throwing around huge figures without any context is a guaranteed way to rally the irate. The fact is that it is not £53m a day. With the various rebates and subsidies and regeneration projects it amounts to "only" £19m a day. That is still a lot of money but only if it does not result in the country earning it all back, and then some, in trade and benefits from membership of one of the major world trading blocks. If you spend £5 a day to get to work but earn £100 a day, then it is not £5 down the drain, it is an investment that pays dividends. The government, by the way, spends about £2billion a day. Nineteen million is, as Boris Johnson would say, chickenfeed, especially if by spending it we bring more back in.
Every CEO of every FTSE100 company who has expressed a preference has said it would be detrimental to leave the EU. The banking racketeers are positively panicking at the very thought and that, sadly, is where we get most of our income from. It is a pretty impressive display of unjustified self belief for anyone with no knowledge of international finance and trade to think that they are all wrong. UKIP's voters have that self belief.
The second page of the UKIP manifesto is all about them coming over here...etc. There could be 425,000 people coming over from Romania and Bulgaria, it states. Well, it could also be 42 million, or it could be zero. It is a complete guess. Migration Watch, an organisation that is traditionally not exactly pro immigration guesses that it will be a tenth of the figure that UKIP pulls out of the air.
What of health tourism? The UKIP manifesto claims that this is a deadly drain on resources. In reality, if anything, it amounts to about 0.01% of NHS spending and most of those treated are people that have come here to work, to do the jobs we don't want to. What are hospitals to do? Pile them up in the car park to slowly die because they were born in Warsaw, not Wigan?
There is the "I'm gonna..." list of promises too. All parties have an "I'm gonna do this and I'm gonna do that " list and they are all pretty much alike: more money, less tax, better roads, more doctors, more buses, free parking and jelly and custard for tea. The thing that unites the promises of all parties is that they can't possibly afford them. UKIP's position is that through savings and efficiency it will make all these things come to pass (not the jelly and custard part). If that is an accurate calculation then I'm a banana.
When someone new peddles the same old mendacities the temptation is to believe them, where you would not believe those who have disappointed you before. If UKIP's followers are expecting not be disappointed by their party's promises, that just shows the primacy of hope over experience. It's quite touching really.
If a foghorn with a mouth like a disused cemetery, all collapsed tomb stone teeth, wins 25% of the vote in the next general election it will truly be an astonishing achievement. To get that many people to believe that he is the man to lead the nation because he talks like the chap down the pub, the bloke who speaks his mind and he doesn't care who hears him, would be stunning indeed. No-one believes it will happen, including Farage, I suspect.
It is classic fed-up-with-it, recession era, mid term blues. Labour and Conservatives will be fighting it out amongst themselves at the next election, as usual. UKIP will be a satellite at best, pulling the various parties towards their policies as the moon pulls our planet but not veering into its orbit as they are the bigger bodies. Be not afraid Dave and Ed. The game is still yours.
And I'm not being funny but who wants their country to be led by a man called Nigel?