I have been saying for a while that the UK is currently trapped in some sort of time travel scenario where we've been zapped back to the Eighties without realising it. This week's local election results confirmed this.
In the past three years, we've had a royal wedding, several union strikes, an economy floating slowly down the toilet bowl and a Tory government taking it out on the poor and defenceless. So far, so Eighties. And this week one of the major parties faced a major challenge from a fourth party threating to split its vote. But this wasn't some sort of reborn SDP, pulling apart the Labour Party. This was UKIP, the respectable middle-class face of English nationalism claiming 25% of the national vote in the county council elections, and pushing the Tories into third place in the South Shields by-election.
I have written before about how the Conservatives have a lot to fear from the rise of UKIP and the displeasure of their grass roots supporters that propelled the fourth party to claim over 100 council seats. But the rest of us have a reason to be afraid as well, maybe an even better reason than the Tories.
The rise of the SDP in the late eighties forced the Labour party, - formerly drifting its way to the extremes left and into the arms of the militant tendency - to modernise and move towards the centre. With UKIP we face the opposite problem. Cameron has been trying desperately to drag the Conservatives towards the middle ground, hence his positioning himself as the heir to Blair. But UKIP, made up largely of disillusioned Thatcherites, appeals longingly to those who remember the bygone days of three solid election victories and who look sceptically upon a leader who can't even provide them with a parliamentary majority.
In order to counter the rise of Ukip Cameron is going to have to listen to those on his right and move the party back to where it was. If he doesn't, he is going to face sniping from his right flank for the next two years. But considering that a "moderate" Conservative party has already part privatised the NHS, gutted benefits and welfare, punished the poor and disadvantaged for the mistakes of the rich, while protecting those who are actually to blame, and is shortly to try and introduce one of the most imperialistic curriculums of the last hundred years, what on earth can we expect from a party catering to its hard right faction, other than the complete and utter destruction of all that is good about this country?
We are a country and a people that prides itself on not listening to far-right nationalism. In fact the BNP were almost completely wiped out at the elections just gone. But what about far-right nationalism with a moderate face? The Tories may be afraid of UKIP, but the rest of us should be afraid of exactly where their rise will take us as a country.