Protest!

An idiot bottle-blonde mutton-as-lamb fake-tan woman in an open-top car trying to steer around parked vehicles on her side of the road (and thus squeezing me cycling towards her) while she’s drinking from a bottle of mineral water. How do you protest? I can shout out that she’s an arsehole – which is more or less my instinctive reaction – but I know that is totally pointless. Everything about her says that she is wholly and utterly incapable of learning.

Struggling up, on a verge near you now

Struggling up, on a verge near you now

And talking of protests, today is local election results day in England and Wales, and UKIP, a bunch of ‘clowns’ in the eyes of the Tories and quite probably the other two parties of the establishment, has done far, far better than expected. And predictably, one way or another the other parties are trying to reinforce the message that this was ‘just’ a protest vote. And, predictably, the establishment – politicians and media – are now feverishly re-grouping to disparage UKIP and the vote they’ve attracted, to try and maintain a system that suits them so well.

Even if every single vote for UKIP has been made as a protest, that doesn’t somehow diminish those votes or make them irrelevant – that is an awful lot of people feeling the need to protest, because the mainstream doesn’t represent them. Add in to the equation all the people for whom politics feels so alien and irrelevant they don’t vote at all, and we are governed, at all levels, no matter which party is actually in power, by a very small clique that is anything but representative.

The real issue of the day is whether this sizable UKIP protest vote, if that’s what it is, can struggle against the dead hand of the status quo, can actually make a difference. The fear is that it will not. Yes, the Tories might say they’ll now listen, as UKIP is primarily taking their vote, but talk is cheap. (And no, don’t imagine Labour any more inclined to listen to the popular voice – remember the anti Iraq war protests.) The fear is we might as well all be shouting ‘arsehole’ at passing politicians for all the good it will do.

The next question is, what happens when parliamentary democracy fails?

Nothing Changes

Good grief – grey, cold and frequently wet days get very tedious. Pretty well nothing’s changing from day-to-day in the bigger weather picture; if it’s not wet today it will be tomorrow; if it’s not low grey cloud it’s high grey cloud.

It’s election results day and nothing changes there either. We are fools to imagine it does. Labour has made huge gains against the rest. It means nothing. There is a political class and they are fundamentally interchangeable, whatever hue they profess to be of. Most of what they actually do is either determined for them by forces beyond their control or by whatever’s needed to maintain their grip on power. The vast bulk of the good they do could be done by professional administrators with far less cost.

Every passing day finds me more and more convinced that Auberon Waugh was right in his deep seated mistrust of all politicians. We would all do well to assume them to be socially or emotionally crippled individuals, driven by an urge to power that is a personality disorder in its own right. They have form, so let them prove otherwise, individually, case-by-case, year-by-year. If they really are out to serve the public, they should have no problem with that.

Near Sonning Common, I came across a large crow picking at a freshly run-over rabbit. As I neared it hopped a couple of feet to the side but showed no real concern about my arrival. The brazen way it went about poking its beak into the entrails brought to mind, unbidden, the cant and lies being aired by the politicians today, and repeated just as brazenly by media outlets up and down the land. They are all without shame.

Seething Resentment

Going home time after Reading Festival and the traffic here and there was heavy so that helped decide today’s route. Crime at the festival this year was well down. It made me laugh – albeit mirthlessly – to see one of the local ‘New’ Labour councillors tweeting about it, congratulating the police and the organisers for the fall in incidents. Um, how about the fans? If the people there hadn’t been good natured and well-behaved despite the atrocious conditions caused by the rain, then crime would have been up. If a crowd that size had wanted to get out-of-hand, no amount of policing or organisation could have contained them. That kind of public sucking-up by low- and high-level politicians alike manages to be both vacuous and nauseating.

(Is Labour still ‘New’ or have they ditched that now? Does anyone care? What would a post-new-Labour party be? Where do you go after mutating from socialism to conservative-lite and betraying everyone along the way? Perhaps that should be ‘conservative-by-stealth’. To my mind, betrayal is unforgivable.)

So, a Bank Holiday Monday with weather that’s not bad but not good – and lots of folks with time on their hands. The British can seem very bad at making good use of free time. I rode through Henley today and the people in the crowd milling about by the river side rarely looked happy or pleased to be there.

And as for shopping: if the high street is dying then by-and-large the retailers have only themselves to blame. The punters in Henley could have been wandering around pretty well any similar sized town in England and they’d be seeing the same shops with the same stock, the same bored minimum-wage staff and the same poor sods trying to sell the Big Issue on a street corner somewhere nearby. There’s nothing to inspire anyone to spend any money and now that the mood is to question expenditure, the ‘big name’ shops are all struggling. Add to that the miserable experience the average town provides when it comes to the real basics: driving, cycling, walking, parking, even having a pee … and shopping online seems a much better bet.

I came in to Henley from Remenham. The queue to get over the bridge started well before the top of Remenham Hill. If that’s not a miserable way to spend of a significant chunk of a precious free day then I don’t know what is. I just went down the outside then took a right into the lane to Remenham Church and from there joined the main road again at the bottom of the hill. When I do that kind of thing I swear I can feel the seething resentment of the cooped-up drivers somehow permeating the air. Of course, that’s more than likely just my imagination. Of course, if they’re inclined to be thinking anything, what they should be concluding is that queuing to get into Henley for no good reason is a dismal waste of time, waste of life.

The queue went by the entrance to Park Place, a huge great pile of a house just sold for £140 million quid, which makes it Britain’s most expensive private residence. I did rather like the fact that whatever the expense, they’d still have been struggling to get in or out of their drive today. I did also think that’s perhaps a fairly petty, grotty sort of thought to have. And perhaps it is, but I struggle with the degree of income inequality in the UK today, and property like Park Place seems to symbolise it all too well.