Current Affairs, Editorial

European Elections in the UK – A Cool Drink to Beat Election Sweats

I have a friend from my time at University who worshipped the sun. Everyone enjoys when the mighty Life-Giver pays a visit to the usually grey and dull country that we live in, but she was someone who revelled in it. All plans were cancelled once direct sunlight appeared, and so came sleeveless tops, jean shorts, and a comfortable seat somewhere, anywhere, in order to slowly roast herself brown (a feat easily attained by an unnatural resistance to sunburn, that, sadly I did not share when I joined her, looking like my body had been slapped a thousand times over). I joked with her she was a pagan priest, and worshipped the sun, praying for it to rise and shine down unto us all every morning.

I certainly feel this was the case as I write this, taking shelter on the day of voting for the European Elections, in a ‘United Kingdom’ that feels anything but. The sky is blue, and there is barely a breeze worth mentioning; Perfect weather for a good voting turnout, though I suspect that even in lashing rainfall we would still smash records for these elections.

Agitation is thick in politics now. The Prime Minister’s departure is demanded daily, with constant stories about how ‘Tomorrow she will sign the death certificate for her career!’ but often without much in the way of a delivery of that promise, upsetting her foes both outside and within her own party. Theresa May has survived through some of the heaviest defeats seen in a British Government in modern times, but still clings to her post in either stubbornness or shamelessness, possibly both. She has weakened the strength of a party that, when elected, had pundits crying that the country would be Conservative lead for a decade or more, and now has everyone wondering who on earth could be our leader should an election be called tomorrow. Council seats lost, and projections place her in a bad place for the results of today’s vote.

Brexit continues to divide, with two sides “Leavers” and “Remainers” fighting an impassioned democratic war over the future of the country decided by two measly percentage points three years ago. Some claim the feud has become nasty, apparently forgetting that MP Jo Cox was murdered by a member of the Leave camp for not being as far-right and as far-gone mentally as the fiend who butchered her.

Milkshakes stalk key figures who represent ‘Leave’, splattering the bright boys Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (whose name didn’t sound bulldog enough for people to get behind his chest-thumping rallying, so he takes the moniker of “Tommy Robinson”) and Carl Benjamin (also known as Sargon of Akkad, mostly as a way of seeming intellectual when there’s damning evidence the man may just be an illiterate, inattentive, boob). Carl himself has been hit four times by the sweet dairy in a single week. It’s hard to imagine them now without being picturing an unrecognisable figure splattered from head to toe in bright thick liquid.

But these were small-fry wins in the grand scheme of things. Little headlines at the side of news websites and lost in the labyrinth of pages inside newspapers that cared about these far-right icons of the information era. But the real prize winner is the brass-balled maniac who hit Nigel Farage, leader of the newly formed Brexit Party.

The video of the attack is staggering; someone could show it to a Film Studies class to demonstrate building tension. We see Nigel as ever, the cackling tarted up toad talking to his people. Applause rises for his words as he takes his leave, refusing comments to the inquisitive photographers and reporters surrounding his every breath. He beelines straight to two ladies who talk in swooning admiration of the man. Nigel is in his prime here, exuding a familiarity with the two voters that makes him seem perfectly friendly to the simple snapping of photographers, although it comes across incredibly scripted on video. His motions feel rehearsed for encounters like this to extract the right kind of photographs that will throw themselves onto newspapers and websites who follow him. After all, his face is a constant source of ‘clicks’ and engagement for their readers, both his lovers and loathers. Nevertheless, you can see this as his high point; even if you see it as insincere, he is lapping up the attention from the moment and comes out beaming.

Knowing he is about to get it drives up the tension, as your eyes dart amongst the crowd for anyone armed with a plastic cup. One boy in a tracksuit paces nervously around and you feel certain he’s concealing the cold treat in his jacket pocket, and you can’t keep your eyes off of him. But we turn and he’s out of sight, and we bustle forward, when suddenly we walk right into our perp. His entourage seems to completely miss the large, bespectacled gentleman with bushy beard simply standing in the middle of the street holding a milkshake in plain view. Nigel is hit immediately when he comes within range. Someone in the group cries “not again” and the crowd gasps loudly. A bruiser from his security tussles with the man until a policeman comes and takes him away as the rabble decides to make a hasty retreat. Their leader’s act has dropped. His smile to the cameras has turned into something foul, an irritation at the snapping of the cameras, or perhaps more accurately, the knowledge that it’s these photos, not the ones he had just made a whole song and dance to earn, that will matter. Not even whatever his speech was matters anymore, evidenced by the fact that every clip I’ve found begins after his speech concluded. All that remains is the perfect splatter coverage on his suit.

It’s purported by his supporters that we should condemn all of these attacks as they are incidents of political violence. Some cretins even compare them to Jo Cox, apparently not seeing the difference between being pelted with a drink for dramatic effect and being shot and stabbed by a crazed killer. The slippery slope argument just won’t fly here. Comparing milkshake throwing to terrorism is comparing an insult to…well, murder.  Farage will survive and continue to spout his corrosive bile another day after he gets his sticky suit to washers. Jo Cox won’t speak again, and it certainly won’t do for her memory to be appropriated by right wingers who want to use her corpse as a shield as they demand to be treated with respect while they try to put the boot in anyone who isn’t a white, straight, male bulldog like them.

Paul Crowther, the 32 year-old from Throckley who did the deed has been charged with common assault and criminal damage following this, and despite applause from those who approve, I haven’t heard many looking to help get him some legal defence. But he can at least be smug in knowing he caught the biggest fish in the pond. Indeed, the only bigger fish would be the visiting President next month, but you’d have to be mad, downright mad to try that. A member of a foreign nation, surrounded by agents, all trained to spot and dispatch foes fast and lethally to protect their mark. You’d probably be rugby tackled for slurping on your smoothie two hundred meters from PoTUS.

But without disappearing down that rabbit hole, where has this all left us today with these elections? Well, not very far. The Brexit Party is predicted good wins, averaging 32% amongst pollsters according to The Guardian. So much for that then.

Nevertheless, good weather means good turnouts, especially when the heat is so high in the political sphere. There’s always plenty of room for upsets at times like these, and especially in elections many people don’t usually care about at all (Turnout in the 2014 election was meagre 35.6%, seven points below even the declining EU average). Some will certainly do better than expected, and some will do worse. Theresa is probably hoping for the former, since her predictions are as grim as can be. It’s going to be a white-knuckle night watching these results, but I imagine I won’t sleep too well anyway thanks to my sunburn.

Milkshake Photo – By NickSS from London – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1106528 

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