Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hurrah for the off-switch!

Many moons ago, our political leaders would bleat;

Don't trust the BNP! They're horrible, the BNP! They manipulate figures on immigration and misrepresent the truth and whip up fear! BOO THE BNP! BOO THEM!

This was necessary leading upto the 2009 European Parliament elections, because this was the time of the BNP actually looking organised for once, with the Labour government dancing around an orchestra of innuendo and the Conservatives still elbowing each other with hints about 'thinking what we're thinking." It all came to naught, in a way, as Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons became elected parliamentarians, a result which led to the inevitable demise of the BNP, but that's perhaps a story for another entry...

The aftermath of 2009 and all that was shown for all its glory with the fall of Phil Woolas. Using the Labour Party's innate ability to speak the language of race and immigration with all the subtle undertones of a firework being thrown through a takeaway. It was the style at the time.

We wouldn't be in the position where all three party leaders have to play some kind of Navy-based wang measuring contest were it not for two factors; the Census and UKIP.

Let's start with the Census. We're less Christian and less white than at any time in modern history, and nobody outside Fox News thinks that's one of those bad things we keep hearing about. Oh no, hang on, they've just copied a Daily Mail article in full. WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?

I've not considered the reduction of a white, Christian population on these islands anything of a bad thing for as long as I can remember. But I was young when an Ugandan Asian family moved into a considerably white part of council-estate Preston, so my first experience of 'immigration' was a family where a woman whose name was difficult to pronounce made a living cutting hair in their conservatory, and that's not the "coming over here, claiming our benefits" truth right from the start.

The growth of UKIP is not directly linked to the demise of the BNP, though the coincidence of the timing might as well have been written by a soap opera script consultant. "Let's pair up the end of one career with the start of another," they say, pushing a doting father under a bus and dragging an attractive and available doctor through the door. And so here comes Farage, all dressed up, tanned and nowhere to go.

Using the same tricks as the BNP, the sound of drums coming out of the election leaflets pushed through the doors of Eastleigh suggested that 38 million Bulgarians and Romanians were about to leap in a single bound over the English Channel. Wholly inappropriate, wholly scare-mongering and misleading. Such is the immigration debate, though, and the level to which all parties feel it's necessary to plunge whenever it's mentioned.

Armed with spades and helmets, off the main party leaders go to ape Farage and his immigrant mouth-frothing. Does a bell go off in their heads, I wonder? Do blood-stained words flash in front of their eyes? MUST SOUND TOUGH ON IMMIGRATION.

It's counter-productive because the sound  of all British political leaders saying exactly the same sort of misleading, misrepresenting anti-everything is EXACTLY the things which keep Indian University students heading to the USA. And that's saying something when the US has a more attractive attitude towards immigrants than Britain. It's the opposite of "better the devil you know", to an almost perverted degree. But when you've gone from "Don't listen to the BNP, they mislead you on immigration" to "Frankly, this country has become a soft touch." then you've made the leap into exactly the territory you wanted to avoid only a few years ago. It would be like football fans happily sitting down amongst away fans, whilst still chanting their own songs.

Parading in front of us within a fortnight has been Nick Clegg talking about "cash bonds" for immigrants, Ed Miliband pledging to dissuade people from taking low-paid jobs, and Cameron making a speech on the horrors of letting people in which has been effectively ripped apart by his own side. Yawn-a-rama, guys, you're not convincing anyone.

This country would grind to a halt without the work of people born outside the UK. Indeed foreign workers are over-represented in both the very highest and very lowest professional sectors. It's not any foreign person's problem that the native population have chosen to focus on employment opportunities in the middle. If the opinion is, "they come over here taking our jobs", I can only respond with "they're taking the jobs nobody else applies for."

Over-arching all of this, for me, is the big neon-lit sign flashing "I DON'T ACTUALLY CARE". (I'm not sure how much neon costs for so many words plus apostrophe). Maybe it's because I had to stop listening whenever my Dad began his anti-everything rant, or because I've grown up thinking more about lightbulbs than the exact percentage of non-Britons living here. I've tried to care, it's just the inevitability of the topic being reduced to some gross name-calling tennis match. Our political leaders should know better to keep blowing dog whistles, particularly when the shrill only attracts a minority of voters and a majority of non-voters. The tracksuited circus that is the very splintered far-right won't be won over by Ed Miliband saying "Immigrants are bad, k?", it makes no sense to try. Why should all three parties - LibDems in particular - swerve to the right on an issue which actually helps the British economy more than it harms?

I love watching people tiptoe around bank bonuses and high-tax rates on the basis that the City of London could move to Zurich within months, whilst merrily throwing hospital cleaners and bin-men on the next train home. If this country loses its financial heart, there will be trouble, I understand that. I'd love to see how a specific region would suffer, never mind the whole country, if low-paid immigrants were suddenly ordered to pack their bags.

It's just so much fluff and nonsense. I expect whinging against people willing to come here to suffer colder weather and terrible food just for the sake of a better job from that subsection of obsessed numpties who have "PROUD ENGLISHMAN" as their middle name on Facebook. I'm not one of those wishy-washy, bring down the borders libertarian type, but neither am I happy or comfortable to watch the Tabloid Corps of our ruling classes playing top trumps with peoples lives. If clever, qualified, educated people are dissuaded from coming here in fear of being labelled as "a dirty immigrant" from the Prime Minister downwards, then well done to all involved when the exact result you wanted turns out to be exactly what you get. We don't need to frame this debate in terms of "immigrants verses native", but that's what we've got. And why?

Because it's easier to follow Nigel Farage than it is to turn off his microphone. That's more depressing than whether the head of year at a local school is Latvian.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Masterchefs need to apply

It's a Sunday morning, and not for the first/last time I'm staring across a pub table at a friend who looks as though their internal organs have pins-and-needles. We're getting older now, though the booze intake has not slowed down, leaving the recovery mode to kick in with all the pace and success of an ancient laptop, creaking and crunching its way through start-ups and breakdowns. We're not 'surrounded' as such, though this is a Wetherspoons, so there's an atmosphere all the same. Overly cheerful bar staff discuss the weekend's football - "I like Brendan Rodgers, he's got things right every time" - and a smattering of other similarly hungover folk are peppered around on tables all hunched over smartphones or newspapers. Not one of them is drinking alcohol, though it's possible to buy drink from the moment the doors open at 9am, which is one of those New Labour licencing law legacies which hangs around unchecked. I note that some of the heavier drinkers at Wetherspoons are similarly prone to hanging around, unchecked.

A lone woman sits near by, her face one which has won arguments and weathered storms, a matriarch whose expression tells of penny jars and a dutiful marriage. She knows, as we know, that life was not supposed to direct her to a chain pub, on a Sunday morning, politely accepting the reheated food offered by nonetheless happy and polite men in branded shirts.

Within the context of "horsemeatscandalDRAMA" it's worth remembering that Wetherspoons hasn't been implicated. The world's worst kept secret is the company's reliance on microwaves and flash-frying, making their "curry club" nights identical to the rapid response seen in countless curry houses across the country. That said, what curries they do provide aren't particularly bad, even if you don't start at a round 100 before taking off points for soggy rice, cardboard-like poppadoms, a mango chutney with an apple-pie like consistency.

Their biggest failing and the source of my greatest food related angst since...well last week to be honest (post-ale festival 'stodge' of a Mattinsons sausage and a pint of lemonade)...has to be their 'breakfasts'. It's perhaps little surprise that there seems to be a single sort of man (and always men) who are spotted at early doors ordering a 'spoons breakfast. Men who still have booze on their breath, or still have booze swirling around the brain, or who've been in need of proper munchies having eaten their entire kitchen stock of Battenburg cake and sour sweets. With warped tastebuds sleeping alongside most other vital organs - some more vital than others at such an early hour - it's to be expected that the quality control is so low, but the wide acceptance of their early meals as adequate is a particularly British failing which brings to mind the oft-repeated maxim from a former line manager; "When you're consistently below average, you bring the average down."

The breakfast presented to me and countless friends over many hangover Sundays has always been below par, 'acceptable' because the hour is early, the head is sore and the tongue wants something other than real ale to taste. It is always lukewarm, because like my late-grandmother's Christmas meals, they're microwaved. Individual items congeal and wrinkle, sausages the colour of a baking dish, a single egg with a ripped underskirt for its white, toast which would be recognised as "warm, floppy bread" by Alan Partridge. It's a plate which would embarrass most traditional 'caffs', and whilst a few cost cuttings are acceptable for the mass catering of evening meals, the state of breakfast at a company in rude health should be a point of some serious shame.

My friend and I carve our way through the barely heated food, little pats of butter secreted between the "toast" to assist with making malleable a hard, processed flower. What shadowy ghost of heat might have stuck around at the start has now floated away completely; we're essentially eating cold food. And we don't complain, not out loud, because this is accepted as what hungover people do between the hours of waking up and falling back to sleep. We're guilt-filled and regretful, as any teenage masturbater caught by a family relative might be, at the satisfaction we nonetheless feel at consuming something, anything, to battle against the booze headache.

Our tepid plate, not so much fry-up as faux-up, can be placed anywhere in the current argument about lowering food standards, the increasing gap between those who can afford fresh ingredients and those who can only afford prepared ready meals. The complacency and acceptance is our own failing. The food industry hides its use of horse DNA as well as any businessman obscures his tax-evading savings, and in so many ways they're choking us all. The horsemeat scandal engages producer and consumer with choices which must be made. It seems a long way from a reheated handgrab of reheated breakfast staples, and I suppose in the most basic way there is a distance, but the bad taste remains in the mouth all the same.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Putting the World to Rights

By way of a twisted anniversary celebration, Twitter and other usual outlets are fanning the flames of the murder of Jamie Bulger by Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. At the time of the murder, twenty years ago this week, the two killers were barely eleven years old. The ongoing debates from the case are little different to those which bother letter writers and phone-in shows today; the death penalty, parenting, responsibility of children in the eyes of the law, influence of violent programming, and whether convicted criminals should be allowed to have a life beyond prison.

To mark the anniversary of this gruesome crime, there has been another spate of alleged photographs shared of Jon Venables. The photograph joins many others which have not, and may never be, verified. They are shared around with one of many different intentions  - a warning to him as much as others, a gleeful 'target' to locate like a clue in some weird manhunt gameshow. With a new name and new identity, Venables continues to be tracked down in the name of justice and revenge, as the chosen symbol by a generation scarred by his actions. For as long as he remains free, he remains chased.

Whoever the photograph actually shows, as it may not be the now 30 years-old Jon Venables, the face has been reduced to a meme, sentenced to life as a Facebook status, website warning, messageboard icon. The photograph is also, if it is him, illegal to share, making those who do liable for contempt of court charges. 

I've seen both the 'new' photograph and a montage of others which might, or might not, show the face of Jon Venables. He looks ordinary, normal, a bloke who could work in a garage during the week and behind the bar on weekends. He could resemble any number of blokes his age, and indeed does. For people who may only be thirteen years old today, the age I was at the time of the murder, he would pass them in the street without causing a flicker of recognition. 

As it might be obvious to regular readers, I believe revenge is not justice. I'm always wary of chasing after criminals long after their time is spent.  I dare say even most ardent Christians would struggle to rest their hands upon them in prayer, and I certainly don't feel comfortable reliving the details of the case, but for people now to demand life-long sentences strikes me as uncomfortable and illogical. There is no understanding the reasons for killing Jamie Bulger. though incomprehension at the lack of humanity is no good cause to hound someone around the world in the name of 'justice'. 

You don't bring back the death penalty on the back of a trending topic.

When Jamie Bulger was found murdered on the railway tracks south of Bootle, the atmosphere at my High School was icy, uncomfortable, heavy. A teacher mishearing some boys sharing a joke, one of them me, began berating us for disrespect and offensiveness. Her eyes were red from fresh crying. She may have still been crying as she admonished us for cracking up in laughter on the day so many felt their hearts break.

I'm not someone who denies the power of Twitter to get into the shadowy corners of life, tracking down injustice or just poking a sharp stick into places which long felt protected from 'the little people'. I celebrate the Internet and its power in swimming against the tide. It's a right for people to feel empowered and strengthened.

However this doesn't mean that anarchic mob-rule can be allowed to flourish in the name of 'justice'. Hunting down Jon Venables is not acceptable behaviour. He's been caught and jailed since his release, and has since left jail to live another life with a fake name and back-story. Justice caught up with him twice, and may do again. It doesn't need crowds of Twitter users who believe themselves above all and every law to track him down for no purpose. What ultimate consequence do people want? To find him and kill him? Lock him away in an attic somewhere? To drag him to a police station under the accusation of being a lifelong criminal walking the streets?

Is it "justice" being sought, or "revenge"? What kind of catharsis do people seek when they identify a killer's alleged identity in defiance of the law?

Whilst in London earlier this year, I overheard a couple (jaw-droppingly good looking bloke, infeasibly attractive woman) talking in academic tones over coffee and an iPad. The conversation dealt with her view that people had "visceral fears", and how her study into the subject had shone light on the prejudices which come from nurture as much as nature. I remembered this conversation for some time - not least because it's rare to hear someone use the word "visceral" in real life. There will never be peace for the parents of Jamie Bulger, or any of the parents whose children were killed in the years before or since. There will never be peace for the killers, either, whose lives will always be tethered to their crime, whose names and faces will be plastered on-line as virtual "Wanted" posters.

If it is human nature to be prejudiced against injustice, if it is human nature to hold a visceral fear, we'll never be free from the mob rule chasing justice. I'm uncomfortable with the conclusions of all this.

Monday, January 28, 2013

HS2 seat-by-seat

North Warwickshire (Dan Byles, Conservative)
North West Leicestershire (Andew Bridgen, Conservative)
Rushcliffe (Ken Clarke, Conservative)
Erewash (Jessica Lee, Conservative)
Broxtowe (Anna Soubry, Conservative)

Nottingham North (Graham Allen, Labour)
Broxtowe (again)
Ashfield (Gloria de Piero, Labour)
Bolsover (Dennis Skinner, Labour)
Chesterfield (Toby Perkins, Labour)
North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel, Labour)
Sheffield South East (Clive Betts, Labour)
Rother Valley (Kevin Barron, Labour)
Rotherham (Sarah Champion, Labour)
Sheffield South East (again)

Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough (David Blunkett, Labour)
Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith, Labour)
Barnsley East (Michael Dugher, Labour)
Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis, Labour)
Barnsley East (again)
Hemsworth (Jon Trickett, Labour)
Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper, Labour)
Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls, Labour)

Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke, Conservative)
Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams, Conservative)

Leeds Central (Hilary Benn, Labour)

Lichfield (Michael Fabricant, Conservative)
Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy, Conservative)
Stone (Bill Cash, Conservative)
Crewe and Nantwich (Edward Timpson, Conservative)
Eddisbury (Stephen O'Briend, Conservative)
Tatton (George Osborne, Conservative)
Warrington South (David Mowat, Conservative)
Altrincham and Sale West (Graham Brady, Conservative)

Warrington North (Helen Jones, Labour)
Leigh (Andy Burnham, Labour)
Makerfield (Yvonne Forangue, Labour)

Tatton (George Osborne, Conservative)
Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins, Labour)
Manchester Withington (John Leech, Liberal Democrat)
Manchester Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufmann, Labour)
Manchester Central (Lucy Powell, Labour)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's a "yes/no" question, Minister

And so, we're getting another referendum. Possibly. Maybe. In time.

I remember those hazy, lazy far off days when the chances of Britain getting a referendum on anything was dismissed as pinko dreaming. We don't do referendums, the Establishment sneered, that's European.

"This is Britain," went the line. "We have unelected, unaccountable political appointees in the House of Lords and that's the end of it,".

These days there is nothing which can't be resolved without the mention of the word "referendum". It's radical, it's representative, it's hip and now and acknowledging the power of the people and all the rest. Crucially the referendum as concept is sewing itself within the fabric of our unwritten constitution - thanks to the e-petition scheme and a combination of Facebook and plummeting confidence in the political system holding referendums  is considered the strongest tool of all inside democracy's garden shed. You can't go too far into the nightmare world of On-Line Comment Sections without seeing people called WhitePower84 or Orwell Was Right directing you to their e-petition against or for the kneejerk demand du jour, and I think it's fantastic that we're walking down this particular road. "Referendum as threat" would make a cracking dissertation.

I recall when the very notion of Britain embracing the referendum was sneered at for being unsuitable. Holding a public plebiscite was an act which others did - the Swiss, for example, with their four languages and political neutrality and chocolate and giving Celine Dion her big break. Critics argued that a general election was the only referendum Britain needed, as we transferred our right to have a say to those MPs who sat at Westminster, that somehow holding a secondary vote was invalidating the result of that election.

Things changed with the Blair government, who gave Scotland and Wales the right to support devolution, and since then the Welsh have given a further thumbs up to awarding extra powers at Cardiff Bay. Voters in Scotland will soon have a say on leaving the Union, perhaps the greatest sign of the politician's acknowledgement of the power of the referendum. "I act upon what the people say" and all that.

Of course the greatest example of the referendum on these isles was the AV referendum. I still shudder at the memory.

The "no" vote on voting change was a kick in the constitutionals, and no mistake. Voting reform was knocked back a generation. The campaign was not edifying, nor mature, and those who campaigned on either side revelled in behaviour unthinkable in a general election.

"No" supporters used the most shallow and cynical campaign tricks - "This baby needs a life support machine and a cute little puppy and hugs from his mother, not a new voting system YOU MONSTER" - which was nonetheless successful. The power of the repeated meme and all that, and something which must be combated by "In" campaigners next time round. Anything which was good for the defeat of AV will be considered good for the Scottish Independence vote too, and that's all for the worse in the longer term.

If Cameron does go to the country after 2015 with an EU vote the difficulties faced by the Yes2AV experience will come back with a vengeance. Those in favour of the change couldn't agree on a theme until a few days before polling day, and even when there was a hint of a united message, some of the adverts used by them accurately described a voting system which was anything but AV. Similar mess-ups both in Scotland and the EU votes would deliver defeats before midnight.

Britain's future is within the EU, that's my view now  as it's been for years. I'm not particularly confident about living in a country which purposely isolated itself from the rest of the trading world at a time when every other major power is doing precisely the opposite. If there is to be a referendum, we "In" supporters must learn from the lessons of the AV disaster. We have to agree on a simple, single message, and use that message alone. We must avoid  falling into the trite, over-emotional garbage of the No campaign, which effectively distorted the pro-message without having to do anything. Crucially there has to be meat to share round years before the vote is even announced, as the AV campaign had nothing in the cupboard beyond an old tin of golden syrup, some rice and an old -fashioned manual tin opener.

The EU vote can be won because Britain needs to remain within the club for the greater, long-term good of both country and region. It would be a folly of ridiculous proportions to pretend that a Britain alone is a Britain strengthened, the kind of isolationist, borderline xenophobic thinking which permeates the "Better Off Out" brigade. But just as with the AV vote, it doesn't take much to gain traction with peoples emotions. A "yes" to the EU is not a "no" to Britain. It's not patriotic to support building a wall between these islands and Germany for the sake of feeling good about defeating bendy bananas and all the rest of it.

Saying "no" to AV was a constitutional disaster, putting back real reform of our voting system a generation or more, and slamming shut any real chance of improvements to the Commons, the Lords and so much more. An "out" vote in 2017 at the EU referendum would be much, much worse - economically, socially, politically. If there's anyone worried about how the campaign might go, look back at the AV experience, take it, hold it close, cherish it......and then throw it into the sun. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

fresh faced

At the age of fifteen, I looked like this. The moustache was the talk of the school, as I recall, because suddenly the last person anyone expected to sprout facial hair walked into the classroom looking like Ned Flanders' lost son (note - this was the mid 1990s, when the Simpsons was about to hit its peak, which both interests and saddens me somewhat.) As there wasn't much of  a craze at the time in one small corner of Preston in 1995 for anything beyond sports jumpers and oversized trainers it didn't occur to any of the number of us suddenly sprouting like Fantasia characters to tend and care for our new outwardly indication of impending adulthood.

My homelife being as it was there was no American teen-movie moment when my fresh-faced life coach father guided me through lessons on how to shave. It wasn't actually mentioned at all (not that I want to dust off my Jung textbooks but there's a lot from my father which wasn't mentioned at all, though this cul-de-sac might be wandered down another time.) One day, without warning or explanation, I became the proud recipient of one sealed packet of cheap, easily broken supermarket own-brand razors, and that was the end of the matter. Nothing said, nothing explained. And thus, from that day, I ventured into the certain, heady world of....

....not being able to shave. At all. And as I enter 2013, that's as true today as it ever was.

Partly through sheer apathy and laziness, partly because regrowth speed of the wire-wool mass on my face is frightingly rapid, I've found shaving to be an utter chore unworthy of attention. Oh I've tried - and at times been ordered to try by office line managers - but after a week of dedication, all it takes is one day ignoring the matter and it's back to being an unwieldy Highland explorer face-covering. I've carried out 'experiments' to time exactly how long it is from clean-shaven to face fuzz, and even passing thirty years old has not slowed down the results to around two days. TWO days, that's it, from having nothing showing to speckles of hair growing underneath my eye-line.

Teenage years being as they are, I tried emulating the look of whoever or whatever seemed to be the way of things style wise, and as I've mentioned before on this blog, at least one element of that is another hate-filled rigmarole. Inevitably enough the results of tendering the beard were unmitigated disasters. The 'chinstrap' beloved of so many turned out as deformed question marks, and something approaching a nu-metal goatee looked less Frank Zappa, more Frank Spencer.

Right now I'm hosting something of a World of Warcraft neckbeard, completed with an unruly mega-goatee connected to sideburns via thick slabs of spiky fur. In short - it's a mess, and it's not a nice looking, could be resolved with a trim kind of mess either. Because I refuse to have a "proper" shave, with half the morning taken up with softly scraping a flick-knife against my throat as though that's somehow normal behaviour, I utilise the best gunk and pencil-sharpeners available through supermarkets, which might explain why I often remove every last hair rather than sculpture something more refined. It's partly an overhang from my dad's utter refusal to accept that men might want to look their best once a while, and as I've explained before here and elsewhere it takes just two consecutive thoughts about ''fashion'' for me to become incredibly self-aware of how much cuckoo-bananas it all is.

My then work colleagues assumed a few years ago that Movember would be right up my street, as it's clear that clean-shaven me becomes the complete opposite within 24 hours so by the end of the whole thing I'd resemble a 1970s catalogue model. The result was....well see for yourself.

Of course the consequence of all this is the suffering I'll have to endure under the blessed double-headed curse of a beard which doesn't slow down, and my innate inability to perform upon myself any activity which results in an approvement to my appearance. I'll forever be stuck with feast or famine, bare face or hedge-row, stuck with an inner frustration battling with natural apathy. In the grandest of all schemes, I suppose beards are now 'in', so the stopped-clock of my life has at least some synchronicity success for once. Not that anybody chooses to walk around with "unkempt", do they? It's only acceptable to grow facial hair if you can ensure there's not one sprig out of place, not one millimetre free from attention from three types of pruning scissors and a ruler. Rather than feel 'as one' with fellow beard growers, I'm left once again feeling like the spare Crufts fan at a PETA meeting through not resembling Dallas Green.

As with clothes, then, with beard, and that means, "I genuinely don't care". It's too late to learn old tricks and even if that were possible, it would require spending more money than is humanly acceptable on numerous formulated chemicals specifically designed by men who resemble Dadaist refrigerators for the benefit of men who look  like alcoholic monkey-puzzle trees. Quite who benefits who is anyone's guess, and I don't fancy looking for an answer.  

wheels fall off

I'm not the kind of northerner who breaks out in Peter Kay sketches when conversation dries up at parties.

"So....erm...well, I see you've got a pretty hefty hatchback out front. That for the big shop, eh? BIG SHOP!! Isn't Bombay Mix fancy?  They don't do gravy down south you know!!"

I do look pastwards so often there's a crick in my neck and most of the contemporary points of reference  can be traced back to the current comedy listings of Radio 4 Extra. I deny any childhood memory of watching All Clued Up whilst eating artic roll.

(Which I absolutely did. With my gran. In a house with a chain for the Warden)

As such I'm always happy to remember all those things which the past gave me - the Grandstand theme tune, what SOHCAHTOA stands for and the inability to shake off the anger at having a winning McDonalds/Trivial Pursuit scratchcard posted into an empty shop by bigger, harder, punchier lads...Er..yes, well as such I'm always happy but the problem with looking back is discovering how things never quite look as good as a cynical old grump.

When ITV recently repeated dozens of 80s and 90s cult children's television faves some looked far fresher than most. It's not abnormal, it's to be expected. Cream always rises, be that music, films or even cheesy TV "guilty secrets".

Of course some of those faded classics have done so because it's deserved. Not to break out into end of the pier comedian again but, Wagon Wheels, eh? Weren't they just awful? All mushy, two-tone slabs of processed mush, not quite biscuit, not quite pumice stone. Disco crisps, too, while I'm here. Oh come on, Disco crisps could hardly pass digestion - it was like swallowing a 50p coin drenched in caster sugar.

This is not hindsight; this is growing up. This is accepting that there are time capsules planted in the brain during childhood which are worth jettisoning, like accepting your father plodding to the back of the garden to say goodbye to Fido. What remains is that which would always have been considered as top quality - such as the vast majority of Belinda Carlisle's back catalogue, say. Or Spangles.

Finding a joyous, trouble free paradise in the past is colouring memories with contemporary prejudice, and whilst it's natural for people to do that when reminiscing, it's unhealthy to base arguments on those invented truths. I know what my father used to say about his youth in the 1950s and 1960s - he was born just after the Second World War - and it's not always pleasant.

And thus I make my way to Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (as they no longer want to be called). The basic core UKIP thinking is, "the past is another country", based on the conceit that the UK is no longer the UK whilst the past almost certainly is. Farage talks about his ultimate aim being the return of the UK as a democratic country, just as it used to be, with all those unelected, unaccountable censors of the theatre and that. The UK of the wayback machine seen by Farage is one which is unimaginable to us now, even if you're prone to calling the Coalition some kind of time-machine to the 1950s. We enjoy far more wealth, generally, better health, broadly, greater diversity and broader, deeper job opportunities than at any time in the recent past, and you don't have to go far away from my dad's memories of Wigan in the 1960s to have that proven.

But Farage doesn't want to go back to the 1960s, or the 1970s, or at least not specifically. The UKIP aim is for Britain to be pulled into a nethertime, a space between reality and nostalgia, where the UK "ruled itself". There's not been much of that for generations, and until the 1960s and the great liberalisation of abortion law, sexual equality legislation and lowering of the voting age, most of the "independent" United Kingdom was an insular Edwardian island complacent and dismissive.

We've always been Atlantic rather than European in attitude - especially post-1945 - which comes out in 21st century Britain in our language, our television programme formats, and so on. We jump to the American cough, especially when invading Middle East countries on false prospectuses. Our scoffing at the French or the Germans copies the American sneering of Canada and Mexico, and for the most part our denial over European economic strength and liberal attitudes mirrors how the USA tends not to respect their cousins over its northern border. But in being anti-European in addition to anti-future, as UKIP seem to be, they're swapping one paranoid fear for one uncertain reality. I'd rather not be the unofficial 51st state of the USA, thanks all the same, but UKIP clearly prefers this island of ours to be an Atlantic annexe than a European player, so far enoughski on that, Nige, replacing one uneasy alliance with another one.

I would say "this is me being unfair on old Nigel Farage, bless", and after all he has ruled out ever getting into a Coalition with David Cameron. But that's the point, I guess; delusion. That's all UKIP end up talking about - delusion. They're deluded if they think they'll ever get an MP, or even a Council of their own, or even any kind of thanks for pulling us out of a Union with our closest neighbours. That Farage thinks he is to have any say at the next election is as laughable as the memory of one-half of my family choosing to sit around the television set, of our own accord, to watch "Telly Addicts".