23rd June 2016: UK votes to leave the EU
9th November 2016: US elects Donald Trump as President
Nigel Farage in the UK and Donald Trump in the US both stand on incredibly similar platforms. They blame all domestic policies on immigration and all problems everywhere on “the political elite”. They portray themselves as the man on the street who tells it like it is. And they promise that if you vote for them, you will get your country back.
Why do people turn out in their millions to vote for them? Because the world is suddenly full of racist, sexist homophobes? No. There are such people amongst their voters, but it’s not the majority and I don’t think it’s the main reason people believe in Farage and Trump. By and large, it’s because they are the political equivalent of the fad diet.
They are successfully marketing a brand of quick-fix politics. There’s an initial populism, just as on the Atkins diet there’s an initial weight loss. There’s the mapping on to it of whatever you want the final goal to be. It doesn’t mean it’s good, healthy or sustainable, but in the short term it makes people feel better about themselves and it seems to work.
And the problem we now have is that the slow, steady process of decent policy-making sounds as dull an option as eating home-cooked meals and taking regular exercise. But hey, we know it works. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. And pass the casserole dish.