Queen's Elastoplast dress

A Credit Crunch is just some kind of half-arsed pudding. We’re going to get through it by enjoying g

Aaah, the French. I know, I know, I haven’t blogged for a bit, Christmas and the New Year have passed, the telly was rubbish, the weather was cold enough to snap dogs… but first I was with the French. They threw me off beam, got me all relaxed.

It’s ages since I’ve met the French and I’d missed them. I’d missed looking at Paris after dark – which was about the only time I could look at it because I was working all the daylight hours for my very lovely French publishers. Very shiny. That’s Paris – not the publishers – they were simply generous with nuclear strength French coffee and macaroons, which is almost as good as being shiny.

I’d also missed the ridiculously attractive Parisian gentlemen, the flirting and the hand-waving conversations and even the irregular verbs. Get me caffeined up enough and arcane usages of venir and questions which expect the answer “No”. (Are there any other kinds ?) are all magically rendered simple. (At least in my head.) And I’d missed their food – all of it, even their sandwiches – and their ability to manage the run up to Christmas in a controlled way that doesn’t make you want to beat reindeer to death with strangled elves by the 2nd of December.

Of course Christmas did inevitably arrive with the Queen telling us all – rather incongruously, I thought – about the way that having no money can make you happy and how she joins with us during the Credit Crunch in appreciating acts of generosity… all this delivered from her own personal palace.

But she was wearing a dress which was apparently made of recycled Elastoplasts, so a nod to economising there. And she was almost the television highlight of the season. Without Wallace and Gromit and the Doctor (and the new Doctor – what is the official title for Matt Smith at the moment: the Locum? - Jeeze, they span that out for long enough…) there would have been no reason to turn the hideous device on.

We can now rest easy in the knowledge that plasticine can emote much more beautifully that Rupert Penry-Jones - who knew The 39 Steps could be that dull? I’d rather have watched him sweep them - and eight year olds all over the country will watch the next set of Dr Who specials in a weird kind of bereaved/excited pre-decease/rebirth wince, which will probably do them no end of psychological good.

Not that I spent the holidays lolling and ambling towards the remote control. I was mainly locked upstairs in a frenzy of typing, because I had to produce three hours of overdue radio drama for a German broadcaster. I had chosen – I no longer recall why – to set the whole thing aboard a schooner and much looking-up of nautical terms and the proper names of bits and widgets ensued. I now know more about gaff rigging than I ever wished to.

And now it’s 2009, the New Year having passed and been modestly celebrated with pie and ice cream, black bun and mackerel pate. (It’s not traditional yet, but we’re working on it.) I do always wonder why we choose to make a big fuss about passing from one arbitrary collection of 365 days into another. And it’s odd, but perhaps not surprising, that we Scots have appropriated the UK’s one big pointless/pagan festival of joy and despair. The joy comes with the dancing, singing, drinking and promising ourselves that we will be entirely different people as soon as midnight has struck. The despair comes with the dancing, singing, drinking, realising – at ten past twelve – that we are exactly the same and then experiencing that sudden Hogmanay inrush of all the negative events and thoughts we have ever had, before we retire to a darkened corner and weep until dawn. New Year – it’s the Bi-Polar Holiday.

And the New Year shindig does take our minds off the dark and the cold and the oncoming Depression. (Yes, that’s Depression - or if you like, Recession – not the Credit Crunch. A Credit Crunch is just some kind of half-arsed pudding. We’re not going to get through this by reverting to baby talk. We’re going to get through it by enjoying generosity and sharing simple pleasures, just like the good old Queen said. Or by punching each other in the throat over scraps and boiling toddlers for food.) And celebrating distracts us from the notion that bombing civilians around Christmas always seems to go relatively unnoticed in the wider world. Or, at least, in the Oval Office – which seems to be the only place that counts.

In conclusion, dear reader, let’s hope that you spend the next year being exactly who you would like, let’s hope that I get through all the work I have lined up and let’s hope that humanity, just every now and then, manages to do something other than murder, maim, steal, screw up and generally disappoint

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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