In Bongo Bongo Land: How Not To Win Friends (And Votes)

JULIA GILLARD and her anti-misogyny handbag hit squad would choke on their breakfast if confronted with this: a British politician has been thrown out of his party after the latest in a long sequence of questionable comments about women and foreigners. Is this larrikinism, or a bridge too far?

The news overnight that a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has been ejected from UKIP comes as little surprise.

I am posting on this matter this evening because of the real contrast it throws up between the crusade Gillard went on during the last Parliament — railing against “misogyny”, as they believed it personified by Tony Abbott — and the reality of what has been bubbling away at UKIP for years, and which has lately come to an ugly head.

And these issues really are for the perusal and interest of readers, and I would love to know what Gillard would make of them. Her attack dog Nicola Roxon, too, for that matter.

There are some elements — both in the political community and in the wider community generally — who lament the disappearance of the “larrikin” from Australian politics, but I doubt this is the sort of thing to elicit such nostalgia.

Godfrey Bloom — a UKIP MEP from Yorkshire — has apparently exhausted the patience of both his party and UKIP leader Nigel Farage in his latest outburst, decrying the fact Britain spends £1 billion per month on aid to “Bongo Bongo land” and after saying in an address to an event to promote women that “this place is full of sluts.”

The outburst comes as the latest instalment in a colourful career that has featured Bloom having to be carried out of the European Parliament by an aide, too drunk to complete a speech, and using the using the Nazi slogan “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer” to insult a German Social Democrat politician during a separate debate in Brussels.

Readers can access two articles on Bloom’s latest exploits here and here. A YouTube clip of his doorstop press conference yesterday — ostensibly to clarify his remarks, but which (predictably) ended in further controversy — can be found here.

The point is that anything Tony Abbott has ever been accused of by the likes of Gillard, the odious Roxon, and their fellow finger-shaking comrades pales in comparison to this.

But the question, very simply, is whether Bloom has gone too far.

Some will find his remarks — and antics — distasteful in the extreme, labelling him a sexist, racist, xenophobic pig with a bigoted view of the world and a jaundiced perspective on the role of women (and anyone beyond Britain) in it.

Others will take the view that political correctness has all gone too far; that people take themselves far too seriously, and that the likes of Bloom add a little colour to what is otherwise the dour, dull grind of democratic politics.

In any case, it has been many years since this sort of thing was a feature of Australian politics.

What do readers think? Is Bloom out of line, and right to be punted from his party in disgrace? Or is it the case that UKIP being just a bit too prim for its own good, and should take a load off and calm down.

I’ll be interested in people’s thoughts. Keep it clean.



Liberal Democrats Win Eastleigh By-Election; Tories Finish Third

ELECTORS in the Hampshire constituency of Eastleigh voted in a by-election overnight (AEDT); the Lib-Dem marginal has been retained by that party by 1,771 votes, after the resignation of disgraced MP Chris Huhne and amid a sex scandal. The result is a slap to British Prime Minister David Cameron.

This is a short post for those who (like me) are interested in developments abroad; Eastleigh certainly held particular significance, both as a Lib-Dem/Conservative marginal (of the type the Tories must win to obtain an outright majority at the next general election) and as a referendum on the electoral health of the Lib-Dems in their own right.

On turnout of 52.8%, the Lib-Dems have retained the seat, winning 13,342 votes to UKIP’s 11,571. The Conservative candidate finished third with 10,559 votes, and Labour — as expected in this seat — finishing a distant fourth.

The result will cheer the Lib-Dems and their leader Nick Clegg in particular, who have been perceived as too close to the Conservative Party by their supporters as a consequence of the governing coalition they share with the Tories.

All established polls in Britain show the Lib-Dems have dropped more than half the support they recorded at the election in 2010 — a result which, if replicated in 2015, would see that party all but wiped out from the House of Commons.

This result — coming off the resignation of a disgraced MP, and with a sexual harassment scandal enveloping key Lib-Dem figures during the campaign — provides the third-party a much-needed fillip.

For the Conservatives to finish third, however, in a seat like Eastleigh, will place enormous pressure on PM David Cameron and his leadership, as debate rages within the governing party over the direction it should pursue on a raft of issues including deficit reduction, immigration, and the position of the UK in relation to the European Union.

To be pushed into third place — even narrowly — by the anti-Brussels, Eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party is an embarrassment to the Tories, pure and simple; proud of its tradition as defender of the Union and increasingly hostile toward the EU in its own right, the pressure on David Cameron to offer the British public a so-called “in-out” referendum in tandem with the general election due in early 2015 will become stifling.

This column has, previously, been an ardent supporter of David Cameron; increasingly, however, we believe he is not suited to lead the United Kingdom at a difficult time and — whilst resolutely supportive of the Conservative Party — believe the time may be approaching at which the merits of other candidates for leadership can and should be evaluated by that party’s MPs, its executive and its membership.

Britain can ill-afford a return to Labour at its next election, just as our own country cannot afford a continuation of the present Labor regime in office in Canberra.

Even so, the result in Eastleigh is a wake-up call to the Conservatives, and an ominous illustration of the difficulty the party must overcome if it is to stand any realistic chance of victory in Westminster under its present leadership arrangements.