There are several very disturbing things about the recent run of British politics. The most obvious one is how well our home-grown far right lunatic fringe did in the recent elections. The BNP got enough of the vote that they get to have two MEPs now. The UKIP, a party whose platform is “We don’t like the French, or the Germans, so there” still have more Members in the European Parliament than the Liberal Democrats do. Surely there is something deeply flawed in a political system which allows a party whose main policy is to do away with the European Union more representation at the EU level than a party whose policies are dominated by the need to, you know, actually survive as an economically viable nation-state?
The island nature of Great Britain has been culturally and politically definitive for a very, very long time. It is significant, in that good farmland and a bloody huge coastline made us a major raiding target for the Scands, Germans and Irish for about a thousand years. It is significant, in that our self-image as a nation has been founded in part on sea-power for over a thousand years, and most recently was virtually defined by it. We were never the big problem for the Great Powers, until we got organised as a naval power: and then were able to hold ourselves culturally apart when the Enlightenment set Europe on the course towards quasi-federalism. It is also hugely significant in that it gave us the opportunity to industrialise before anyone else could.
Unfortunately, that was all then and this is now. All of the things that made us first to industrialise are now making us the first to fall off the edge. We started running out of things to dig up a long time before the eventual, politicised death of the mining industry under Thatcher. We don’t have great forests now, just a few woods surrounded by No Trespassing signs. We haven’t been able to feed ourselves, let along satisfy the rest of our domestic consumption requirements, for several decades. We are, in fact, completely dependent on external good will, now that we don’t have an empire. The illusion of distinctness from Europe created by our geography is becoming more and more threadbare every year. We’ve had over a millennium since King Cnut set us the example, but the dominant role of our island nature in defining our self-image is so deeply encoded, even after all those centuries, that we would rather shout at the waves than learn to build boats.
I still don’t think that’s the biggest worry, though. We’ll either get properly engaged in Europe or we won’t. If we do, we might have a chance at playing Hong Kong to the EU’s China. If we don’t join them, then they will beat us in the long run. Those things are going to happen whatever the UKIP says about it; but there’s something else rotten in the heart of Westminster and it’s got damn all to do with Europe.
One of the great guns levelled at those who support Proportional Representation is that it sponsors small, weak, extremist parties into positions of legitimisation. Rather like FPTP then, which has just elected more BNP members than the PR system did. Our parliamentary system evolved rather than being planned, and we regularly make constitutional choices on the Topol principle, but we also have a good record of reform without revolution. Unfortunately, that record got a little too good when Tony Blair was able to tilt our check-and-balance system in favour of the executive.
We have been saved, time and again, over the lifespan of modern parliamentary democracy by the fact that the Upper House and the Lower House are distinct in kind as well as station. Elected politicians are populists, and short-termists; the Lords, historically, avoided both problems. Once the Commons gained the practical power to legislate, this actually became a good thing ; it meant that popular, bloody stupid ideas could be stopped (as could governmentally-sponsored, un-popular, bloody stupid ideas). When they changed the rules and gave the Prime Minister of the day the power to stack the lords for his own immediate advantage rather than merely the eventual benefit of his faction, I predicted that we would at some point see a Prime Minister hand out peerages as a specific move to get unelectable arseholes into the government. All my friends told me I was nuts; the rest of Parliament wouldn’t allow it.
To make a hollow laughing. This man was adequately satirised by Douglas Adams 20 years ago ; and now we’ve not only made him a Lord, we’ve put him in the cabinet? We currently have the least democratic administration in the last century: 7 of the ministers are unelected. Gordon Brown wanted a crony in place, and he was able to make that man a peer of the realm, on his own recognisance, in order to stack the benches. Surely we outgrew this kind of constitutional corruption decades ago?
Apparently we did not. Yes, it is scandalous that the endemic greed of Westminster and the stupidity of New Labour managed to get the British National Party elected to Europe. No, that is not going to make a serious difference to my life over the next four years, but Sir Alan Lord Sugar can and will. A man who made bad computers  and worse friends, a man whose existence as a public figure comes through a self-promoting television vanity project, a man proudly hip-deep in the financial culture which brought down the economy, a man who no-one ever elected, is now a peer of the realm and in the cabinet. Talk about setting a thief to encourage thieves. 
 The choices are limited as to who Douglas Adams was sending up when he created Gordon Way, and they’re basically limited to Sir Clive Sinclair and Alan Sugar. I leave it to the reader to determine which they think is more likely.
 Yes, some of my rancor in this post comes from being a person who was studying computer science A-level but couldn’t afford a real computer, and thus owned several freely donated Amstrads. Then I figured out why people kept giving them away.
 In case Lord Sugar’s lawyers are interested: “Set a thief to catch a thief” is the only rationale I have ever been able to see behind allowing financiers to regulate the financial industry. It in no way means to imply that Lord Sugar has personally had his hand in the till.