Don't get me wrong, I'm very proud of being British. I love the quaint little things that make our nation so great. Our obsession with the weather (Gee Note: Despite the fact that inevitably the forecast will say "Sorry guys. It's gonna rain again" we all still tune in regardless. Clutching to that ray of hope that maybe, just maybe, we'll see some of that "Sunshine" them folks in Florida seem to enjoy so much). The idea that any problem can be sorted out with a nice cup of tea and a couple of garibaldis. Full English breakfasts. There really is a lot to love about this wee island.
But over the past weekend I've kind of lost all confidence in our public at large. The reason? Well, not to beat around the bush, the BNP's recent election to the European Parliament has made me question just what has become of this country.
For our overseas readers who have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, allow me to explain. This weekend the European Union held it's 5 year vote to elect it‘s parliament. Basically members of the public get to choose which party they want to represent them on a continental basis. Considering that as far as Britain is concerned the EP is the highest level of law in the land, it's a pretty big deal.
This year's vote has been marked with controversy as Labour, Britain's current ruling political party, has spectacularly self imploded with cabinet ministers resigning from their positions left, right, and centre. Add to that the growing concern over the global economic crisis, and the recent uproar over MP's expense claims (Gee Note: Including one politician who used tax payer's money to employ someone to clean his moat. No really, a moat. It would be quite funny had he not used my bloody money to do it with), and Prime Minister Gordon Brown is under severe pressure to quit his post and cause a snap general election.
Like rats leaving a sinking ship support for the Labour party has vanished in the polls, leaving other parties to pick up these floating voters. Rather than all switching allegiance to one particular group however, the collapse of Labour has effectively split the vote meaning less popular parties such as independent candidates and The Green Party have benefited.
Unfortunately it also means the BNP have gained two seats in the EP. The BNP, or British National Party, are the dark side of the political process. A party so far established on the right wing that they could share hair care tips with gremlins, they campaign against any "non-white" immigration to the United Kingdom. To this end they point blank refuse to allow black people to join the party, claiming that membership should be reserved for the "indigenous British population" (Gee Note: So barbaric Celts and, er, Germans then?). In it's defence the BNP on it's website lists a series of organisations that are primarily ethnic orientated groups such as the "Southwark Black Heritage Organisation" and the "National Black Police Association". The argument is that these groups require you to have a certain skin colour to join them, so why not a group for all whites?
The difference of course being that should the "Southwark Black Heritage Organisation" form a political party and get voted in to government their not going to extradite every single white person from this nation and dump them in the middle of the Congo. In fact they're much more likely to politely ask if, you know, black people could get paid the same as white people for doing the same job.
The leader of the BNP is a chap named Nick Griffin. In 1998 Griffin edited an anti-Semitic magazine called The Rune in which he called the Holocaust "the Holohoax". Seven years later in 2005 he was caught on camera by a BBC documentary calling Islam a "wicked and vicious faith". Following that tour de force he was interviewed on Newsnight in 2008 where he blamed Pakistani immigrants for the country's hard drug problems (Gee Note: Curiously all the drug dealers I've ever met in Swansea have been white. Not that I've met that many you understand. But, you know, if The Wire was based here then Idris Elba would be out of a job). This past week Griffin was one of those two members of the BNP elected to European office. His appointment has been met with, well, scenes like this:
The idea that this man, a man who has been convicted of inciting racial hatred, now represents Britain on a continental stage is enough to make me feel sick to my stomach. Hence my decision to get the hell out of this country as quickly as possible. But there in lies the problem. If not here, then where?
I mean I guess I could always go to Australia. If the daytime soap Neighbours is to be believed I'll end up moving in to a street where I'll get along fabulously with everyone, until a previously undiscovered talent for singing will surface and I'll become a pop star overnight (Gee Note: Seriously they've done this story line like 5 times in the past three years). Or America where I can buy a cowboy hat, a pair of spurs, a mask and live out a boyhood dream by
But to tell you the truth the stand out candidate so far is Sweden. For a couple of reasons actually. Firstly their most controversial nomination for the EP was a group known as “The Pirate Party”. Sadly this does not constitute a political movement advocating the rights of people who wear eye patches and say “Yaaaaaarrr” an awful lot. Instead it’s a protest against the recent prosecution of everyone’s favourite modern day Robin Hoods - Peter Sunde, Gottfrid Svartholm, and Fredrik Neij - owners and operators of The Pirate Bay.
Secondly I really like meatballs.
Thirdly there’s the Storsjöodjuret.
Meet Carina Johnson. On 10th August 1983 Carina took her boat out in the Swedish Lake Storsjön for some larks in the summer sun no doubt. Anyway you guys probably know the drill by now, but for those who don't she was splashing around minding her own business something very peculiar happened. Says Johnson, "Suddenly I saw something that looked like birds about to take off, far out into the lake. They looked like three white gulls moving towards Östersund at an incredible speed...as we came closer it changed direction away from us and then suddenly the water became still and calm. I had a feeling that the thing was relatively large, and what struck me afterwards was that it moved so fast.". Obviously an astute lass, Carina remembered she had brought a camera with her and immediately snapped the following pic.
This is only the latest in any number of sightings reported from the lake over the years. Throughout the 18th and 19th Century all sorts of folk, from peasants to vicars to local squires claimed to have spotted something in them there waters. But what did they see exactly?
Well according to Anna Rahm who saw a similar disturbance in the water on 12th August 1947 (Gee Note: Obviously a summer beast this one) it’s about "3 metres long and grey like an elephant with a smooth, hard skin. Its head was as big as a jug and its back was dented in places. In its terrifying and wide mouth its tongue moved up and down in a threatening manner; its eyes rolled, as I've said and its ears were large and stood out. It seemed to have a large, powerful tail. We only saw the upper part of it but its back was wide and it wasn't a serpent as has been said earlier. That I'm sure."
Sightings generally agree that the Storsjöodjuret (Gee Note: Loosely translated as “Whoa dude, did you see that?”. Nah not really. It means “Monster”) is a reptile with fins on it’s back and the head of the dog. Which for lake monsters is pretty mundane. I mean if the Lake Worth Monster can be part goat, man, and fish all at the same time a large mutt faced eel isn’t really all that fanciful. So what is it that makes Storsie so special?
Well nothing really. Except that in 1986 the Jämtland county administrative board listed Storsjöodjuret as an endangered species. No really, they did. It was later reclassified in 2005 as, er, not endangered due to the fact that it might not actually exist in the first place (Gee Note: I can only imagine the debate. “Has anyone ever really PROVED that Pandas exist?” “Well yes Bjorn. Yes they have.” “What? Really? Oh. OK then. Take it off the list.”). Regardless a mythical lake creature was considered worth saving by the local governing body for 19 years.
And really, when given the choice between one country that will elect racists to high office, and another country that will spend 19 years classifying a possibly fictional beast as “at risk”, I know where I’d rather live.
I wonder how you say “dude” in Swedish?