Is Nigel Farage the new Nick Clegg? Before you write this off as a Question To Which The Answer Is No, give me a quick hearing...
Even in our climate of dissatisfaction and cynicism with politics, we long for a "decent leader" who will sort things out and be different from the rest. And every so often, the British public falls in love with such a leader. It's easy to forget just how popular Nick Clegg was before the last election. Before Clegg, the position of 'Decent Chap Who Isn't Like The Other Politicians' was held by Gordon Brown, whose honeymoon as PM saw approval ratings as high as 62%.
It's no coincidence that Clegg and Brown each turned at lightning speed from hero to zero. Whatever their merits or failings, the expectations loaded onto them could not be matched by any human being. The problems with British politics are too great – and too systemic – for any single individual to sort out.
In the hearts of a surprisingly large number of voters, Nigel Farage now holds that same position of Decent Chap. He's the 'Honest Politician Who Tells It As It Is', who speaks up for the "little man" (and woman, one assumes) against the elites. Never mind that his party lacks any coherent policy platform, having disowned its 2010 manifesto, and failed to put anything in its place, beyond opposition to Europe, immigration and (possibly) gay marriage.
Farage is unlikely to experience the same speedy fall from grace as Brown or Clegg – not because he is morally superior to either of them, but for the simple reason that he is never likely to be in Government. UKIP may offer a home to disaffected voters, but it will never have to cope with the complexities and compromises of actually exercising power.
Farage aside, the three main parties also look for saviours to repeat the achievements of great figures of the past. While Conservatives lionise Margaret Thatcher, Labour supporters cherish Clement Attlee. The Liberal Democrats have to reach further back for a towering figure, but you don't have to speak to one for long before they will mention Gladstone.
A similar thing happened when Jesus began his ministry. In Matthew 16 we're told that the people thought he may be one of those great figures from an earlier time - Elijah, Jeremiah or even John the Baptist.
The Gospels may seem a very long way from the ups and downs of Britain's politicians – but in them we see Jesus resist the delusions and projections of his own day. The crowds look for a political leader who will somehow "sort things out". Jesus recognises that desire for what it is – fantasy. Human beings don't need a political saviour. There needs to be a more fundamental transformation – in the hearts of each one of us, and in our social and economic structures.
Looking for a political saviour enables us to evade the reality that what we actually need is liberation from both personal and structural sin. It's worth remembering that next time you see Nigel Farage on the television, promising to deliver the earth...