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The rise of the new auld lad: What do Clarkson, Farage and Trump have in common?

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US president-elect Donald Trump

US president-elect Donald Trump

British MEP Nigel Farage

British MEP Nigel Farage

Dadbod: Ed Balls and 'Strictly Come Dancing partner Katya Jones

Dadbod: Ed Balls and 'Strictly Come Dancing partner Katya Jones

TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson

TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson

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US president-elect Donald Trump

It's been a difficult year for men. For a while there, we were doing grand - fighting wars and smoking pipes, secure in the knowledge that we were the good guys. However, recent events have revealed the greatest plot twist since 'Angel Heart', and it has turned out that we were the baddies all along. We invented a few things - Pop Tarts, penicillin and hats with beer cans on them being the main ones - but we ruined almost everything else.

There have been glimmers of hope along our tragic timeline; moments when our evolution took a few steps forward, but then sadly took several nervous lurches back again. Take the 'new man': first appearing in the 1980s, he was a massive step forward from the traditional man of the previous decades. The new man was a loving parent, useful around the house and was able to discuss the previous alien concept of 'feelings' without self combusting. It seemed that we were getting places.

But then a decade later came the inevitable regression: the new lad. A twitchy, insecure reaction to the idea that men could and should be more complete members of society, the new lad sought to drag them back to the glory days of the hunter gatherer, only now they were hunting for Club 18-30 holidays and gathering STIs. Magazines like 'Loaded' claimed to be self aware, yet wallowed in the detritus of masculinity, peddling ludicrous tropes of the working classes - sex, booze, violence - to appeal to a largely middle class audience.

Two decades on, lad culture is still a stain upon our gender, but while a certain amount of it can be blamed on the boisterous follies of youth and the liminalities of becoming a man, the lads of the 1990s have grown into the grumpy old twits of today.

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Dadbod: Ed Balls and 'Strictly Come Dancing partner Katya Jones

Dadbod: Ed Balls and 'Strictly Come Dancing partner Katya Jones

Dadbod: Ed Balls and 'Strictly Come Dancing partner Katya Jones

Consider Jeremy Clarkson - a lad icon for decades, he epitomised their world view that you can justify almost anything under the oft-abused 'banter clause', and is now set to return to Irish screens this month with 'The Grand Tour' (a sort of 'Top Gear' reloaded, courtesy of Amazon Prime). With his sardonic hangdog face and head coated in luxuriant pubic hair, he made 'Top Gear' the global phenomenon it is, employing the three-pronged tactics of laddish wit, casual bullying of co-stars, and loving motahz (motors).

But the light, sparkling frisson of laddishness he employed has matured into a bitter vinaigrette, to the point that has simply become the sort of out of touch buffoon he would eviscerate on his shows. The tipping point for audiences here was when he attacked a producer, allegedly calling him a 'lazy Irish c**t'. He tied laziness to Irishness, oh the hilarity. If only the shoddy builder O'Brien from 'Fawlty Towers' was here to witness such post-colonial lolz.

Clarkson proved that laddishness was a phase that you should really grow out of, like DJing, smoking hash or having dreams. But he didn't, and now he is an angry auld lad, which is a handy term as it is also - banter alert - a euphemism for penis.

Also angrily strutting into this category is Nigel Farage, who has styled his brand around that classic auld lad card of being a big racist.

Using an offshoot of the banter clause - the 'telling it like it is, anti-PC' clause - this orange Kermit the British frog has managed to stir up borrowed nostalgia for an English Never Never Land of 'Dad's Army' and 'Carry On' films and turn it into a terrifyingly successful political career. People who are angry about other things - their lot in life, their emotionally distant dad, their motah not starting (euphemistically and otherwise) - are now angry at what they perceive to be The Other, The Other being anyone who doesn't look like a historical re-enactor playing out scenes from the Crusades at a village fete in Derbyshire.

Farage's angry auld lad routine almost went beyond parody when he decided it was time to bring back the great British moustache, boldly reclaiming it from 1970s porn stars and fey hipsters, to where it belongs: on the curled upper lip of someone who thinks mass deportations are the backbone of 'greatness'.

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But the abyss of regressive masculinity was truly being plumbed across the water in the US, where Donald Trump epitomised the worst a man can be and is still set to be the most powerful being in the world. Future generations of lads - for there will be more and more - will worship him as a god, the Ultra Lad, a bantering deity with small hands and insecure hair, who skips boasting about sexual conquests and instead boasts about sexual assault.

But behind every terrible man, there is another man even more terrible, and in Steven Bannon, Trump has found his Grima Wormtongue, Emperor Palpatine, and Iago all in one. Bannon is the ultimate bro, a Broseph Broebbels to Trump's Brodolf. Looking like a homeless Aaron Sorkin, Bannon was quick to confirm his awfulness by coming out with this genius quote: "Darkness is good - Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power."

The fact that only one of those people actually exists is worrying enough, the fact they are all male is just the questionable icing on a badly made cake. But he would have been hard pressed to find a woman who was as ubiquitously evil as his unholy lad trinity - maybe that comely homewrecker Fidelma from 'Glenroe' (she was Biddy's cousin!), or Lot's wife (although she only wanted to see how much better than the neighbours she was doing).

So the world is doomed, and we have men to thank once more. But it's not all bad news, and in this time of darkness a hero did arise to remind us that men can sometimes be 'not completely evil'.

A sign of what a decent chap he is, Ed Balls is the only politician of this generation to come pre-loaded with a ludicrous nickname, and while his political career was a mixed bag of allowances being dubiously claimed for his home and the odd traffic offence in his motah, it was his turn on 'Strictly Come Dancing' that reminded us of what a man can be - funny, tragic, utterly unaware, all the while cheerfully twirling his comforting dadbod (not fat, not fit, just present) about for our entertainment every Saturday night, surviving an impressive 10 weeks before he finally waltzed off the show.

He isn't the hero TV wants, but it turns out he is the hero TV needs, a reminder that there are nice things about being a man - a gormless desire to be liked. Or, you can say it's a reminder of the male desire to win at any cost, but once you've witnessed Mr Balls dressed like an umpire at a lawn bowls tournament, performing 'Gangnam Style' like nobody is watching when millions actually are, it's hard not to think 'aw bless' and secretly hope that he inspires a generation of lads to become men - dad-dancing, slightly sweaty men, the hope in their eyes glimmering like the sequins on their shirts and spats that shine like a brighter future. We can but hope.


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