I mentioned to Lord Bonkers this morning that the general secretary of Ukip had likened his party to the Black Death. It prompted the old boy to recall this episode of East Midlands history.
In 1664 the villagers of Eyam in Derbyshire began to succumb to a terrible illness. They turned purple in the face, their memories became unreliable and they insulted their neighbours until they expired from apoplexy.
Their vicar (a sort of Revd Hughes of the 17th century) divined that this was a plague of ukippery and had been brought to the village by a visitor from London. The fellow had arrived carrying a disreputable newspaper (or whatever it was chaps read to get the news in those days).
The aforementioned cleric persuaded the remaining villagers to quarantine themselves. Every approach to Eyam was barricaded as they refused all outside help, and families buried their own dead in an attempt to prevent the further spread of the plague.
Over the ensuing 14 months some 273 villagers succumbed to ukippery. Yet, thanks to this extraordinary and enduring example of self-sacrifice, the neighbouring settlements of Baslow, Dronfield and Bakewell (famed for its tarts) were spared.
Would that villages afflicted with ukippery today showed such a spirit of self-sacrifice!
At least one can console oneself that, following yesterday’s election results, there is a lot less of it about than there used to be.