Monday, April 20, 2015

No "Ordinary Bloke" , that Nigel

Making Plans for Nigel
A Beginner's Guide to Farage and UKIP,  by Harry Paterson
                                                                 Five Leaves Publications. £7.99

Caught by a UKIP party political broadcast on TV the other day, and unable to immediately lay my hand on the remote, I had to watch the Leader make his triumphal entry at an Essex motel and hear him say he was "Just an ordinary bloke"  before I could switch over to something -it could have been anything -less nauseating.

Ordinary bloke?!  He might play the part, as if some saloon bar con man in an Ealing  comedy was what 21st century Britain finds "ordinary",  but Nigel Farage's daddy was a stockbroker, Dulwich College was his school, and some masters there thought he showed fascist tendencies. But as Harry Paterson tells us, Farage's final school report said Dulwich "would be a poorer place without this boy's personality

Being an 'ordinary bloke', young Nigel followed father's footsteps into the City. joining  US commodities brokers Drexel Burnham Lambert on the London Metal Exchange. There followed stints with Credit Lyonnais, and others.  A friend from City days recalls the social life, in smoke-filled rooms, with a bunch of happy traders gathered around Farage.  "There'd always be a vey politically incorrect atmosphere that just relaxed everybody".

A Tory since his schooldays, Farage left the party in 1993 over the Maastricht treaty, and joined LSE professor Alan Sked in founding UKIP.    The partnership, and UKIP's interest in an educated criticism of European policies and treaties, was not to last. According to Sked, Farage was not unduly worried about the National Front and British National Party types who came into his Party, nor inhibited by political correctness when expressing himself, at least in private, about the darker-complexioned Britons whom he didn't want.

Not that UKIP has not found it useful to put the odd minority member on display.  Nor has Nigel Farage's negativity towards the European Union and its parliament prevented  him  and his chums going to Brussels, and doing well out of it. Though UKIP might have benefited from public disenchantment with "moneygrabbing" Westminster MPs, it seems UKIP's shameless  MEPs can leave them standing.

 As the Mirror's story headline put it on January 12, 2014, "UKIP leader Nigel Farage and Euro MPs pocket £800k in expenses - despite wanting UK to leave."   Farage put his wife on the payroll, collecting £30,000 a year from Brussels.  On April 15, 2014, the Telegraph reported that a complaint about Farage had been filed with the EU fraud office.  It said the UKIP leader had been collecting £16,000 a year towards his office at Bognor Regis which had been donated to the party by supporters.
Another generous source of funds has been a Greek businessman called Demetri Marchessini, whose views on women, rape, and gays would have been considered reactionary, even barbaric (he says there is no such thing as "date rape"), in the 19th Century, never mind the 21st. But as the ancient Romans use to say, money has no smell.

Some of the people whom UKIP has brought forward as candidates or even had elected are far from "ordinary", unless you're casting an edgy new political series of  Little Britain.  Harry Paterson reminds us of the woman who earnestly recommended the notorious 'Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion' as a guide to world events, and the man who blamed gay sex and marriage for the flooding in the south-west.

Godfrey Bloom, a former flatmate of Farage was elected UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and Humberside. Appointed to the European Parliament’s women’s rights committee, he told journalists: “No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age.”

He complained that women did not clean behind the fridge, and amiably joked with his own party's women members at conference that they were all "sluts".  At the Oxford Union he interrupted a disabled student to mock his disability . Suspended from UKIP after remarks about aid to "Bongo Bongo land" - in fairness a phrase previously made famous by Tory Alan Clark - Bloom quit in October, 2014, complaining that UKIP had become too "politically correct".  That month he appeared as star speaker at the far-right Traditional Britain conference, though apparently without the colourful gags that had made his name.

Alex Wood, the UKIP candidate for Blackhorse Vale in Somerset was suspended after a photograph was published of him appearing to give a Nazi salute, though he explained that he had been reaching for his girfriend's mobile phone while leaning over a pot plant. More recently his name was linked to an antisemitic tweet sent to journalist Owen Jones, though Wood says someone else has hacked his account. According to Yeovil wannabe Nazi Joshua Bonehill it was Wood who defecated in the aisle at Tesco's, an offence which others have attributed to Bonehill.  He says the pair of them had been drinking together, having been buddies until he discovered Wood was Jewish.  Perhaps the misfortunate young UKIP candidate has just been accident prone, and kept bad company.   

Exasperated that interviewers kept asking him about "the idiots in UKIP" (his words),  Farage  seems comfortable with his own prejudices, and contradictions, less so with anyone who points them out.  As his name suggests, he is of part Huguenot immigrant ancestry, and his second wife is German, yet he complains about hearing foreign languages spoken during a suburban train journey in London, and says he would not like a Romanian family living next door. Asked whether it would matter if they were another nationality, say German, Farage retorts "I think you know the difference".

The UKIP leader seems able to change his line on something like the NHS from one day to the next, but maybe policy is less important than gaining power,  and anyway the plebs are not supposed to ask. We may have caught a glimpse of the real Nigel Farage at the end of a TV debate when he complained the audience was too "left-wing", and accused the "left-wing" BBC -which has given him so much airspace denied other political figures -of picking an audience biased against him. 

Were he and his party ever to take power we might hear them take the same view of dissenting voters, but hopefully that remains an unlikely prospect, and meanwhile we  look forward to him making a similar complaint against the electorate in South Thanet.

Is Farage, then, a fascist?  Harry Paterson does not think so, and he gives short shift  to anyone who unthinkingly slaps on such a label. The writer does take note of UKIP's alliance with far Right parties in Europe, and more ominously, the way Britain First, better known for stunts outside mosques, has set itself up as UKIP's protector, threatening opponents and proclaiming on Facebook "UKIP at the Ballot Box, Britain First on the Streets".

Describing  Farage's politics as "Thatcherite but not Conservative", Paterson points out that many voters don't even see UKIP as right-wing, at the same time uncovering some of the right-wing thinking behind its 'simple' image. Pointing to some of the myths that have become widespread with the help of popular media, and which mainstream parties -Labour included -have gone along with, or failed to rebut, he also shows that the Left has to think beyond the next street protest, or its own internal wrangles, if it is to face its responsibility of raising awareness and really defeating the Right.      

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At 3:11 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

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