Tag Archives: Farage

Boats, Votes and Quotes

I think I have fallen down a rabbit hole, popped through the back of a wardrobe and been carried from Kansas on a hurricane. I do not know whether I am in Wonderland, Narnia or Oz but I do not recognise the landscape surrounding me any more. 

I do not know what my brave new world is going to be called. I don’t know whether it will be Remania or Leaveland. I have no idea who will be Prime Minister next week, next month, next year. Dave? Boris? Nigel?!?

But things have already changed, even before the vote. And it’s all got a little bit weird. 

Yesterday, to a predictable soundtrack of Rule Britannia, the Vote Leave campaign took to the Thames to add an aquatic element to the debate. This flotilla was met by a boat from the Remain side, with Bob Geldof on board, firing broadsides of taunts and hand gestures at Nigel Farage. 

None of this was particularly edifying. None of it moved the debate on one bit. It was the physical manifestation of how ridiculous and polarised this debate has become. The competing stunts achieved nothing in educating and assisting the electorate.

It did bring home to me how strange things have got. Nigel Farage had this to say “we (that is UKIP) used to be a party of protest against the Establishment, now the Establishment come to protest against us.”

I just had to give my head a shake again. So that is Nigel Farage, ex-stockbroker, public school educated, MEP, describing himself as anti-Establishment and complaining that the Establishment had been represented in their protest against him by Bob Geldof, an ex-punk rocker. 

Even in Wonderland, the Establishment did not sing “I don’t like Mondays”.

Just to make sure we were thoroughly confused, some of the Ukipper/Brexiteer contingent responded to Bob Geldof with taunts suggesting he needed a bath. So he is both the Great Unwashed and the Establishment. 

That Farage is the personification of the anti-Establishment and Geldof is the Establishment is remarkable. Next you will be telling me that Michael Gove thinks that decision impacting on the economy should not be based on expert knowledge, Boris Johnson wants to spend every penny he can on the NHS and that Iain Duncan-Smith has shed a tear or two over those in receipt of benefits. 

What’s that you say? No….surely not….

The Real Thing

In David Cameron’s conference speech in October 2010, five months into the coalition government, he referenced the 70s Pepsi advert slogan – “Lip smacking, thirst quenching, ace tasting, motivating, good buzzing, cool talking, high walking, fast living, ever giving…..Pepsi.” 

Now this advert has always had a special resonance for me, having the words emblazoned across a favourite yellow t-shirt of mine as a very, very young child in the decade that Coca-Cola was trying to teach the world to sing (other brands of cola are available).

It strikes me that the Conservative Party have once more reached back through time for the basis of their entire campaign strategy up to now. I expect to see a poster propounding “Odd looking, sandwich eating, geeky looking, back-stabbing, Britain hating, kitchen owning, brother slaying, SNP wooing, woman loving…..EdMil.”

It would seem that the Conservatives have identified that the perceived oddities of Miliband is their greatest strength. I find it difficult to recall a time when mainstream politicians have so concentrated on a negative attack on the personal characteristics of the Leader of a Party. 

Such portrayals can define an individual forever in the minds of the public. One need only to think about the Sun’s characterisation of the football manager Graham Taylor as a turnip. But this only works if it taps into the general view of the failings of the individual involved. It works if the negative portrayal simply gives voice to the view already held. 

Obviously the public will think Miliband looked odd eating that bacon sandwich. Yes his voice can say more to you about the chap from IT, rather than a statesman. However I am not convinced that the public have written him off entirely. And I suspect the strategy thus deployed is making the public warm to this underdog. It is allowing him to repeat, time and time again, “yes, this is all said about me, but you know what, I’m still standing.” 

It is also backfiring. I tend to want those charged with Governing the country to have intelligence and judgement. Neither seemed on display in Michael Fallon’s accusation that Miliband “stabbing his brother in the back” somehow renders him unreliable when it comes to defence of the realm. 

Ed’s defeat of David in the leadership contest was no more a back stabbing than David Cameron defeating Ken Clarke and David Davis for the leadership of their party. This was a gratuitous and inaccurate personal attack. And a hell of a non-sequitur, in any event. 

Ed Miliband stood against his brother in a democratic process therefore he cannot be trusted with making decisions that impact upon the armed forces? Really? Does that make any sense?

I may try this tactic in court. I will cross-examine the witness to a robbery along the lines of “How can the jury believe you about what you say you saw, when you have taken the decision to pair that jacket, with that tie?” Or conducting an appeal with the logic “You must allow this appeal, because the Judge once slighted a member of her own family and is therefore completely devoid of reliability.” I suspect I would be laughed out of court more regularly, and with greater gusto, than already happens. 

The worst consequence of the current approach by the Conservatives is that it makes the news story either about Miliband or about the judgement of Fallon in making such a personal attack. The actual point, the substance of what is being said, becomes secondary. Or even totally lost. The decision about Trident is an important issue for consideration by the electorate. The Miliband fraternal relationship is not. 

This tactic is, in part, a product of things like “The Leaders’ Debate.” Quite how this has reached the prominence in our process that it has, is beyond me. We are not electing a President. We are electing an MP to represent our constituencies, who will form a Parliament, who will then go on to decide who forms the Government. 

Yet we have a Leaders’ Debate in which you have parties that are not standing in every or even most of the constituencies, a leader in Farage who is not yet elected to Parliament and Nick Clegg, who may not even be re-elected to Parliament, let alone have any role to play in a future Government.

Let us have informed and constructive debates about our future. Not this sort of personal attack. Leave that to the sketch writers and the satirists. Allow the commentators to comment. Let us have politicians talking about politics. 

So Close Yet Still so Farage

Did the earth move for UKIP, dear? Well Farage offered us a political earthquake and there has been a degree of upheaval in the council chambers of England. I suspect we are still some way from Nigel holding Cabinet meetings in the snug of the Red Lion.

If it has been an earthquake it has been one of those very British earthquakes with their epicentre somewhere in the vicinity of Shrewsbury. The sort of thing that causes the tea of Mrs Poppycock of Ludlow to spill into her saucer and the residents of sleepy hamlets to wonder why a heavy goods vehicle has just rumbled by.

When slapping himself heartily on the back the Leader of the new UKIP on the block should pause for a moment and consider how far his message is reaching. He is not inspiring a generation. He is not speaking so loudly to the hearts and minds of the whole nation.

Why do I say that? All he can claim is that he is speaking to the dissatisfied voter. It is not as if he has inspired people to the polls to vote, he has just persuaded some of those who regularly vote to put their cross next to UKIP. In an age where dissatisfaction abounds with austerity that turns people away from the Conservatives; where the perceived craven failure by the LibDems to curb the natural instincts of the Tories is costing them dear; and where Labour suffer from Ed’s failure to convince an electorate of his suitability to be Prime Minister, UKIP have become NOTA – None Of The Above.

Turnout remains pitiful low. It has been falling since Tony Blair’s crushing victory in 1997. If there really was a new player on the political stage, if there was someone who appealed to the voter with their new ideas they would capture the imagination and reignite our passion for democracy itself.

The nation may be prepared to trust the future of potholes and refuse collection to UKIP devotees but we are a long way from being content to see Nigel Farage welcoming the Romanian Ambassador to a light ale at No 10. Actually, it may be worth voting for UKIP just to see that….