How Do You Solve A Problem Like Nigel Farage?

Nigel Farage Pint Elections 2014

 

Let’s play pretend.

Suppose that you are a British voter who happened to express admiration for Nigel Farage back in 2010. Your friends were aghast and asked how you could possibly support such an eccentric right-wing oddball, so you kept quiet for awhile, putting your feelings down to maybe not knowing as much about politics as you should, and feeling a bit chastened by the reaction you received.

Imagine that you then found yourself agreeing with Farage and the UKIP position even more on things like immigration and leaving the European Union when the local elections rolled around in May 2013 and the party made headlines for doing so well. Surely now you could admit to your friends and family that you were becoming a fan of this new kid on the block, especially since one in four voters supported UKIP this time around and they were receiving so much press coverage? But once again, as soon as you mentioned your political sentiments people looked at you as though you must have fallen over and hit your head.

Fast-forward to spring 2014. The things that you think are important issues are still not being addressed by the main political parties,and now the European and local elections are coming up. Only UKIP are offering the policy proposals that seem like common sense to you, and they are the only party whose candidates seem able to express themselves freely and persuasively without sounding like they are reading aloud from (at best) a teleprompter or (more usually) the telephone directory. Surely now people must see the appeal of UKIP? Surely now it must be safe to come out?

At the pub one evening, you admit that you are planning to vote UKIP in the European election, and maybe for the local council too. Outrage! That won’t do at all, it’s quite simply the end of the world. Your horrified friends dive for their smartphones, and before you can blink five brightly-lit screens are shoved in your face, each one blaring “top ten” lists of reasons not to vote UKIP, or trumpeting the misdeeds of a dodgy-looking UKIP councillor on the other side of the country.

Didn’t you know? Nigel Farage wants to rescind women’s suffrage! Godfrey Bloom once chartered a Boeing 767 at his own expense and set up a stall at the Notting Hill carnival, offering dark-skinned people £100 each to hop onboard and fly home to Bongo Bongo Land! How can you think of lending your support to people like that? Are you crazy?

You go home in a sour mood and turn on the computer. You’re sure you had more Facebook friends than that this morning. And why have you received nine invitations to “like” the Liberal Democrats and see the amazing work their MEPs are doing in Brussels, protecting the environment and “standing up to the bankers”? Disgusted – and determined never to vote for Nick Clegg’s party again, no matter how much your overbearing aunt cajoles – you switch on the television. The newsreader is reporting that Nigel Farage was hit by an egg while out campaigning earlier that day. “Wow”, you think. “I know just how he feels”.

Election day rolls around. For the past two weeks, every newspaper article and news segment has seemed to be about UKIP one way or another – and none of them positive. But the UKIP you know from looking at the website and talking to the volunteer on the doorstep doesn’t look anything like the monstrous effigy being held up by the media. You decide to quietly vote UKIP, and just not tell anybody about it. To hell with them anyway, you never said a word when they all decided to jump on the bandwagon and grow pretentious hipster beards.

As the election results start coming in, pandemonium breaks out. David Dimbleby has a meltdown in the BBC studio, the swing-o-meter self-destructs in a shower of sparks, the Labour shadow cabinet form an orderly queue to tell Adam Boulton exactly how Ed Miliband led them to disaster and the Tories are cursing you and your kind for costing them their precious flagship councils in Essex.

What’s more, in the space of two breathless minutes, the all-knowing BBC panel packed with manicured, London-dwelling upper-middle class “experts” has solemnly suggested at least five ludicrous reasons why you voted for UKIP:

You were left behind by the modern information economy. Actually no, you have a decent skilled job; you’re not Alan Sugar but it has good prospects and pays the bills.

Your local community looks nothing like it did in 1960 and it’s scary for you to see the change. Well you were born in the 80s, and you managed to take the internet, iPhones and the falafel restaurant round the corner in your stride without wetting yourself in terror, so that probably isn’t the reason.

You feel persecuted for holding on to your traditional values. Hardly. Two of your friends are gay (the first ones to grow the stupid hipster beards, come to think of it) and although you know that some UKIP councillors have said pretty nasty things about gay people, you’re not homophobic at all, that’s not what attracted you to the party.

You feel like no one listens to you, your vote was just a blind stab at the hated political elite. Well it used to feel like no one listened, but Nigel Farage and his party came and listened. A protest vote would be a spoiled ballot paper or a write-in for the Monster Raving Loony Party. What you did was positive and purposeful, a vote for certain policies you agreed with.

You’re angry, you’re furious, you’re consumed with blind rage. Well yes, but only since the start of this election broadcast!

So many reasons offered by the Westminster commentariat, and none of them the simple truth:

You looked at the Conservative platform and you don’t trust them to deliver on the things that they say they would do – the government is failing to meet its immigration targets again, and the Tories already broke one “cast-iron” promise to hold a referendum on Europe.

You looked at Labour and saw a party that hasn’t even accepted that they did anything wrong when they were in government leading up to the recession, who never mention Europe or immigration at all unless you beat it out of them with a stone, and whose leader can’t even eat a bacon sandwich without getting on the front page of the papers for doing it wrong.

You didn’t bother to look at the Liberal Democrats too closely, because you’re not weird and it isn’t 2010 any more.

But you looked at UKIP and found that their policy prescriptions fit your list of concerns rather handily, and gave them your vote because isn’t that precisely how democracy is supposed to work?

Yes! The truth is that you voted UKIP for the same reason that other people voted for their parties – because you thought through the issues and liked UKIP’s policies. Now why is that so hard for the politicians and people in the media to understand?

Now before you stop reading – yes, there was a point to that tortuous exercise in imagination. Consider:

In the aftermath of the election, all that anyone has been able to talk about is the question of how so many people were conned, duped or tricked into voting UKIP. Earnest, well-intentioned (and less well-intentioned) commentators and newspaper articles have been encouraging us to imagine what it must be like to be a UKIP voter, as though the very thought is so alien that ‘normal’ people actually need a tourist guide into the mind of a Ukipper in order to make sense of the election results. Did you know that they are omnivores and base their waking hours on the rising and setting of the sun, just like us? Fascinating!

But does the media (and they are almost all guilty) ever stop to think what it must be like – purely by virtue of subscribing to some fairly commonly held political views – to be talked about as though you are a symptom of a terrible and shameful national venereal disease, or a wayward prodigal child that needs to be rehabilitated back into the family?

Do the newspaper columnists and TV talking heads ever stop to think just how maddeningly patronising they sound to UKIP voters when they write their anguished, hand-wringing columns on what to do about Britain’s awful UKIP problem?

Most of the time, a conservative can read the Guardian or a liberal the Telegraph and not necessarily feel loved and perfectly understood, but at least see their opinions treated with a very basic level of respect. There were no psychological inquests in the Guardian as to why the voters ignored Gordon Brown’s self-evident brilliance in such large numbers and rudely cast him from Downing Street in 2010, the answer was clearly political.

But with UKIP it is different. It is as though believing in UKIP’s worldview and policies doesn’t deserve acknowledgement, understanding and then persuasion by those who vote differently – it requires correction by those who know better. You’re not thinking properly, UKIP voter. If you were, you would have selected from one of our pre-existing bland political flavours.

Only one article (in the Guardian of all places) shows any degree of contrition at all for the way that UKIP supporters were hounded, bullied and vilified in the press over the past few weeks. Apologies are in very short supply, but there is an abundance of smug condescension packaged as expert political analysis.

A host of British politicians have already been wheeled through the television studios to offer their own variants on the standard post-election-upset mea culpa: we hear their concerns, we need to start speaking their language, we need to show that we are relevant to their lives, we need to stop them from being exploited by the far-right.

You can be sure that all the main parties are plotting their next moves already. The only idea missing from all of their plans? Actually talking to UKIP supporters, and treating them as though they are fellow human beings.

To be a UKIP voter watching or reading the news today must feel as though you are a dangerous but valuable specimen kept in a lab, with a curious Guardian reader in a hazmat suit poking you through the safety glass to see how you respond to political stimuli while someone from CCHQ takes notes and a BuzzFeed staffer snaps pictures and adds mocking captions. I CAN HAZ PINT WITH NIGEL NOW?

This can’t be a very pleasant experience – the resultant emotion is likely to be one of immense irritation at being so misunderstood and publicly belittled. In fact, the only thing likely to make the whole damn experience any better is watching Nigel Farage’s smiling face as he sinks another pint and poses for photographs with his victorious local candidates.

It’s the political and media establishment’s turn to play pretend now:

You are that UKIP voter. After being subjected to this barrage of disbelief turned to mockery turned to outrage turned to hate turned to amazement turned to curiosity turned to pity from the big three political parties and most of the press, where do your political sympathies lie, looking ahead to the 2015 general election?

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13 thoughts on “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Nigel Farage?

  1. Jack Enright May 31, 2014 / 2:49 AM

    John Harris, in the Guardian; “If a party is averaging 47% of the vote in a Labour stronghold such as Rotherham, toppling Tories from their perches in crucial Conservative territory and apparently heading towards first place in the European contest, something important is obviously afoot.”

    You’d have thought so, wouldn’t you? But, if the article by Robin Lustig is anything to go by, the liberal left (in which I include Cameron’s fake conservatives) is still in denial mode, and still – as so deftly described by Sam – seeing UKIP voters as either problem children, or the sort of disease you don’t mention in mixed company.

    What they hope to achieve by putting out such a message, and in such a manner, is quite beyond me! Even more astonishing is the way they continually use words and phrases which could hardly be better chosen if their idea was to be as patronisingly offensive as possible.

    “UKIP defectors” is guaranteed to get my dander up! Are people who write these things under the impressions that, at some point, I signed an oath of eternal allegiance to their party? Do they think that their party has some sort of divine right to my vote?

    Another one is talking about such voters “returning to the fold in 2015” – with its implication that we are just a bunch of silly sheep who have lost our way! Maybe it’s just my natural bloody-mindedness, but those sort of finger-wagging lectures only make me even more determined to back my own judgement next year, as I have done since 2009, when I joined UKIP.

    Not that I’m under any illusions that UKIP is any more perfect than any other sizeable group of people. There is one issue I have currently taken up with UKIP’s chairman, regarding the way he publicly criticised a UKIP councillor for expressing a view which I thought perfectly fair, and which was also widely agreed with by UKIP supporters posting on Breitbart London.
    http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/05/29/ukip-councillor-refuses-equality-training

    But one thing I’ve noticed, in talking to friends and neighbours about UKIP. I feel able to explain my reasons for backing UKIP’s stance on all sorts of issues, using plain English, even in the face of awkward questions – and find my explanations make sense to other people who are neither racist nor ranting right-wing extremists. Heavens, I’ve found that I can have a polite and friendly discussion with old school Labour voters, and we can find common ground.

    There is no way I could defend the policies of any other party with a clear conscience, or an easy mind.

    Like

    • Semi-Partisan Sam May 31, 2014 / 3:01 AM

      Bloody well said!

      Isn’t it interesting how people are often a lot more receptive to UKIP ideas and policies when they are calmly explained by a normal human being rather than being shouted and misrepresented by people in the media with dubious agendas of their own?

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

      Like

  2. Harleyrider1978 May 25, 2014 / 8:00 PM

    Even in America we love Nigel!

    Like

    • Semi-Partisan Sam May 25, 2014 / 8:27 PM

      It’s good to see the libertarian / small government / pro nation state democracy movements building friendships across the Atlantic!

      Like

    • Jack Enright May 31, 2014 / 3:19 AM

      HarleyRider1978 – about 7 years ago, I visited the Southern States with a group of friends. We toured round southern Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia – but made a point of avoiding the big cities and tourist centres, as we wanted to see small town America. After we’d been there about a week, we were talking about our impressions, and one friend said:

      “It’s funny – we’re about 4,000 miles from where I live, but I don’t feel like I’m abroad!”

      To which another guy replied, “Yes! It’s as though we were in a different part of our own country, where people just talk with a different accent!”

      And we all of us felt the same. Yet when I travel through London, now, where I grew up and lived till I was 20, that DOES feel like ‘being in a foreign country’!

      After we’d talked it over for a bit, we concluded that the ‘special relationship’ has got nothing to with politicians, or political parties, or policies; it’s about ordinary people in our two countries whose minds work on the same wavelength. People who think standing on your own feet and thinking for yourself, and making a success of your life by your own efforts, are principles to admire and respect – not to envy, or to scorn.

      Subsequently, I also studied the text of the US Declaration of Independence, the Articles and the Constitution, and compared it with the text and principles of the English Bill of Rights, 1689. The parallels would be remarkable, but for the fact that the authors of your Constitution had obviously studied English constitutional law, and were clearly motivated by the same guiding principles.

      It takes a LOT more than a couple of dud governments to wipe out a kinship as deep and as old as ours – and long may it flourish!

      Like

  3. Harleyrider1978 May 25, 2014 / 7:54 PM

    Headlines > UKIP vows to sack MSPs and scrap the smoking ban

    UKIP vows to sack MSPs and scrap the smoking ban

    Wednesday 6th April 2011, posted by forest

    The UK Independence Party said MSPs should be replaced at Holyrood by Westminster MPs with constituencies in Scotland. It also wants to scrap the smoking ban.

    Launching its manifesto in Edinburgh, the party also said it planned to restrict immigration, repeal the Human Rights Act and end subsidies for “monstrous, climate-irrelevant, cost-ineffective wind farms”.

    Source: UKIP manifesto calls for MSPs to be abolished (Daily Telegraph)

    V Ellis
    Posted on Apr 6th, 2011
    I had not considered UKIP, But giving back the right to smoke or not, smoking pubs or not,
    Will get my consideration,
    It would be nice to have a party in power, Giving a freedom of choice, not a dictatorship,
    How nice to have the community Pub back.

    Pat Nurse
    Posted on Apr 6th, 2011
    I’ve left three comments on this now over at Simon’s blog including this one which is honestly how I feel : “A vote for UKIP for smokers is, if nothing else, making a statement. That’s how I see it. I honestly feel it is my duty as there is no point in moaning about smoker discrimination if at the end of the day when the time comes to give politiicians a message, I vote LibLabCon (or SNP) and say I don’t care how much you denormalise me.”

    Arkwright
    Posted on Apr 7th, 2011
    Freedom to choose to smoke or not, as a publican to allow smoking in your pub or not. simple really, only one party give you that choice.
    dont let the SNPLIBLABCON control yeu

    Smokers vote UK I P in the elections

    Stanley Kerr
    Posted on Apr 18th, 2011
    I agree that a message has to be sent to politicians that we are supposed to be living in a democracy. Nobody in the UK was allowed a vote on this extreme smoking ban i.e. NO SMOKING anywhere except in peoples homes or certain places on the streets. There was a marginal support (52%) for a partial ban but 82% were against the existing TOTAL ban.

    Considering the enormous (negative) affect it has had on jobs/society – bars/restaurants/bingo halls etc. closing down – especially in small towns/villages and that NOBODY was allowed a vote except 650 MPS (not one of whom asked their constituents for a vote) is nothing short of a total breakdown of demecracy. The irony of this is that the Labour Party stated in their manifesto that it would NEVER ban smoking! Well done Tony Blair (sic)!

    David Copeland
    Posted on Apr 25th, 2011
    Do UKIP want to scrap the smoking ban in the whole of the UK, or just in Scotland?
    I’ve already begun to spread the word, and a lot of smokers I know are now going to vote for UKIP!!

    Adrian Brown
    Posted on Apr 29th, 2011
    When I saw lefty “activists” smashing things up in London and heard little Ed Miliband getting swept away in his own rhetoric by seeming to compare these thugs and mugs with the suffragettes, I remembered Labour’s own shame: their broken promise of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and their imposition of a blanket smoking-ban in defiance of their much-publicised manifesto “commitment”.

    I tackled Labour MP Paul Flynn on this a few years ago and was told, rudely, that I was politically naive to expect politicians to stand by such promises.

    And Labour didn’t even have the excuse of a coalition agreement. These charlatans did it because they wanted to and because they reckoned by their numbers in parliament that they’d get away with it.

    http://www.forestonline.org/news/headlines/ukip-vows-to-sack-msps-and-scrap-the-smoking-ban/

    Like

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