Let’s can the fake outrage and acknowledge a hard truth uttered by Nigel Farage
Eager to start making waves early in 2015, UKIP leader Nigel Farage hit the television studios today, giving interviews on Channel 4 News and America’s Fox News, to offer his thoughts on multiculturalism and the reasons behind the barbaric terrorist atrocity at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.
Predictably, most politicians and commentators immediately rushed to criticise Farage, dismissing his remarks without ever stopping to look for the grains of truth in what he said. Was the intemperate rhetoric about a “fifth column” in Britain alarmist and potentially divisive? Yes, it probably was. But Farage and UKIP have continually raised important questions about the trajectory of Britain that others have wilfully ignored, because they preferred to bury their heads in the sand for short-term political expediency. And the fact that an idea is raised by someone with strong and rather pungent political views does not mean that it should not be discussed.
It should be pointed out that Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow provoked Nigel Farage’s extended comments with a teasing question asking whether the terrorist attack didn’t mean that we needed to tear down our borders completely and become one big happy family, poking the UKIP leader where he was sure to get an impassioned reply.
The key exchange on the Channel 4 News went as follows (it’s quite long, but in it lies the clue to the whole problem with the multiculturalism debate at the moment):
Jon Snow: Doesn’t it also send the message that we and our European brethren, who you’ve described as sharing very much the same culture, very much the same attitudes, should combine together in a moment like this?
Nigel Farage: Well no, of course it doesn’t say we should be in a political union. Yes there are shared values and cultures that the northern European and southern European Christian countries have, of course there are. But that doesn’t mean we should be one state. And actually the evidence from history is that very often, good neighbours with good fences can get on extremely well. Now I know that Angela Merkel has been in Downing Street today, I mean they’ve had a phone call with President Hollande, and yes of course there is solidarity and friendship when something ghastly like this happens.
Jon Snow: Well solidarity and friendship doesn’t need fences, does it?
Nigel Farage: Well it does of course, and I think there is a very strong argument that says that actually what happened in Paris today is a result – and we’ve seen it in London too – as a result is, I’m afraid, of now having a fifth column living within these countries. We’ve got people living in these countries, holding our passports, who hate us. Now luckily their numbers are very very small, but it does make one question, you know, the whole really gross attempt at encouraged division within society that we’ve had for the last few decades, in the name of multiculturalism.
Jon Snow: But you couldn’t be certain that you could make such a statement and say “it is not the case in Britain”? And it is conceivably the case in Britain, then all the more reason why we should have shared ambitions, shared goals, shared security and a shared future?
Nigel Farage: I mean, separate to this problem of terrorist extremism, I want us to live in a Europe where we trade together, cooperate together, and are friends together. But what is happening in Europe, and we’re seeing it between Greece and Germany, with increased antipathy between those countries because they’ve been forced together insight the straightjacket of an economic and monetary union, and indeed I would argue that the free movement of peoples has actually increased tensions between European countries, and we’re now further apart from each other than we would have been.
It should be quite clear from this transcript that Farage was not tastelessly bringing up the topic out of the blue, but responding to a very persistent and almost ludicrously Europhile – since a terrorist attack happened in Paris, shouldn’t we become a United States of Europe in response? – line of questioning from Jon Snow.
One might also ask Jon Snow how further political integration between people who currently feel French, German, Spanish, British or Polish would combat a problem rooted within small minorities inside Europe’s various Muslim communities who feel no allegiance to those countries in the first place because they hate the western liberal values of free speech and equality under the law under whichever flag they appear. Even if he was playing devil’s advocate with this line of questioning, he wasn’t doing a tremendously good job of it. But then this blogger was not the interviewer, and Jon Snow not the guest.
This follow-up article from the BBC set the tone, reporting that Nick Clegg had accused Nigel Farage of attempting to “make political points” out of the tragedy:
The UKIP leader said the attack by suspected Islamists on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday was “truly horrific”.
He added, on Channel 4 News, it raised questions about what he called a “gross policy of multiculturalism”.
Mr Clegg said he was “firmly grabbing the wrong end of the stick.”
The Deputy Prime Minister declined to then tell us which was the correct end of the stick, probably because he doesn’t know. The BBC article goes on to quote Theresa May, who also took the opportunity to stick the boot in:
Home Secretary Theresa May said the reference to a “fifth column” – which can refer to a faction inside a country working with its enemies to create instability – was “irresponsible”.
She said everybody across society should be working to “ensure that we deal with and eradicate extremism, wherever it exists”.
Yes, we should all be working together to eradicate extremism. But the problem, which Nigel Farage is willing to confront but which Theresa May artfully skirts around through clever word choice, is that we are not currently all working together to this end. In fact, there are number of extremists in Britain and other European countries working very determinedly in the other direction – nobody commended Nigel Farage for saying that it was “very few” – and a larger number of politicians and commentators happy to win points for giving them cover when they claim that their right to live life unoffended trumps our right to free speech.
The Independent also got in on the act, choosing to let slide Nick Clegg’s wilful and aggressive misrepresentation of what Nigel Farage said. Their article presented Clegg’s false claim that Farage had accused “many, many British Muslims” of disloyalty stand, when in fact Farage had said the opposite – that the people of concern were very few in number, but very real in danger:
Clegg continued, “To immediately suggest that somehow, or imply, that many, many British Muslims, who I know feel fervently British but also are very proud of their Muslim faith, are somehow part of the problem rather than part of the solution is firmly grabbing the wrong end of the stick.”
Of course the Guardian was also ready with more painful quotes from senior British political figures:
The prime minister said it was wrong to make political arguments so soon after the “appalling events” in Paris, and Labour’s Dame Tessa Jowell accused Farage of making “sickening comments”.
Cameron said: “With the appalling events in Paris still so fresh in people’s minds and with people still struggling for their lives who have been injured, I think today is not the day to make political remarks or political arguments. Today is the day to stand four square behind the French people after this appalling outrage and simply to say that we will do everything we can to help them hunt down and find the people who did this.
“The cause of this terrorism is the terrorists themselves. They must be found, they must be confronted, they must be punished.”
Fortunately, this parade of ignorance is countered by some wiser words, from former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, not always right by any means but bearing some important wisdom when he spoke at last year’s Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty. When asked, John Howard said that he was in favour of “multiracialism, but not multiculturalism”.
Howard said that people of all colours and religions could and should get along without issue, but where total multiculturalism existed – and where no one insisted that there were some fundamental principles and allegiances that we must all hold if we are to prosper and live together – then we are doomed to failure and strife.
And as this blog noted at the time:
On national identity and culture (or what has become known here as the #BritishValues debate), former Australian prime minister John Howard attempted to reframe the argument, describing himself as a “multiracialist, not a multiculturalist”. In doing so, Howard explained that conservatives should be welcoming to immigrants regardless of their race and ethnicity, but hold everyone to the same standards of behaviour and observance of the law – a call to assimilate which many on the left are too timid to echo.
Our mainstream politicians really do have some gall attacking UKIP for supposedly promoting division when it is in large part their own furious efforts to ignore rather than tackle the problems with multiculturalism that mean any lingering common sense of Britishness and allegiance to one’s country is swiftly fading away, leaving us an atomised collection of people on an island, with no understanding of our shared heritage and sometimes, dangerously, a hostile antipathy toward one another.
One wonders what all the people who queued up to criticise Farage think the right thing is to do after a terrorist atrocity? Are we not supposed to talk about it at all? Or can we only have the same hand-wringing, ineffectual conversation we always end up having, where we repeat to each other the obvious fact that most Muslims are perfectly decent people? And if this is what Cameron, Clegg and co. want, then please can they at least issue guidelines on how longer after a disaster we are allowed to start talking about the real root causes, so that the people who might actually possess ideas to solving it don’t have to keep receiving these ritualistic media tongue-lashings for getting it wrong?
This blogger believes that if you want outcomes to be different in the future, you have to start taking different actions. But all of the actions by our leaders – and Farage’s current critics – seem exactly the same: more tedious statements that most Muslims are just as shocked are we are, followed by zero further steps, save another ratcheting up of the national security state that is destroying our civil liberties and doing the work of the terrorists for them.
Say what you like about Nigel Farage and the rest of UKIP’s policies, but arguments about whether he should have waited a day or two longer aside, the man was speaking the truth on this important point. Those from the establishment who gleefully joined in the chorus of criticism are guilty of grossly abdicating their duty of care to the vast majority of peaceful British citizens, by refusing to look a dangerous problem square in the eye and say that there are serious challenges presented by unlimited, unmanaged multiculturalism – problems that we must accept before we can fix them.
I wish I had time to read your blog more often, Sam, and I would love to meet up sometime soon for a coffee etc and a chat – can you believe it is a year almost since we were all together trying to look and sound like journalists? Well, you have come across as a great one since the day I met you – love your stuff and your reasonable, rational arguments but also wish I had more bloody time!!! love Sharon vendor 725
Many thanks Sharon, and I hope you are doing well! I always enjoy checking in with your blog too, and it’s great to see your various other journalistic activities picking up steam – your collaboration with Danielle Batiste was really superb.
I too think fondly back to the Big Issue Online Journalism training course, it helped to improve my writing and attempts at journalism enormously! It has been good to go back and share my story and advice with the more recent groups of trainees who have completed the course, too.
We should definitely meet up for a coffee and to compare notes soon!