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Defenders Of The Nation State Are Not The Authoritarians Here – That Would Be The Unrepentant Globalists

One does not need to be a snarling authoritarian to reject the anti nation state, globalist worldview – and if being wary about the survival of our rights and liberties in a post-patriotic world makes one a populist then so be it

During his recent Intelligence Squared debate/discussion with Nick Clegg on the causes of the populist backlash currently roiling British, European and American politics, Jonathan Haidt makes an interesting observation:

Once you have these incredibly prosperous, peaceful, progressive societies, they people there begin to do a few things. First off, not everybody has those values. Everybody in the capital city and the university towns, they have these values. So if you look at our countries, in America we’re pretty retrograde in some ways, but if you look at our bubble places they’re just like Sweden. And that means that these people now think that, you know, nation states, they’re so arbitrary. And just imagine if there were no countries, it isn’t hard to do. Imagine if there was nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too! So this is the way the values shift, and this is what I and others are calling – the new left/right is the globalists versus the nationalists.

And so the globalist ethos is “tear down the walls, tear down the borders, nation states are arbitrary, why should my government privilege the people who happen to be born here rather than people who are much poorer elsewhere?” And so you get this globalist idea, you begin to get even a denial of patriotism, the claim – there are some pictures going around right wing media now in the United States of anti-Trump protesters holding signs that say “patriotism is racism”. So you get people acting in this globalist way, inviting immigration, spitting on the nation state, spitting on the country and people who are patriotic, and very opposed to assimilation when there is integration because that, as people on the Left in America would say that’s cultural genocide.

So you get wealthy, wonderful, successful societies that are so attractive to poor people around the world you get a flood of immigration, and they are met by the globalists who say “welcome welcome welcome, don’t assimilate because we don’t want to deny you your culture”. And this triggers an incredible emotional reaction in people who have the psychological type known as authoritarianism.

Now it’s a very negative term, but there’s a lot of psychological diversity in this world; there are some people who are attracted to the Lennonist vision, the John Lennon vision and there are other people who are more parochial – I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean there are people who really care about hearth and home and God and country, and they are actually friends of order and stability, and they are friends of many good things about civic life.

But when they perceive that everybody is coming apart, that the moral world is coming apart, that’s when they get really racist, homophobic, they want to clamp down, they want to restore moral order, and if anybody here saw Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Committee that’s exactly what he said, he modelled himself after Richard Nixon’s 1968 speech, a time when cities are burning, there are riots, and Nixon came in – law and order will be restored, and that’s basically what Trump’s whole speech was.

So what I’m saying is successful democratic capitalist societies create – they change values, they generate wealth, they invite people in and then they make some of the people act in ways that trigger the other people to be furious, and those other people actually have a point because you have to have trust and social capital to have a redistributive welfare state. My point is that yes the economy matters and economic changes matter, but they matter in ways which always run through psychology.

I follow Haidt’s argument, but I do not see myself or many others of my acquaintance in the binary model he describes. For a start, I see nothing particularly liberal about the starry-eyed EU-supporting globalists, particularly when one examines the full palette of their typical political opinions. And there is certainly nothing inherently authoritarian about being a small-c conservative and fearing the jettisoning of the nation state in favour of an ill-defined globalism built upon the foundation of supranational institutions which are flawed, remote from the people and totally lacking in democratic legitimacy.

I and this blog are about as far from authoritarianism as it is possible to get, despite being staunchly pro-Brexit and anti-elite. I alternately use the labels conservatarian and libertarian to describe this blog’s desire for a much smaller state and greatly enhanced personal liberty – give me classical liberalism or give me death! The difference is that I see a strong and healthy nation state as being essential to the defence of these personal liberties, while the globalists (as described by Haidt) seem to lazily imagine that these liberties will automatically continue to endure beyond the era of the nation state.

Our experience with supranational governance – whether the United Nations or, more viscerally, the European Union, has not been a pleasant one in terms of democracy, accountability or the amount of control that ordinary people feel they have over their lives. Perhaps there are ways to reform those institutions in theory, but in practice they are loath to change and almost allergic to close scrutiny. Recall, even the prospect of losing its second largest economy and most powerful military member could not persuade the EU to consider the smallest of meaningful reforms.

Thus the European Union plods blindly onward towards a federal destination set decades ago by grey old men who presumed to decide for us how we ought to govern ourselves in the years following the Second World War, but who never thought to ask our permission. And the result is a remote and unloved supranational government whose “founding fathers” are unheralded and whose true leaders lack all accountability.

More worryingly, the ability of organic popular movements to influence the direction of supranational juggernauts like the EU is almost non-existent. Whether it is anti-austerity movements in Greece or the need for domestic industries to influence vital global trading rules in forums at which the EU speaks for all of us while really representing none of us, it is almost impossible to get the attention of EU leaders or encourage them to change direction. Just ask Greece’s Alexis Tsipras, or anybody who used to work in Britain’s beleaguered fishing industry.

I am patriotic because I love my country and consider it special and exceptional, yes. But I am also patriotic because I believe that the basic unit of the nation state remains a crucial building block in the world order, essential to the defence of our rights and liberties, and will remain so until humanity finds a way to make the various supranational institutions now undermining nation states more democratically legitimate and more responsive to popular opinion.

And so when confronted with a movement full of people who talk eagerly about being post-patriotic, who revel in being “more European than British” and who want to dissolve our democracy into a remote and dysfunctional supranational government of Europe without a second thought for our own distinct history and culture, I oppose them. Because however well-intentioned they may be, they are actively undermining the one institution (imperfect though it may be) which has thus far kept us relatively free and prosperous for centuries – our own nation state, the United Kingdom.

Does this make me an “authoritarian”? I hardly see how. While Britain has its share of authoritarian tendencies (which I despise and frequently campaign against), these tend to be even stronger on the continent. If hate speech laws seem draconian here, they would only become stricter if we were to harmonise our laws with those of much of mainland Europe. Want the police to regularly use water cannon to break up public protests? Again, look to Europe, not Britain. Much of Europe is ambivalent about property rights, to the extent that no watertight right to property is truly enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

And putting all that aside, the vast majority of people in this and other European countries, when asked, do not want their countries to become dissolved into a federal European government and assume the subordinate rank of American states. Maybe rejecting this Utopian vision is backward and foolish, but a fully federal Europe is not what people want (which is why the EU has been forced to move in this direction by unapologetic stealth and deception for over half a century). So since the majority of people in the countries of Europe are not yet post-patriotic, how does opposing an institution which seeks to covertly undermine their wishes make me an authoritarian? And how does it make the people who know the truth but still support this vision enlightened “liberals”?

So much as I admire Jonathan Haidt, hail his work in exposing the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics and agree with most of his diagnosis of the reasons behind the current populist backlash, I cannot support his conclusion because it totally fails to take into account people like me and other liberal Leavers and Brexiteers.

Indeed, Haidt’s usual perceptiveness appears to desert him when he suggests that something simply snaps and makes people “get really racist, homophobic” when confronted with pro-globalism policies and sentiments. That is simply not how it works. All racists may be anti-globalist almost by definition, but that does not mean that everybody with reservations about globalism (as it currently exists) is remotely prone to racism.

Clearly there are other reasons for opposing globalist projects (or the current state of globalism, at least) that have nothing to do with authoritarianism, including those I have outlined here, which Haidt fails to take into consideration.

The full picture behind 2016’s populist backlash has yet to be fully understood.

 

globalism-versus-culture

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Nick Clegg, Defiler Of Liberalism, Has Something To Say About Populism

Populism is bad, mmkaaay?

“I think it’s important to remember populism can be a very positive, can be – I mean, Gandhi was a kind of populist. If populism is about challenging a complacent elite, challenging an established order, speaking for people who are not spoken for, populism is a really really important antidote for complacency in politics” – Nick Clegg

The only way that one can hold this seemingly benign attitude toward populism while deploring Brexit and the vote to leave the European Union is either to misunderstand the true nature and purpose of the EU, or to be engaging in deliberate deception.

Nick Clegg is not an uneducated man. With his career, he knows better than most precisely what the EU is, how it operates and where it is heading. He knows that the European Union is more than the “friendship ‘n co-operation”, humble free trade club portrayed by deceitful Remainers during the referendum campaign. In other words, the ignorance excuse is not available to Nick Clegg.

That leaves only the conclusion that Nick Clegg is a liar. A very affable and eloquent liar, certainly, but a liar all the same, and a particularly dangerous one for his gifts.

Nick Clegg would seriously have us believe that the European Union has nothing to do with a “complacent elite”, an “established order” or “complacency in politics”, and that therefore Britain voting to liberate ourselves from the EU is therefore the “bad kind” of populism as opposed to the virtuous kind, which he happily supports. How anybody could sit and listen to him advance this view without either laughing or heckling is completely beyond me.

What nonsense; Nick Clegg has no time for populism of any kind, because it inevitably threatens the rule and routines of the elite in which he is so personally ensconced. Besides the archetypal High Tory, it is hard to imagine a senior British politician with less affinity for anyone who supports any populism movement. At his core, Nick Clegg believes that politics is something to be done to the people by enlightened, “liberal” elites like himself, not something for the masses to influence, with their base prejudices and uncomfortable opinions.

We know this because immediately prior to praising populism, Nick Clegg also said this:

“Populism is redolent with kind of uncontrollable rages and angers and passions, whereas liberalism – at least the liberalism I believe in – is about reason, rationality and evidence, and so on and so forth.”

No. The “liberalism” that Nick Clegg believes in consists of insulating oneself inside an hermetically sealed, epistemically closed information loop, listening only to those “experts” or paying heed to those “facts” which are conveniently in line with one’s own globalist, anti-nation state worldview to the complete exclusion of all other parameters, angles and viewpoints, before applying “reason” to that desperately narrow window on reality and pronouncing verdicts which always comfort and never challenge the metropolitan Regressive Left mindset.

Nick Clegg is perfectly entitled to hold and profess those seethingly anti-democratic, elitist positions. But he should not be allowed to get away with calling himself a liberal while he does so.

Watch this fascinating Intelligence Squared debate/discussion between the excellent social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and the sneering, unrepentantly euro-elitist Nick Clegg, on the subject of populism.

 

nick-clegg

Bottom Image: Chatham House / Wikimedia Commons

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General Election 2015: The Morning After The Night Before

David Cameron - Conservative Party - General Election 2015 - Tories Win

On the eve of the 2015 general election, this blog complained:

David Cameron, the Prime Minister I supported for much of these past five years – and for whose party I voted in 2010 – spent the last day of the election campaign not making a powerful case for real conservative stewardship of the country, but by indulging in petty scaremongering about a Labour victory and pre-emptive expectation setting around the “legitimacy” of rival claims to power in the certain event of a hung parliament.

Well, inspiring or not, the Prime Minister’s strategy worked magnificently. David Cameron may have failed to inspire the British people with a burning, urgent vision for conservative government, but at least he managed (through endless repetition) to remind us that the economy is growing again under the Tories, and that a Labour-SNP coalition could put it all at risk.

And now, where only hours ago we expected the political parties to be commencing the first of many fraught rounds of coalition negotiations, instead we see David Cameron being driven to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen, while the other parties (save the astonishing SNP) quickly and mercilessly dispatch their failed leaders.

First and foremost, this election result is a resounding defeat for Labour, and the confused non-values it stood for during the 2015 campaign. Having both repudiated the centrism of New Labour and failed to return the party to its ideological roots, putting himself in the ludicrous position of being against the Tories but not for a tangible vision of his own, Ed Miliband has brought Labour to complete and utter electoral ruin.

Ed Miliband went to his political Armageddon today flatly refusing to accept that Labour had made any mistakes during their last thirteen year spell in government, at least as far as the economy and public spending were concerned. The electorate took one look at this outright denial of reality and determined that the Son of Brown could not be trusted to take stewardship of the finances again.

But almost nobody expected the Labour Party to perform this badly against the Conservatives – poll after poll showed the Tories and Labour in a virtual dead heat. So when the exit poll results were announced at ten o’clock last night, people scarcely believed them. Paddy Ashdown confidently remarked that he would eat his hat if the Liberal Democrats were reduced to ten MPs. They currently have just eight. UKIP supporters (including yours truly) were convinced that UKIP would win more than two seats, picking up at least Thanet South or Thurrock. But only Douglas Carswell now remains, cutting a lonely figure.

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Britain And The Church Of England Must File For Divorce

Church v State

One of the aspects of British life that this blog finds hardest to tolerate and justify – aside from our lack of a written constitution, the complete absence of checks on Parliamentary power, our deference to government authority and the eternally unrealistic expectations heaped upon the England football team – is the fact that in the year 2014, our supposedly liberal democracy maintains the absurdity that is an established church (and de facto national religion).

The notion that Britain is a Christian nation has been a laughable, if ubiquitous proposition for many years now. To arrive at the conclusion that the UK is a Christian land, one has to redefine Christianity not as a religion, a set of beliefs, teachings or practices, but rather as some woolly abstract incorporating cherry-picked elements of history, patriotism, nationalism, whiteness, tradition, middle class anxiety and fear of change. The rather more trustworthy indicators such as weekly church attendancechanging census data and the public’s knowledge of basic Christian tenets point stubbornly and persistently in the opposite direction.

David Cameron, always more comfortable on the woollier side of a debate, naturally favoured the abstract markers of Britain as a “Christian” nation when he made his recent intervention, a rare instance of a senior politician addressing matters of faith which also conveniently eclipsed the ongoing media coverage of his incompetent handling of the Maria Miller expenses scandal.

First comes Cameron’s woolliness:

In an article in the Church Times ahead of Easter Sunday, Mr Cameron acknowledged that he is a “bit vague” on the “more difficult parts of faith” but said he has “deep respect” for the national role of the Church.

He said: “I am a member of the Church of England, and, I suspect, a rather classic one: not that regular in attendance, and a bit vague on some of the more difficult parts of the faith.

And then the pivot toward the bold assertion that despite the fact that Cameron is a religious zealot by today’s standards, “vague faith” such as this on the part of a dwindling segment of the population can be extrapolated to mean broad national consent for the primacy of one religion and denomination over all others:

He said: “I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.

But the emphasis really is on the word ‘dwindling’. The Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, inadvertently gives the game away when he seeks to explain what he claims are “heartening” church attendance figures:

These figures are a welcome reminder of the work and service undertaken by the Church of England annually – 1,000 couples married, 2,600 baptisms celebrated and over 3,000 funerals conducted every week of the year.

The fact that there were 400 more departures than additions to the ranks of the faithful in his diocese may have failed to set off alarm bells in the head of the Bishop of Norwich, but for the more numerate reader it does illustrate rather starkly the problem faced by the wider church.

Once it has been explained that 2,600 minus 3,000 equals a net loss of 400, the Rt Rev Graham James (and the Church of England as a whole) must concede the fact that a higher number of Christian funerals than baptisms represents a real and existential threat, or else they are essentially admitting that the sacraments of the church are no real way to measure the faith of the people, and that they therefore no longer matter. An admission of the latter seems unlikely.

The response of many – both to the decline in church attendance and in attempts to loosen the Church of England’s disproportionate grip on the levers of power – has been to rail against the damage of that destructive group known as the “militant atheists”, those shadowy PC paramilitaries who fight the War On Christmas and dare to suggest that claiming religious objection does not exempt a person from their contract of employment or license to do business. The Daily Mail leads the charge from this side:

The truth is that there is a new breed of militant atheists who are capable of being as unreasoning as the most bone-headed creationist. Their intolerance is a strange mirror reflection of the bigotry of religious extremists.

‘Intolerance’ here is given the broad definition of the perpetual victim, an insult hurled by those who suddenly find themselves losing their ability to impose their values and lifestyle choices on everyone else.

According to this school of thought, it is bone-headedly ignorant to see anything wrong in the fact that our Head of State has a constitutional duty to defend one faith above all others, or that twenty-six members of that one faith alone are entitled to sit in the upper house of the British Parliament and participate in our lawmaking.

Neither do the traditionalist defenders agree on when, if at all, Britain might no longer be considered a Christian country. Would it be when more people regularly attend another faith or denomination’s services? If so, that ship has already sailed and Britain should once again be pledging fealty to Rome and the Holy See. Or perhaps the moment of severance can be declared when a majority of people no longer agree with Church teaching on matters such as gay marriage or equality for women? But again, that moment has been passed. More likely, their answer would be “never”, simply because they will it to be so.

Parliament and the Church - divorce is needed to save both institutions

Parliament and the Church – divorce is needed to save both institutions

 

None of this means that Christianity has lost its place as the predominant religion in Britain – indeed, this is one thing clearly supported by the 2011 census data. It is certainly true that among people expressing a religious affiliation, the vast majority identify as Christians. But there is a huge gulf between acknowledging this fact and deciding that British laws and the British system of government itself should continue to be organised around and influenced by the teachings of a religion that most people only identify with on a nominal, cultural basis.

And it is on this this basis that the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, joined the debate with a proposal to disestablish the Church of England, in order to prevent any more unnecessary harm coming either to that church or to the rest of us.

The Guardian reports:

Nick Clegg has said the church and state should be separated, a view he has expressed before but one that is likely to gain fresh currency after David Cameron described Britain as a Christian country.

Clegg, an atheist, said he would like to see the disestablishment of the Church of England, which would lead to the Queen’s removal as the head of the church.

“In the long run it would be better for the church and better for people of faith, and better for Anglicans, if the church and the state were over time to stand on their own two separate feet,” the deputy prime minister said on his LBC radio phone-in show. He said he did not think this would happen overnight.

Heads will surely explode at The Daily Mail, and the likes of Cristina Odone will stay up late into the night to pen angry rebuttals, but in fact here is a very sensible proposal that would help to keep the church out of some of the more hot-button political and social debates affecting the country as a whole, while going a few steps toward establishing a more sane, comprehensible constitution for the United Kingdom.

Indeed, many of the reasons given by apologists for why the UK is a Christian country are symptoms of an established church, not justifications for continuing to tolerate one – artefacts such as the Queen’s role as the head of the church, or the presence of the Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords, for example. But this is akin to claiming that an Egyptian mummy is a living, breathing human being – sure, the body parts are in the right place (just as the constitutional elements are in place for a British theocracy) but the heart does not beat, the blood does not flow and the brain does not think like a living person.

Nick Clegg goes on to claim that the Church of England would “thrive” if disestablishment were to occur, and this may well be the case. At present, the Church has to walk a tightrope with doctrine on one side and popular opinion on the other, making it appear weak and indecisive, and pleasing to no one. Unshackled from the state, however, the church could continue to discriminate against gays and women (or more hopefully recognise their equality) without dragging the rest of the country into the debate.

Naturally, David Cameron disagrees:

Mr Cameron said: “I think our arrangements work well in this country. We are a Christian country, we have an established church,” adding that disestablishment was “a long term Liberal idea but it is not a Conservative one.” 

This is conservatism of the bad kind, the reflexive hanging on to tradition not because the alternative is untried and the status quo works well, but simply out of a reluctance to rock the boat, upset the party base or start a real, informed debate. Cameron believes that the current constitutional arrangement “works well”, but take this with a pinch of salt – he also believes that parliamentary oversight of the security services works very well indeed, though it transpired that they were undertaking far more extensive and intrusive surveillance than the public had ever been aware of or given their consent.

The New Statesman naturally comes down on the side of disestablishment, and they come armed with the words of the most recent former Archbishop of Canterbury:

Religious believers who oppose such a move should look to the US, where faith has flourished alongside the country’s secular constitution. Indeed, in an interview with the New Statesman in 2008, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, (who went on to famously guest-edit the magazine) suggested that the church might benefit from such a move: “I can see that it’s by no means the end of the world if the establishment disappears. The strength of it is that the last vestiges of state sanction disappeared, so when you took a vote at the Welsh synod, it didn’t have to be nodded through by parliament afterwards. There is a certain integrity to that.”

What Rowan Williams delicately calls a “certain integrity” is actually just plain old democracy, properly executed, with each citizen having a voice and no powerful interests able to sway policy based on their own narrow interests. Both church and state can make decisions in their own interests without running to each other for contentious debate or rubber-stamp approval.

The British people, usually so quick to voice their distaste for money in politics and big donations from wealthy individuals, corporations or trades union, should ponder this simple fact: of all the business moguls, special interest groups and union barons jostling to influence British government policy in their favour, only one organisation is powerful enough to boast twenty-six loyal, paid representatives ready to do its bidding in the upper house of the British Parliament. Britain’s 100 biggest employers, ten largest unions and her wealthiest people combined do not have the lobbying and legislative clout of the Church of England, an organisation that commands a weekly attendance of just 1.8% of the UK’s population.

To say all of these things does not imply a hostility of any kind to religion and faith-based organisations, despite the misleading accusations of the traditionalists; regular readers will know that this blogger is a practicing (if somewhat Cameron-vague) Catholic. Indeed, disestablishment of the Church of England, combined with a loosening of the government’s hand on all matters of faith, can only benefit religious organisations, schools, charities and initiatives through the plurality that would immediately be created.

But even if disestablishment would cause difficulty or a degree of harm to the church, that alone is not a sufficient reason to preserve the status quo. It is not the business of government to pick winners and losers, to favour some more than others, and institutions (corporate or otherwise) who rely on state aid of any kind tend to fail regardless in the longer term.

Christianity – and the Church of England – have formed a huge part of who we are as a country, influencing our laws, culture, art and traditions. We should be very grateful for this – just ask anyone who suffers or whose life prospects are narrowed or extinguished under a modern day Muslim theocracy. But we should not be content merely to be better than Iran or Saudi Arabia – the time has come to do away with an established state church entirely.

In the year 2014, it is time to finally remove the theological shackles from the British constitution, and to take the state church off life support so it may live and breathe unaided. Committed Christians and Church of England members should have the confidence in their faith and institutions to accept, if not actively welcome, this change.

Nigel Farage vs The Politically Correct Line On Russia

Attempts to sink Nigel Farage tend to fail

Attempts to sink Nigel Farage tend to fail

 

In the aftermath of last week’s debate on Britain’s place in the European Union, UKIP leader Nigel Farage had gall to say that he admired the tactics of the despotic Russian president Vladimir Putin. Not that he admired Putin as a person, agreed with his annexation of Crimea or supported his policies in any way, mind you – just that he thought Vladimir Putin had played a good hand and used methods both conventional and shady to advance the national interest of his country.

To hear Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s subsequent shrieks of outrage, quickly repeated and parroted thoughtlessly by numerous political commentators and talking heads, you would think that Nigel Farage had whipped a large Soviet flag out from behind his podium and paraded up and down with it during the debate, singing  the State Anthem of the USSR at the top of his lungs (incidentally, it’s a cracking piece of music).

The second live televised Leader’s Debate on the EU will take place tonight, and given the establishment media’s heroic efforts last week to spin the results of the first as a victory for the hapless Nick Clegg – until overwhelming reality and the results of a YouGov poll made their position indefensible and forced a sudden reassessment of Farage’s performance – this blog aims to clear the fog of war which still threatens to obscure what Nigel Farage actually said (eminently reasonable) and what he has subsequently been accused of saying (treachery).

Here is what Nigel Farage actually said, when asked by Alastair Campbell which world leader he most admired:

“As an operator, but not as a human being, I would say Putin. The way he played the whole Syria thing. Brilliant. Not that I approve of him politically. How many journalists in jail now?”

 The recognition of Putin’s moral failings and outrage at Russia’s insidious suppression of free speech was not enough to save Farage from what followed. The point was clearly that Russia has been running rings around a hopelessly divided (and in some cases, morally equivalent) international community, not that Russia pursued a just or worthy course of action.

Nick Clegg chose to see it somewhat differently:

“It shows quite how extreme people can be like Nigel Farage when their loathing of the European Union becomes so all-consuming that they even end up siding with Vladimir Putin in order to make their point.

The only reason we are able to seek to exert any influence – and it is difficult enough as it is – on Vladimir Putin is because we can act with the clout of being part of the economic superpower that is the European Union, upon which Russia depends a lot.”

A heady mix of deliberate misrepresentation and the sadly typical denigration and talking down of Britain’s capacity to act in it’s own interests on the world stage such as this would be remarkable coming from anyone other than the Liberal Democrat leader and our Deputy Prime Minister.

Clegg and Farage

 

Former Conservative Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind also loses the plot over Farage’s comments, railing against the UKIP leader in his uniquely blustering, pompous style:

How very revealing. When asked which world politician he most admires, Nigel Farage chooses, of all people, Vladimir Putin. While others might have sought a successor to Winston Churchill or Nelson Mandela, Farage fawns over an autocrat who has made Russia the least free country in Europe – a man who locks up his political opponents and has just invaded his neighbour, annexing part of its territory.

Rifkind also chooses to go with the trusty trick of blatant misrepresentation. Nigel Farage was clear to add the caveat “as an operator, but not as a human being” before making his comments about Russia’s effective foreign policy. Those key words by Farage, which place his remarks in context and which came literally right before the ones that Rifkind quoted to support his diatribe, seemed to sail past his ears unnoticed.

Rifkind then goes on to miss the point entirely:

[Farage’s] irresponsibility has not just been restricted to Putin’s behaviour in Ukraine. He described Putin’s policy on Syria as “brilliant”. Does he not realise that Russia has vetoed every resolution in the UN Security Council that was aimed at pressing Assad to end his murderous violence – which has led to the deaths of over 140,000 Syrian men, women and children? Does he not know that without Russian arms supplies, the Assad regime would have been forced to negotiate an end to the civil war two years ago?

Again, we see the deliberate, false equating of Farage’s admiration of the brilliant execution of an terrible policy with actual support for that policy. But the two are clearly not one and the same, no matter how much the prevailing climate of political correctness may insist that because something is judged by the collective to be bad, all aspects of it must be denounced as equally terrible and any positive aspects be purged from discussion and memory.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea is outrageous and terrible – on that much, nearly everyone aside from Russia agrees. But to stop at saying that is not enough for the politically correct pundits of today. In this world, because Russia has done this terrible thing and made itself persona non grata in the international community, we all must now say that everything about Russia is bad, and never acknowledge any good until we are told by our superiors that it is safe to do so.

To be fair, Russia makes this task quite simple. Through their domestic and foreign policies on any number of issues, that country has placed itself on the wrong side of human rights, freedom of speech and even the arc of history. The lamentable implosion of Russia’s nascent democracy is well known, as are the stories about increasing suppression of free speech, the government takeover of the media and Russia’s appalling record on civil rights for gay people. But why must all of these misdeeds be meticulously restated before a British politician can say the truth – that despite Russia being completely wrong on all of these issues, they played their foreign policy hand really well in support of their own national interests?

Telegraph columnist Tim Stanley hits the nail on the head in support of Nigel Farage’s right to say the blindingly obvious:

Farage’s sin was to say that he admires Putin as a political leader, although not as a human being. Why this is controversial, I have literally no idea. Farage made it abundantly clear that he regards the Russian leader as a despot (“How many journalists in jail now?”); he simply thinks that he outwitted Obama on Syria. I think that; you think that; even Obama probably thinks that … Ah, but you can’t say such things out loud because the consensus in Westminster right now is that Putin is Hitler, Ukraine is the Sudetenland and anything less that outright Russophobia is treachery. And probably a little bit homophobic.

Precisely. Believing that Putin outwitted other world leaders in terms of the response to the awful situation in Syria does not imply support for Putin’s position, just as believing he is currently one step ahead with regard to Ukraine does not mean that Nigel Farage wants Russia’s gamble to succeed.

Tim Stanley continues, giving a brilliant summation of the current problem with British political discourse:

And that’s Farage’s real sin: he dares to be different. Contemporary British politics works by an unusual degree of consensus. All three party leaders want to stay in the EU, all wish to preserve the principle of the welfare state, all back gay marriage, all accept the need to go green, none will challenge the concept of open borders on immigration. Some or all of these positions may well be right – that’s not the issue. The issue is that this homogeneity of opinion is fundamentally undemocratic. In democracies, voters are supposed to be offered real choices rather than one establishment philosophy spun three different ways. To make matters worse, the party leaders now not only sound alike but also lookalike.

This much is true, and scarily so. The sad fact is that the British political elite have imposed a consensus on society that the people themselves have not yet reached. For good or ill (okay, for ill) there is a large rump of opinion within the British population that would bring back the death penalty in a heartbeat, scrap the new legalisation of gay marriage, become Fortress Britain for immigrants seeking the right to work, and undertake any number of other regressive policies. But in Britain the elite went ahead and determined the “correct” answer to all of these issues on behalf of the people but without seeking their input, and so the debate is continually suppressed – except for when it bubbles to the surface manifested as support for the insurgent or extremist parties.

Contrast the situation in Britain with that in the United States. The political debate there is no more enlightened or informed, but there is still the sense that they debate important issues, often from diametrically opposing viewpoints. The US senate hears strident views from such diverse characters as self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders, the senior senator from Vermont, as well as the fire-and-brimstone filibusterings of Tea Party darling Ted Cruz. And people with views anywhere within this spectrum are made to feel welcome in the political debate. As a result, though the American process is a lot slower, louder and more contentious, when political unanimity is finally reached (and it takes a long time – civil rights has more or less just crossed the line, with gay rights looking at another 30 years of toil) it is much more strongly reflected in the people, and is consequently much more likely to stick.

The difference could not be clearer – a lively national debate where everyone feels they can speak and be heard, or the stultifying restrictions of an artificial consensus imposed by the political elite.

Now faced with a politician who refuses to follow the approved talking points on Russia, these weasely politicians who came scurrying out of the woodwork to denounce Nigel Farage over his comments are deliberately misleading the public and attempting to change the narrative. Hell, let’s call a spade a spade – they are lying, deliberately lying to the British people in the political establishment’s latest doomed attempt to make Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party and the millions of people who share his viewpoint seem extremist, weird and dangerous.

All of these armchair pundits know what Nigel Farage meant when he said he admired the direct effectiveness of Vladimir Putin’s assertive foreign policy as compared to the dithering and retrenchment which have all too often characterised the governments of David Cameron and Barack Obama. But why let a non-story go to waste when words can be twisted and mischaracterised to falsely make their speaker sound like the CEO of the Vladimir Putin Fan Club?

Of course, all of this kerfuffle could have been avoided if Nigel Farage had chosen his words more carefully. Had Farage prefaced his words with a lengthy (but surely unnecessary) denunciation of Russia’s behaviour and Putin’s morals, he might have escaped censure by the self-appointed moral arbiters of British political debate. That’s exactly what they want to happen, and it is why they are now so furious with the idiosyncratic UKIP leader, resolved once more to try to drive him out of British politics.

In the heavily thought-policed world of Nigel Farage’s critics, no opportunity to say The Correct Thing should ever remain unseized. If you want to make a point about the effectiveness of Russia’s foreign policy then that’s okay, but by God you had better utter the cross-party approved talking points before you do so. Only once all of your political pronouncements become entangled in endless disclaimers and footnotes grounding them in established political correctness will these meddling people be satisfied.

Tim Stanley puts it well:

Westminster is going to continue hitting its head against the brick wall of public antipathy towards politics-as-usual. The more that Farage acts up, the more different he seems, the more the establishment will hate him, the more the voters will like him.

And there, right there, is the popularity of Nigel Farage. Political correctness and towing the establishment party line? He will have none of it, thank you very much. Whether you like his political stances or not, he is the only leader of a major political party in Britain who remains willing and able to speak honestly and passionately as though he isn’t reading from a focus group-approved script.

How richly will the voters reward him in May’s elections for daring to talk like a normal human being?

 

The next Leader’s debate on the European Union takes place tonight (Wednesday 2nd April) at 1900 BST, and will be shown on BBC Two.