Wednesday, 8 May 2019
Nigel Farage has done it again. Whatever his detractors say – and I have been among them – the man has charisma and nobody pulls a crowd quite like the bloke they are calling the British Trump. Like Trump he is loathed by those among us who consider themselves better people; the more educated, the ’creative’, the more likely to be engaged in securing powers (not rights, powers) for minorities many were unaware even existed. Like Trump he is accused of various forms of extremism, clumsily labelled far-right and like Trump he continues to defy the political calculus of the establishment.
Listening last week to the Radio 4 analysis of the Spanish elections the result was being hailed as a glorious victory for the socialists and a defeat of the far right. In reality the socialist vote was dented but the soft-right vote was slashed, it’s deserters staying away in disappointed disgust, or else backing candidates whose common sense views (far-right, to the bien pensant commentators) chimed with their own experiences, their aspirations and, well, their down-to-earth view of society.
Society, if anything, should surely be an orderly collusion to include everybody, seek fairness and try and improve the lives of the many, not the few. The few, in this case, not being Jeremy Corbyn’s imagined barons, lording it over the peasants – they inhabit a totally different realm and many of the peasants adore them for it – but the societal outliers who currently, it appears, have far too much influence over political discourse. Misgender somebody and you can end up with a criminal record – on what planet is that a proportionate response?
Ask a former Labour voter why they no longer support the party and Brexit betrayal will be high on the list. But just as important will be the rationale of feeling displaced by ‘others’, people not like them. You can’t – at least you mustn’t – force people to accept too much change too quickly. That the left’s response to this is not to throttle back on the crusade but to criminalise the ‘othering’ of outsiders is to misread the mood so completely as to render many of their better and more honourable ideas equally facetious.
So, we are pushing back. Bully us so far and we shrug it off, but step over the line and don’t expect there not to be consequences. This is being repeated across the western world as people say ‘enough’. But the form of the message is just as important as the message itself; possibly more important. You could be a near saint, but should somebody manage to apply the merest shade of bigotry to your portrait the chances are it will stick and try as people might to understand the true character, they will never be able to unsee the metaphorical swastika, the emblem du jour of those who have appointed themselves as commissioners for the thought police. Examples of perfectly decent people cast as villains abound; scarcely a week goes by without some venerable sage being un-personed.
And this is, in part, the key to Farage’s current success. He has harnessed the mood and he is dead right about our dissatisfaction. But why didn’t he stick with Ukip, you may wonder? Remember the extent to which he was vilified by those oh-so-clever media types? Remember how he had to stand up and somehow account for some of the more outlandish proclamations of Ukip candidates who were often incompletely vetted and inadequately trained for the public stage? Remember the infighting, the succession of short-lived leaders?
I honestly believe he had no choice. And I honestly believe he thought that after the referendum vote, Ukip’s purpose had been achieved. He left and he didn’t leave a way back in and I think he was right. I like Gerard Batten and I think Tommy Robinson is a formidable player, but Ukip’s day is done, while the Brexit Party is fresh yet full of experienced, principled, known figures. The BP doesn’t need a broader prospectus, like Ukip before it, it has one job. I hope to see them do it.