Cuuuuurious. The moment Nigel Farage takes an iota of flak on the campaign trail he turns into a hyperbolic, reactive angryman. Touring the Royal Mile in Edinburgh yesterday he was slightly beset by the jeers and cheers of a group of Scots particularly intent on letting the UKIP leader know that he was Scum! Scum! Scum! Scum! Scum! Poor old Farage. UKIP is so oppressed and these sneering members of the public are just such bastards. “Yobo, fascist scum,” Farage eloquently hit back against his assailants during an interview on Good Morning Scotland today.
My prior characterisation of this grinning buffoon, as an honest but misguided soul with an irrational fear for the continent, was one that sort of deserved pity. Farage did seem to encapsulate that genuine frustration about the arguably technocratic advancement of the European project. But the wheel has now turned and we are given a fuller picture of an unintelligent man, lacking in nuance and restraint, and full of a rather nasty brand of vitriol when it comes to disagreement. Lashing out at the protesters was by no means the story of this incident.
Just to be clear, the tone of the protest as Farage left a pub, his favourite campaign venue, was boisterous, jovial, perhaps a little cheeky. Farage moved smoothly through a small crowd of grinning antagonists and straight into a minivan without so much as a physical feather ruffled. To hear him lament his woes later you would think some burly Scotsman had pinned him down and ruthlessly, repeatedly stolen his virtue. “I’ve never seen anything like it… it was deeply racist, with a total hatred for the English.”
“If this is the face of Scottish Nationalism, it’s a pretty ugly picture,” he continues, “the anger, the hatred, the snarling, the shouting, the swearing, was all linked to a desire for the Union Jack to be burned, and extinguished from Scotland forever. There’s absolutely no doubt who these people were, or what they stood for.” David Miller, conducting the interview, at this point had to interject again with the suggestion that Farage was conflating anti-English with anti-UKIP sentiments, although I suspect the word ‘hypocrite’ was struggling to leap off his tongue.
It is the most indisputable and pure of ironies that a man like Nigel Farage feels beset by the evils of nationalism. His suggestion that these people had no interest in debate was brilliantly juxtaposed with his refusal to engage with Miller on the more considered angles of this story. When Miller referenced a recent Ipsos Mori poll as indicating that UKIP support in Scotland is roughly to the tune of two per thousand voters, Farage bullishly rejects the poll. And when Miller suggests that UKIP are therefore an “irrelevance” in Scotland, Farage starts to get mad.
Sensing the opportunity to strike deeper, Miller puts Farage’s own words to him, words quoted from the Times, “Telling everyone how much I love Scotland, and what a big part of my life it’s been, how sincere I am, it would all have been a lot of rubbish.” Legitimate grounds, you might think, to accuse Farage of a fundamental disconnect with Scotland, its people and its politics, as Miller indeed does. “I’m sensing similar hatred from this line of questioning that I got on the streets yesterday in Edinburgh,” is Farage’s interpretation of this.
Things conclude bizarrely. Trying to trump up UKIP’s representation in more constituencies than any other party, including members for Northern Ireland and across Scotland, Farage attempts to salvage the pan-UK appeal of his party. The irrelevance of this fact to electoral efficacy and voter support is pointed out by Miller. “And remind me, how many elected representatives you have in Scotland?” “Absolutely none,” Farage retorts, choking up a bit, “but rather more than the BBC do,” he strangely adds.
Bumbling over some point about how if the interview had been conducted in England he wouldn’t have faced this kind of hatred, he whines, “And frankly I’ve had enough of this interview, goodbye.” And he hangs up. Remarkable, pathetic, petulant stuff. The first strident bullet of reality in the heart of this overblown UKIP surge. Even in Farage, the supposed master of his party’s mainstream aspirations, do we see something deeply unpleasant and unwanted in our politics. But there is no need to fixate on this one incident. Plenty of further proof is inevitably yet to come, if Farage and his party truly feels so misunderstood and hard done by the media.
UKIP, like the BNP, are a nominally pro-union fringe movement but actually represent a sort of anachronistic ‘Little England’ mentality that is dismissive of the other nations that form this union. Pro-Britain is a more marketable brand than pro-England however, whatever the ratio of anti-EU sentiment it is cut with, and we can only be thankful that they are so painfully transparent in their cynicism. I credit most of those who voted for UKIP in the locals with a respectable desire to protest against the established political class. I also credit them enough not to do it again when it counts.