Thursday 27 March 2014

The Great Debate: a defeat for Nigel Farage - and us.

EU debate: Basically a douche-off

Those with stronger constitutions than I will have watched a great deal more of last nights "debate" on the EU between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage. I had some paint drying I urgently needed to watch, so tuned out half-way through.  Between them they traded numbers from the backs of their trump-cards, parroting the same tired old arguments and boring mantras.  The "debate" added nothing to our understanding of the issues and stayed within the safe boundaries of the old narratives. A wasted opportunity.

Much of what we saw could have been scripted in 1995, with little modification required in order to broadcast it yesterday - in what was an empty sideshow. What we had was two non-entity tribalists pitted against eachother for entertainment of our political class, and the profit of commercial broadcasters. The only thing missing was Simon Cowell along with a premium rate phone-vote.  

Ultimately, it was a loss for Nigel Farage. Farage was squarely defeated in the first few minutes.  He said his lines well, quoted all the right facts, and did exactly what he was supposed to do, as any useful idiot should, and that is why he (and Euro-scepticism) lost last night.  The debate was framed within a set of debating parameters that allows for deception by omission, and Farage, helpfully, allowed it to be so. The moment he started trading immigration figures (accurate or not) and car production numbers, he walked right into the trap.

This debate has never been about jobs, trade or immigration. This is a much more straightforward issue: who governs us?  Do you want us to be an independent sovereign nation, trading freely with the world and the EU, or do you want to be governed by an unelected minority elite, as a minor province of a United States of Europe. Anything else is just air-filler. It is fundamentally a question of democracy.

The EU has only one destination, and only one direction of travel.  To play top-trumps with Nick Clegg is to deny the nature of the beast (that it is an unyielding supranational vanity project) and to perpetuate the myth that our EU membership is a membership of a trading-bloc.

The debate surrounding trade with the EU has been framed by the political classes as a binary option.  By accepting the binary fallacy, Farage reinforces the view that Ukip wants us to pull up the drawbridge, which plays right into the "job fears" mantras of Clegg.  And it works. That point in the debate would have been a good time to bring to light an alternative vision for Britain, derived from a well thought-out policy base. But as we know, Ukip is a party that stands for nothing of substance.  Thus the debate remains one of jobs, trade and immigration.

More depressing than the debate itself was the fallout this morning with Clegg alleging that Farage was "siding with Putin" over Ukraine. Farage at least gets the central premise of what is happening there, though his understanding is superficial - and he was winging it as usual.  (In fairness he looks like an intellectual colossus next to Nick Clegg, whose understanding of it resembles that of a twelve-year-old who has spent too much time playing American computer games.) - But it is depressing in the sense that the EU induced travesty in Ukraine is only noticed by the media herd as it becomes a political football between two point-scoring intellectual pygmies, when this geo-political event reveals better than anything the true nature of the EU and it's supranational aspirations.

As to who "won" the "debate" among the viewers, that entirely depends on who had the largest self-selecting minority watching. Meanwhile, the real business of politics goes on elsewhere, unremarked by our infantile media who seemed more concerned with whether Farage was sweating too much, or how many sips of water Nick Clegg took. If that is the fullest extent of analysis our media can apply to a debate, on our survival as a nation no less, then whatever fate awaits us is one well deserved.

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