Sunday 27 April 2014

Not an extremist, but a crank

Cohen: Often almost right.
Nick Cohen today offers a piece about as thoughtful as you might expect from the Guardian. While billed as a piece about Nigel Farage it is more an offering on the state of British media - and he is not wrong:

"For in the kingdom of the bland, the intolerant man is king. British and US TV have turned newspaper pundits into minor celebrities: a curious addition to the Z-list that makes little sense until you realise that the pundit is free to posture and foam and provide the gladiatorial aggression that will keep the audience from reaching for the remote. Extremist politicians such as Nigel Farage and George Galloway serve the same purpose. They don't have to worry about breaking party lines because their parties are their own private personality cults, which believe whatever they tell them to believe."

This article is rather spoiled with indelicate an lazy language that betrays Cohen's own demented leftism but if you can extrapolate the point, he makes a good one.  But he goes after the low hanging fruit.  He complains that the media have failed to properly scrutinise Nigel Farage or Ukip, but then offers nothing original of his own.

He points to the obvious which carries little weight with the Ukip cultists.  They don't care that their man has a first class seat on the gravy train or that he is a former banker (and just as bent apparently). But even by Farage's own dogma he repeatedly fails to make the argument against the EU.

During the flooding earlier this year, Farage went down to Somerset. Rather than make the case that EU directives were behind the flooding, he instead used the platform to call for a civil defence corps, funded with the money we spend on foreign aid. (Just how many times over Ukip is going to spend this money on other things we don't yet know).  Farage wasted the opportunity and instead offered us a 1950's proposal (from when Britain was at its most socialist).  In Farage's head the Green Goddesses would be manned 24/7! Hardly the thinking of a thrusting libertarian free-marketeer.  It somewhat overlooks the fact that we already have a civil defence force for such eventualities.  It's called the Environment Agency. 

Similarly we had over the course of the Clegg debates Nigel Farage lavishing praise upon Putin, demonstrating he had not fully understood the case made by, Booker or Spiked-Online. There are plenty of credible commentators making the case that the EU has a big hand in creating that chaos, but Farage proved once more that if there is a wrong end of the stick, he will grasp it with both hands - and fluff it.

So even if, unlike Cohen, you don't think that Ukip is racist, and leaving the EU is not an extremist notion, Farage is poor leader and a weak intellect.  If pushed hard by the media on any of these issues, he would fold.  He has only a superficial understanding of the arguments that he himself makes - and doesn't really grasp the fundamental principles of why we should leave the EU.  He has instead turned the EU debate into a debate about immigration, leading the euro-sceptic movement into an electoral dead-end like lambs to the slaughter. To the grown-ups in the euro-sceptic movement, Farage is an embarrassment and a liability.

Thus far, he has had a free ride of it because the metro-girlies (of both sexes) at the BBC are even more witless than Farage, concerning themselves only with whether the billboard campaign is racist or not. Never mind the fact that the claims the posters make are naked of fact.

Cohen's headline "Nigel Farage is a phoney. Scrutinise him and he'll crumble" is more true than he could know.  Farage's career is littered with grubby shenanigans, Ukip's ideas are weak - and they have yet to offer a detailed proposal as to how we would actually leave the EU.  The party stands on no intellectual foundations, and policies made up on the fly by Farage could not withstand a serious grilling, especially were Farage to defend them.  Yet nobody in the media, Cohen included, has dared to wade in. Cohen complains that the media's failure to press home the attack is why we see this party of deadbeats on the up.  Well... physician... heal thyself.

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