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Where was the Nigel Farage fizz? UKIP speech analysis

20 September 2013

Three years ago, just two lonely journalists turned up to the UKIP annual conference. This year, they have accredited 150 of them. Now Britain’s third-largest party (it has led the LibDems in the polls since March) Nigel Farage positions himself as an insurgent whose message is so incendiary that the mainstream would not dare to broadcast it. Today was his chance. The UKIP conference is getting plenty coverage on BBC Parliament Channel, a huge chance. And one that was not really taken.

We’re used to seeing Farage with a pint and fag in hand, looking mischievous and raising hell. Today he looked fretful and sweaty. He didn’t use autocues –  which is fine, neither does David Cameron when things get sticky. But Farage kept looking at his notes, and for most of the speech his eyes were down (above). When you’re giving a speech for a television audience, this kind of thing matters. Powder is the enemy of sweat. Rehearsal is the alternative to autocues.

I  say in my Daily Telegraph column today that UKIP is more of a phenomenon than a political party – and that its strategy is to mutate from being a Eurosceptic party into a general party of the working class. But Farage’s speech showed no sign of this: it was mostly about Europe. And the technical aspects of it that bore even Westminster wonks, let alone target voters. Phrases like “insurance, reinsurance, stocks and shares, commodities” simply should not be in a keynote speech aimed at general voters. “We’ve had to absorb in the British Economy 120,000 pages of legislation… inspection and regulation have taken over from production, leadership and enterprise. We’ve got to get European Law off their backs.” I quite agree, but this is a point better-suited to a CBI conference speech.

Even on the most emotive issues – immigration vs youth unemployment, Farage seemed to speak with less force than usual.

“I feel very sorry for the one million youngsters in this country who are without work yet we have a massive oversupply in the unskilled labour market coming in from Eastern Europe and elsewhere”

I’ve hard Farage make this point far better, without using wonk phrases like ‘unskilled labour market’, in town hall meetings. He was good when making clear that UKIP (unlike the BNP) does “firmly, fiercely oppose the racism and sectarianism of left or right”.

“Let’s be clear: we don’t blame people from Romania and Bulgaria for wanting to come here: goodness me, I’d be packing my bags now. It is about money, isn’t it? A wage here is worth five or six time what it is in Romania and Bulgaria.”

That said, he has a word of warning about those Romanians…

“London is already experiencing a Romanian crimewave – 92 per cent of ATM crime in the capital is being committee by Romanian gangs. We should not be opening our doors on January 1st to Romanian criminal gangs. We need to get back the power to deport people who come here and commit offences. Mr  Cameron, Mr Clegg, Mr Miliband – are you listening? Because we demand action. But we’re the only people with a solution, aren’t we?”


Not that he seemed to like London very much, speaking about it with disdain that you normally only hear from Alex Salmond. “London commentators” were the bogeymen. Fair enough if you’re giving a speech in a Yorkshire town hall, but I’d have dialled this down for a speech held in London primarily for the benefit of these London commentators.

And, he should also be more careful with his figures if he’s going to berate the press. “Last year 497,000 settled in this country, And I’m not sure the commentators even understand this.” I’m not sure that Farage understands that this figure includes about 80,000 Brits returning from a spell living abroad. You’ll never hear Migration Watch use this misleading, grossed-up figure, and neither should UKIP. Not if it wants to play at this level of politics.

Britain opted out of EU crime and justice laws, but next year we will opt back in to the European Arrest Warrant. It’s a scandal, certainly, and Farage had this to say:-

“The European Arrest Warrant is a total abomination to those who care about freed. We can’t deport a rapist or a murdered because they have a right to family life. We need to throw this in the bin.”

He’s quite right: we could and should have bilateral extradition deals. But all this excites a very small chunk of the electorate. Am even smaller chunk get worked up about regulatory overload:-

“We’ve had to absorb in the British Economy 120,000 pages of legislation… inspection and regulation have taken over from production, leadership and enterprise. We’ve got to get European Law off their backs.”

How many of the C2DE voters (an impressive 19 per cent of whom now back UKIP) worry about European Law? It sounded as if Farage had crafted a speech for UKIP’s 2010 conference audience, not a 2013 television audience.

His best bit – which he should have constructed his entire speech around – was defining UKIP voters as ordinary people bored with the Westminster menu. Here’s the clip:-

Here, he spoke to the general voter. But not for long. His Hi-De-Hi start “Good morning everybody!” onwards, he was speaking activists, not to potential voters watching on TV. It took him less than a minute to use phrases like “Middlesborough parliamentary by-election” name-checking candidates with no national profile as if to underline his party’s obscurity. Even his peroration was a bit flat.

UKIP supporters (many of whom I expect to welcome in the comments section below) see a virtue in their amateurism, and understandably – their greatest asset is a homespun vibe. But if you’re aiming at a 2014 breakthrough, taking entire councils, you need to up your game. I’m not quite sure that Farage (whom I admire) did so today.  

All told, this was not a breakthrough moment for UKIP. And rather a wasted opportunity for Nigel Farage.


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  • James Allen

    Come on, Fraser! The conference was completely overshadowed by Bloom… and if you knew how Machiavellian Michael Crick was in stirring up the race issue (behind which the Beeb piled in for all their worth) you’d be shocked (fishing on Friends Reunited, calling ex-girlfriends etc)… any message Nigel had was completely destroyed by BBC/Guardian mud-raking. Admittedly his delivery when he read his notes was a bit off. But his cunning ruse of a priority on council house waiting-lists for people with a local relative would have gone down extremely well with his target working-class voter, so I’m sure it will pop up again in time for another election. What you’re witnessing is the slow death of the Tory party in the north of England and the rise of UKIP as a long-term political force: “A working class party”, as he said at the Bruges fringe group meeting. Farage is tireless, committed, almost mythical to his followers. Personally I find his emphasis on immigration pretty uncomfortable, but then I would, wouldn’t I, I grew up in Bath, went to a private school and then on to Cambridge. And yet I’m one of Thatcher’s babes (not literally!), I got a fully assisted place to go to private school, my parents had normal low-paid jobs and I suppose I have a bit more of a connection with the average voter than Cameron’s lot. I can tell you the average man in the street is sincerely f*cked off with the current political class!

  • Blakenburg

    Fizz ? Your arguement is terribley Flat !

  • Ben Kelly

    I think you are grossly overestimating how much of the ordinary public bother watching conference speeches to be honest with you. I agree it wasn’t his best performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was exhausted, he works like crazy promoting the party. It doesn’t matter as much as you think, I mean, did you HEAR the Clegg speech? Never heard such smug self satisfaction, and next comes that empty vessel ‘one nation, one nation, one nation’ Miliband.

  • Lady Magdalene

    I was there. Nigel’s speech followed on from one by Paul Nuttall in which he was speaking about the impact EU membership has had on the working classes of Britain.
    Combined, the two speeches said more about the state of the UK and the impact which our enforced membership of the EU has had on the ordinary people of this country than we have heard from LibLabCON in the past 20 years …. and will hear in the next 20 if they manage to shut the debate down, which is presumably what Fraser Nelson and the MSM want.

  • terence patrick hewett

    During the Profumo scandal when Lord Astor’s council said that he, Astor, denied having an affair with Mandy Rice Davies, she replied, “He would, wouldn’t he?” Well Frazer you would say that wouldn’t you. You can write what you wish but we are still going to vote UKIP because we want to see the colour of your and Cameron’s liver. Metaphorically of course.

  • dalai guevara

    Britain cannot carry on like this.
    We cannot carry on with the socialist boys club sponging in energy, rail, pensions and many other essential public services, only to abandon all that for a
    one man one issue party.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …nonsense, socialist nutters like you love socialism. You types could carry on forever with it.

  • Two Bob

    Well if you dont agree with him you wont like his speech

  • fathomwest

    Strange, I attended The Ukip Conference in Bristol, 2004 I think, and over twenty journalists attended including Michael White of the Guardian.
    Mr Nelson, in his recent writings is doing his best to dismiss the threat of Ukip. This piece is the latest. I have viewed Ukip from a one issue (EU) party to one with many policies and with many people both at local and national levels of some depth and competence. I recall the start of the Lib Dems and they had the same remarks made about them, as the rather juvenile comments of Mr Nelson makes here on Ukip.
    Mr Nuttall, as another piece on this blog points out, actually speaks for and is from the estates former Labour supporters were in abundance. Those voters are looking for a party that speaks for them. The Tories, under Cameron, Labour under Milliband and Cleggy no chance. None of those speaks for anyone outside the Westminster bubble.
    Ukip, Mr Nelson, is here to stay. Better men than you have attempted to write them off. I await to rub your nose in it when they succeed. IF they keep the tories out at the next general election, it may suggest to you that Cameron is the wrong person in charge. Then, I pray, the Conservative Party will split and Ukip will benefit and become the stronger party.

  • itdoesntaddup

    The article could do with a little sub-editing. Perhaps like Farage’s speech?

  • Rockin Ron

    “But all this excites a very small chunk of the electorate.”

    Really? But, what you or any of the other ‘bubble denizens’ know about what excites the electorate? You’re too busy analysing data and forgetting about engaging with ordinary people. The people you cannot possibly hope to understand.

  • GB Republicans

    Farage is just one more rich Briton looking for a hobby.

    • Makroon

      Like all those senators over the pond, you mean ?

  • starfish

    Hmmm. Commentariat addresses delivery rather than content. You don’t get it-this speech was for joe public and UKIP supporters he doesn’t need you

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Bingo, again.

    • Makroon

      Joe public and UKIP supporters are two entirely different constituencies, Joe public is most unlikely to have even heard the speech.

  • D Whiggery

    Trouble is, at the other party conferences there are few delegates and many lobbyists, so Fraser seems to have forgotten what party conferences are for. The public at large don’t listen to and are never swayed by speeches at any of the party conferences, so party leaders should take the opportunity of speaking to their delegates, who are the ones who are listening and who made the effort to be there.

    The other parties are hollowed out precisely because their party leaders talk over the heads of their members to the voters at large and lobbyists. It’s like there’s no point in the other parties existing. What’s great about UKIP is they’re trying to build a party first before reaching out.

    • the viceroy’s gin


      And the Speccie teenagers, bubble denizens all, have no clue what you just posted there. They have no receptors to take it in. They are confused and scared, and the boilerplate blogpost at the top of this is the surest sign of that.

      Populists speak right through the bubble denizens. Right over and through them. That’s what scares the bubblesters most of all.

  • Austin Barry

    Let’s see: the squalid tales of Labour’s spin doctors; the looming advance of the Romanians and Bulgarians; gangsta crime in London; apparent tit-for-tat racial murders in the Midlands; the banishment or otherwise of the veil etc. etc.

    You just know that UKIP’s time has come.

  • rtj1211

    I think you’ve got too used to him savaging van Rompuy, Barroso and Ashton.

    Today, he had to be more statesmanlike. More constructive. More visionary.

    What he wasn’t was messianic. Trust me to save the world.

    He was clear that he put diplomacy before war, something which a lot of people will relate to. Especially backed up with a clear statement that he was not a pacifist.

    He was clear on his position on immigration. A lot of people will agree with it.

    He was clear on his position about the difference between politics and politicians. 80%+ of people hearing that will nod vigorously.

    He’s timing his effort. His aim is to win the European elections and then, only then, zoom off pole position on the grid at Silverstone in his attempt to win the British Grand Prix.

    The media is scheming to try and kill UKIP.

    It’s time to ask why…..

    Who do they answer to, what are their goals, why do they have the right to do that?

    • Makroon

      Nah. He was extremely unclear about what he would do.
      Presumably to preserve his freedom of action for when the smoke-filled-rooms discussions begin.

  • HookesLaw

    I think the nproblem for youth employment is that the people coming in are not
    unskilled. They are skilled and committed. Our youth are often the opposite.
    If Romanians are smart at committing ATM crime then they are definitely not unskilled.
    In fact this crime wave is down to about 120 people all from the same city. Farage would be better of directing his barbs at the police.

    • MirthaTidville

      really..just imagine what it will be like when 50,000 turn up from the same city…

    • Lady Magdalene

      A lot of Romanians certainly seem to be very skilled at pickpocketing, cash machine theft, begging and general thievery ….. judging from the Met Police’s crime figures.
      It was interesting to note that all over the London Underground were advertisements, placed by the Metropolitan Police and paid for by British taxpayers, warning people about the tactics which are being used to target victims. Haven’t seen them before ….. they must be in reaction to a crime wave which is being carried out, largely by immigrant criminal gangs.

  • AnotherDaveB

    The other speeches from this morning are available from UKIP’s YouTube channel.

  • Sean L

    I well remember the pundits lauding Cameron’s “off by heart” speech for the Tory leadership, while David Davis was denounced as “dull” or “uninspiring”. The sole criterion seemed to be how well they’d appear on TV, Tony Blair being the benchmark. Your Farage quotes do sound dull, but perhaps it’s deliberate news management to avoid the “racist” slander. Though in my view he should meet the racist charge head-on, stating unequivocally that membership of British society is not and never has been a question of race; that non-white Britons should vote Ukip for the same reasons as white ones. But perhaps he doesn’t want to alienate the hard core Labour white racist vote. Wrong call, I’d say.

  • Russell

    Fraser…You aren’t very observant for a journalist.

    Farage was sniffling throughout his speech so obviously has a cold or a touch of flu, which accounts for his sweating more than his usual dry performances.
    His deputy Mr Nuttall spoke at some length about UKIP representing the working class people more than labour and how UKIP are taking votes from labour in former labour strongholds.
    Farage had a better speech than any one of the speakers at the LibDem conference including Clegg & Cable.

    The snide comments and spin/smears against UKIP isn’t going to work this time, despite the efforts of yourself and your fellow Westminster bubble journalists and the BBC.
    Both Labour & Conservatives will be wiped out at next years MEP elections, and many hundreds of Labour/LibDem & Conservative Councillors will be searching their job centre for some cushy public sector or ‘charity’ taxpayer funded employment.

    • Sean L

      “You aren’t very observant for a journalist.”

      They’re too preoccupied with getting their own copy down on paper to even notice. I think they get an advance copy of the text so have probably decided their line before the speech has even been delivered, which is also bound to shape *how* they actually hear it.

    • Two Bob

      No calling in sick for him!

    • Makroon

      I listened carefully to the whole speech and agree with Mr Nelson. It was a comfort-blanket speech – all the same old dog-whistles and sound bites, and plenty of dissatisfaction. But curiously tired and no indication of HOW these problems might be resolved, let alone party philosophy or policies. It will appeal to true believers and activists, and the heavy larding of jingoism might appeal to “the patriotic working classes”, but that’s about it.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Yes, “that’s about it”, for you Cameroons.

        That really does sum it up, for and about you.

  • Hello

    What you have to understand is that Farage knows that he can’t really muster any more support for UKIP. What he has to do is to try and hold the current support as much as possible. A technical speech like this might give the illusion that he at least knows what he’s talking about, and it’s really quite difficult to find an attack angle on. You’ve gone for “Boring UKIP”, but maybe “boring” is exactly what UKIP need in order to retain their vote share and slowly shift into a more mature political party. They need to be pushed back into controversy.

    • AnotherDaveB

      YouGov recently predicted UKIP would get 30% at next year’s EU elections. That would be ‘more support’ than they currently have.

      I doubt Mr Farage knows how much support UKIP can gain. Nor do Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg, or Mr Miliband: that’s why they’re so frightened of UKIP.

      • Makroon

        Partly as a result of the UKIP surge, Euro-elections are seen as an irrelevant farce by much of the electorate. I think it might be an extremely low turnout with UKIP doing well. Which will tell us precisely nothing.

        • Colonel Mustard

          “Euro-elections are seen as an irrelevant farce by much of the electorate.”

          I couldn’t find the polling for that conclusion. Could you please provide a link?

          • Makroon

            Well, colonel, you could try studying the turnout at the famous party-list, Euro elections, or the list of numpties and misfits (for all parties), who manage to get “appointed”.
            But as a UKIP leaning chap, I’m sure you know that ?

        • AnotherDaveB

          There will be local elections at the same time. Those will elect councillors. Clusters of UKIP councillors will suggest constituencies for UKIP to target in 2015.

    • rtj1211

      I think he can muster 40% meself. Maybe 45% if he’s lucky.

  • Alex

    Er, yes, Fraser; he isn’t as slick, powdered and carefully calibrated as the 3 other main leaders. He isn’t a political-class clone.

    What you don’t get is, that’s the point of UKIP. That’s why people support them.

    • HookesLaw

      Not slick? Who are you trying to kid?

      • Hexhamgeezer

        Not slick, not oily. Unlike Mr Shiny Face.

  • fehrehtrtrtyyt

    It was a fantastic speech that showed unlike the other parties he is in touch with Britsih people

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