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Nigel Farage is just Russell Brand for old people

30 April 2014

Yes, yes, yes, some young ‘uns support UKIP. Just as a few black people do too. But come on. We all know – because the polling tells us so – that UKIP supporters are likely to be older and whiter than the average voter and, most importantly, also more certain that the whole bleedin’ country is going to the dogs. The sodding dogs, I tell you.

It isn’t.

Of course there are problems. Of course there are great injustices that need correcting. Of course there are difficult, often intractable, policy debates that resist easy answers. There always have been and always will be. Change is always alarming and always unavoidable. Stuff happens and the job of real politicians is to manage that change.

Real politicians know this. Only phoneys pretend it isn’t. Only phoneys assert that with one bound we can be free and everything – everything! – will be better. Our glorious future will be assured if only we muster the nerve to rid ourselves of the scum who, though purporting to lead this great country, have betrayed it.

Nigel Farage is a phoney. There is a simple solution to everything that ails the United Kingdom: leave the European Union and, to all intents and purposes, close our borders. Then we shall enjoy a new Golden Age.

It is an illusion wrapped in a lie inside a fraud. No such solution presents itself. In the unlikely event Mr Farage got his way almost every problem this country faces would remain intact – and remain as impervious to simple solution.

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His politics are not really about the EU anyway. It is a useful front, a tool to be exploited by UKIP and its fellow-travellers. Their real beef is with Britain itself and, significantly, with politics too. Britain doesn’t look like it did (this is bad) and she is led by trimmers and hypocrites and an out-of-touch elite who neither understand the facts of life nor care to learn them.

Poppycock, of course, but the kind of cheap populism that proves powerful in an age in which class and party loyalty is fraying. It remains the case, however, that MPs know more about the realities of life than is commonly supposed. They, not the golf club bore, actually have to try and improve their constituents’ lives. Their mailbag is a constant source of woe (when it’s not deluged by cranks and crackpots, that is) that gives MPs a better insight into the struggles of life on the margins of society than is generally appreciated.

Of course there are some lazy MPs and some who are dimwits and some others who are evidently self-serving shysters. But most MPs are not actually like that. They do a difficult job to the best of their ability and without much thanks. Which is fine. But also worth remembering.

Farage takes advantage of your cynicism and seeks to exploit it for his own ends. (Though he’s not brave enough to put himself before the people in an election that might actually matter.) Your cynicism is nothing compared to his, mind you. Your country has been stolen from you, he suggests, and a purge of our decadent political class is long overdue.

In this respect he’s just a tweed-clad Russell Brand. Brand, after all, says that:

Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites.

This is bollocks on stilts but perhaps its most objectionable element is this “like most people” bit. A lazy assertion of unearned superiority and a sweeping claim to illusory popularity. Cheap and cynical in equal measure and neither different in kind or degree to the sort of stuff we endure from Mr Farage and his sympathisers.

It is a kind of pose – and a vainglorious pose at that. A piece of sneering hoodwinkery peddled by a brace of charlatans who, whatever their apparent differences, have much more in common than you might initially think. Fine for getting on Newsnight but neither the sort of thing that wins elections that actually matter nor a useful platform for the messy, difficult, complex business of actual government.

Even pensioners can be adolescents and anti-politics is no replacement for actual politics.

So three loud cheers for Janan Ganesh who concludes his latest column in the Financial Times with thunderous common sense:

Instead of smearing themselves with tar and feathers, mainstream politicians should remind populists that they do the hard work of politics: representing constituents, reconciling competing claims and taking an interest in dry corners of legislation that affect people’s lives. Most politics is necessary drudgery. Seen from this angle, the “elite” are the people who get their hands dirty. And populists who damn the whole spectacle from cosy sidelines are the truly decadent ones.

That’s some proper straight-talking. Don’t expect it to catch on.

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Show comments
  • Andrew Morton

    Odd how all this dreary government stuff so often results in its participants becoming millionaires

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  • digitaltoast

    Oh dear, where to even start…

    > “..come on. We all know – because the polling tells us so – that UKIP supporters are likely to be older and whiter than the average voter.”

    And Labour supporters are likely to be leftier, Tory supporters are more likely to be more Conservative, and LibDem supporters… well, anyway, so what? Different parties appeal to different people. That’s why there’s more than one of them. It’s called democracy.

    And do you have ANYTHING to backup the “older and whiter than the average voter” claim? What age and colour is “the average voter”?

    Your suggestion implies that, given current UK population demographics of people of voting age, the average “voter of colour” is at least 20 times more likely to vote than “white” voters. Numbers and a link, please!

    > “Nigel Farage is a phoney. There is a simple solution to everything that ails the United Kingdom: leave the European Union and, to all intents and purposes, close our borders. Then we shall enjoy a new Golden Age.”

    Can you point me to anything that even gives the remotest hint that Farage wants to “close our borders”? If you actually bothered to read or listen, you’d find that was actually just something you’d made up in your head.

    > “A lazy assertion of unearned superiority and a sweeping claim to illusory popularity, cheap and cynical in equal measure”.

    Yup, I’d say that was a fair summary of the rest of this article.

  • weescamp

    Actually, the whole bleedin country is going to the dogs but not for any of the reasons UKIP think it is.

  • Your Correspondent

    You chaps can attack UKIP as much as you like, the fact is the Tories are on course to lose yet another general election and it is all Dave’s fault not Nigel’s. It was Dave and Gideon who came up with the bright idea of moving the Tory party to the left, thereby creating political space for a new conservative movement on the right. Incredible but true. Who can we ask to lead the Tory party next? Russell Brand?

  • pobinr

    Our unelected Emperor Herman Van Rompuy appears to be doing his best to start WWIII >

    • Bill_der_Berg

      Who was it who said that the EU is the political arm of NATO?

  • Richard Martin

    I don’t know why the Spectator employs Alex Massie. He’s rubbish.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …he may just fit right in?

  • Denis_Cooper

    On present poll ratings the Tories stand to lose maybe a third of the seats in the EU Parliament that they won in 2009, so it’s easy to see why they’re in a bit of a panic.

    Why has their support collapsed from 28% in 2009 to 18% now?

    Because last time they went into these elections with a manifesto promise that they would do something about the Lisbon Treaty even if it had come into force; indeed just before the elections Cameron set off a rumour that he would put the treaty to the promised referendum even if it had come into force.

    This is from May 29th 2009:

    “But surely in a speech which was about the importance of honesty and transparency for politicians, Mr Cameron would not have been less than
    straightforward? Whether he meant it or not it is now on the record: in
    government the Conservatives will hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, no
    ifs, no buts.”

    And then afterwards on November 4th 2009 Cameron announced that in fact he
    did not intend to do anything at all about the Lisbon Treaty, except swallow it
    whole as a fait accompli; so why should we believe anything that he says

    • Steve Cheney

      “On present poll ratings the Tories stand to lose maybe a third of the seats in the EU Parliament that they won in 2009, so it’s easy to see why they’re in a bit of a panic.

      “Why has their support collapsed from 28% in 2009 to 18% now?”

      My guess is, because lots of Tory voters moved over to UKIP because there’s not a huge amount of difference between the two parties.

      It does rather muddy the claim that UKIP are attracting people from all parties though, doesn’t it.

      • Denis_Cooper

        That depends on what you mean by “are”.

        It’s perfectly clear that UKIP started out by attracting people away from the Tory party and mainly in the southern half of England.

        It’s also pretty clear that the gains in support that it enjoyed up to the summer of 2012, from about 3% to about 7%, were largely at the expense of the Tory party.

        But it’s also pretty clear that since then the appeal of UKIP has spread across the political spectrum, and the last doubling of its support has been at the expense of the Tories and Labour to comparable extents.

        The Tories are never going to get most of those erstwhile supporters back, and nor is Labour.

        • Steve Cheney

          I disagree. I would say that the bulk of UKIP’s protest voters come from the Tory party.

          As you point out, many switched over in 2012; what you don’t mention is why. Many Tory defectors were angry about Cameron’s support for same-sex marriage, and flocked to the only party that opposed it as a matter of policy.

          Now that it’s been legalised, people have quite sensibly accepted that the arguments against were all bonkers and, more importantly, that it is no longer change to oppose, but change that has happened.

          Someone said of the opposition to marriage equality that they have no idea how quickly they will cease to care about the issue once it’s legal, and that seems to have been born out. Even the majority of UKIP voters now support same-sex marriage.

          • Denis_Cooper

            Whatever the reasons, there is no question that cumulatively the rise of UKIP has hurt the Tories much more than it has Labour or the LibDems, because until the summer of 2012 it was very largely appealing to people of a rightish political disposition. However since then it has extended its appeal to people of a leftish political disposition, and it has been doing little more additional damage to the Tories than the damage it has been doing to Labour. That is why the overall trend over what is now getting on for two years has been for support for both the Tories and Labour to decline as support for UKIP has risen, so that Labour’s lead over the Tories for the next general election has not actually increased as support for UKIP has risen, as would be expected if UKIP was still only pulling people away from the Tories. In fact my estimate is that even if UKIP were to completely disappear from the political scene before the next general election there would only be a small net benefit for the Tory party vis-à-vis Labour, maybe 2%. The 3% who voted UKIP at the last general election are very unlikely to ever return to the Tories; the last 7% or so has been made up of a mixture, and even if they reverted to supporting their previous parties there would be roughly equal numbers of people reverting to Labour and to the Tories who would cancel each other out; so the Tories could only hope to get a net benefit by recovering some of the 4% or so who switched to UKIP between the general election and the summer of 2012, and many of those would not now be recoverable .

  • Spectre

    Delusional tosh. The political establishment (the dominant organs of the media, the ‘mainstream’ parties, etc.) are reviled, and with good reason. The only thing holding the status quo together is a lack of choice: people vote tactically because they don’t see a viable alternative; they think that if they vote for ‘x’ they’ll split the vote and let ‘y’ in, so instead they vote for ‘z’. UKIP may be about to change all this. Regardless of your politics, this is a good thing for democracy.

  • hannathegreat

    Not convinced, sorry. Ultimately this is just working within a certain paradigm. That namely, the system as it stands is unflawed, realistic and that life and politics are so messy and difficult that only politicians can be trusted to do it.

    Notwithstanding the premise that UKIP’s solution is simple, their extraordinary rise is the result of a wider malaise. The whole notion of politicians running other people’s lives for them in a removed manner because ‘they know best’ is coming under question to a degree you guys haven’t quite grasped yet. The ‘system’ only works as long as a majority of people believe that the threat from that system dismantling is greater than the system staying intact. People don’t believe that anymore. New ways of communicating, grassroots politics and technological advancement are proving that there are so many other ways of organising society that are more efficient and more beneficial for the people.

    Top-heavy governance tends not to work as no group of politicians can successfully predict the actions of individuals.Only individuals themselves can do that and for those closest to them. We need to bring politics home, to our neighbourhoods, to our communities. Only then will you stem the revolutionary tide. This is because short of shutting down the internet, people will continue to demand more and more autonomy and faster solutions – politics as it stands cannot offer that. As the baby boomers die off we’ll see the last of their dinosaur views die with them. Do you honestly think an 18 year old today would endorse this system going forward into middle age, when they become more politically aware? They won’t. Politics in its current form will be anathema to them. Change is coming and it can’t be stopped – I suggest you and your journalist brethren adapt.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      They cannot adapt, as it will cost them. They are part and parcel of this stultified establishment governance. When it goes, they will, too.

  • Shorne

    The recent description of the UKIP claque’s reaction to any opposition as like ‘being shouted at by golf club bar room bores’ becomes more accurate with each passing day.
    The thing is though that after the morning after May elections which UKIP will probably ‘win’ the country won’t suddenly have reverted back to 1950…who can name their MEP anyway.
    As for local councils the UKIP led ones will probably make such a mess of things that the ongoing prediction for a Labour majority of 40+ will be proved to be accurate and in the long run it is the General Election that really counts.
    Also a poll by YouGov shows that a slim majority of the population want to remain in the EU anyway,
    ‘YouGov said its poll of 3,195 adults, carried out on March 9 and 10,[2014] found 41 percent would vote for Britain to remain a member of the EU, while 39 percent would choose to leave.
    This was the first time the “in” vote had overtaken the “out” ‘

    • Wessex Man

      Type in Lib/dem Councillors, Tory councllors, Labour Councillors convicted and goggle in the last two years to see just how good rthey are, watch out for the bombes in Denbigh though!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Shorne

        ‘goggle’ in this context?
        ‘bombes’? what have frozen desserts got to do with it? Unless you mean the device invented at Bletchley Park.
        ‘rthey’? beats me
        Your use of exclamation marks confirms what I said about shouting.

  • The Blue Baron

    As someone who has gotten extremely bored with this blizzard of anti-UKIP articles and briefings I have to say this is one of the better ones. It actually makes an argument rather than making unfounded accusations of bigotry and racism.

  • Davidgw

    If this is true, then perhaps it´s because older people are wiser, with more world experience than somebody as inexperienced in life as you.

  • oscargracie

    Brand’s now offering more examples of his extraordinary conceit by showing us lazy, hoodwinked simpletons “the truth behind the headlines” on YouTube. It’s sickening, of course, though perhaps not for people who think conspiracy-theorizing and truth telling are essentially the same thing.

  • oscargracie

    Brilliant critique of Brand and other banal minded, pseudo-socialist obscurantists.

  • Gazcon

    Two thirds of Londoners are under 44.

    Com Res Euro polling by region – London: Ukip 40%, Lab 28%, Con 14%, LD 11%

    Either literally everyone over 44 in London is planning to vote UKIP, or Mr Massive needs a rethink.

    He may also want to rethink this gem, which he no doubt polished to a shine and sat back and admired:

    ‘It is an illusion wrapped in a lie inside a fraud’

    Hiding a lie or fraud with an illusion I can understand, but the other way around?

    The rest of the article is equally out of whack and I’ll conceived. Must do better Mr Massive.

    Aged 38 and three quartets (as these things seem to matter)

  • Garth Jenkins

    Alex Massie is just Nick Cohen for the torpid.

  • country_exile

    The Political Class is distinguished from earlier governing elites by a lack of experience of and connection with other ways of life. Its members make government their exclusive study. This means they tend not to have significant knowledge of industry, commerce, or civil society, meaning their outlook is often metropolitan and London-based. This converts them into a separate, privileged elite, isolated from the aspirations and the problems of provincial, rural and suburban Britain.

    Peter Oborne,

    You are the one talking ‘bollocks on stilts’ Mr Massie.

  • Doggie Roussel

    Massie… have you considered ECT ?

  • terence patrick hewett

    I think the funniest comment today is over at the Commentator:

    “The hounds aren’t working …….. Release the Kraken!”

    “Don’t worry Polly Toynbee’s on the case already!”

  • Jesus Actionfigure

    > “the job of real politicians is to manage”

    Wrong – the job is not to manage, manipulate or “nudge”, but to represent. Lack of representation is the frustration on which the likes of UKIP may be able to capitalise.

  • Bill Kendall

    Nigel Farrage can’t make us leave the EU, but he is offering us the chance to make up our own minds about being in or out, just like the lying LibLabCon promised, all these media led anti UKIP articles want is to stop us having that choice.

    • Steve Cheney

      The Tories are promising a referendum after the 2015 election – assuming they stay in power.

      UKIP have not supported a referendum on the EU. They just want us to leave.

      Polls are taken on this subject frequently, and support for remaining in the EU has risen over the past few years.

      This could be for any number of reasons, but I think perhaps UKIP has been a big part of it.

      • Penny

        The problem is, Steve, that the three main parties have over-played the gimmicky stuff : “New” Labour, “Big Society” ( to say nothing of hug-a-hoodie-snuggle-up-to-a-huskie stuff). It’s OK to define your party once or twice by a catchy-sounding ethos thing, but the gimmicks have just gone on and on. The point where trust meets cynicism has narrowed and unfortunately appears to have led to doubting Cameron’s word. His recent “I’ll resign” stuff is a somehow negative and yet egotistical at the same time. Frankly, I doubt many people care about his future career prospects. Why should they be impressed by such a daft threat?

        Polls on the EU are not necessarily indicators of anything much. Largely because the vast majority of people know very little about the EU – it’s almost impenetrable – and because chunks of the public are disengaged with politics. If they can’t name their local MP’s how much do you think they know, or care, about the EU? I’ve a friend who’s pro-EU but when asked, didn’t really have a clue why. She’d been influenced by the notion that anything other than support was somehow lacking in modernity and placed her in some kind of out-group.

        Farage isn’t yet in Westminster so I think we’re still looking at a referendum rather than an absolute “out”. In the lead up to a referendum there is bound to be more debate and discussion, which in turn would lead to better informed choices.

        • Steve Cheney

          To be fair, I can’t really comment on what David Cameron’s been up to recently, as I’d kind of forgotten he existed.

          I agree that people know very little about the EU – unfortunately, we probably diverge on this: you think that’s why they fail to support leaving it; I think it’s why they are so susceptible to misinformation about it. This isn’t even a dig at Farage; before him, the Murdoch/Dacre press had spent the past few decades making stuff up about it. If anyone believed even a tenth of that stuff, they’d be forgiven for thinking the EU is some kind of gigantic shapeshifting Mathmos creature that eats people’s thoughts; similarly, if UKIP supporters believe what they say about the EU, I don’t blame them for wanting to leave, but I do question why they are so ready to believe it.

          I’m not sure Farage will ever be in Westminster. He’s an MEP, so he’d have to resign, and he’s not going to do that unless UKIP get enough MPs for him not to look silly.

          More discussion and debate on the EU would be a good thing, but it really *really* needs to be real-time fact-checked. Farage was able to ride high throughout his televised debates with Clegg (who I hate, don’t get me wrong) on the back of an argument whose lynchpin statistic has turned out to be completely bogus (see link below); yet he “won” because this fact wasn’t established and the debate trundled on. Informed debate is valuable, but debate for the sake of the cameras is toxic – it involves playing to what people know already, rather than with the intention to inform.


          “What Ms Reding said (82 mins in) was: “For what should they vote, they do not know. They for instance do not know that the most powerful parliament in Europe, is the European Parliament… Why? Because the European Parliament is co-decider with the member states on European laws. And European laws are integrated into national laws in the member states. So 70% of the laws in this country are made, co-decided, by the European Parliament”.

          “We contacted Ms Reding’s press office to find out what source she was basing this on. In fact, the percentage was actually referring to something entirely different – where the European Parliament (consisting of elected representatives for each EU country) has an equal say to the European Council (made up of the governments of all EU countries) on EU laws, not UK laws.”

          • Penny

            I went to the link you provided Steve, but, being the pedant that I am (comes from my professional background) I’m not sure I understand what is meant by “laws”. What I took from Farage’s comment during that debate was not that the EU set 70% of our domestic law and so determines whether a drink-driver should get a custodial sentence versus a suspension; or whether we must drive at 20mph / 70mph along certain roads. I took it to mean a hodge-podge comprising – at the lower end of the scale – actual *law* (as per my meaning above) rising to the upper end comprising *directives*. That was my impression so perhaps we (by which I mean a generic “we”) should define terms and know what it is we’re actually talking about! It may mean that these directives impact on us lightly and beneficially or that they do indeed dictate more than is appropriate for a sovereign state, but if we don’t know what we mean by “law”, don’t know which of them come from Brussels and how they impact on us, then we descend into muddle.

            Just to be clear, in recent days I’ve had all manner of polls and percentages cited. I think you would agree that evidence is only viable if it shows some consistency from one poll to another. And as per my response elsewhere on this thread, quoting a percentage doesn’t do much for me unless a) it’s a matter of a definitive response (i.e. “in” or “out”) or b) if it comprises more than that, being able to access some of the data set.

            Some of my fellow respondants offer up a percentage to show evidence for more wanting in than out of the EU (the link I asked for failed to materialise). I consider myself to be pretty up to speed on politics and current affairs and I read quite widely. But I don’t know enough to state categorically that I want “in” or “out” because the EU is just too vast a subject and its treaties somewhat impenetrable for me to say that, if put to the vote tomorrow, I’d know all I needed to know. Am I a minority? Do the 40% cited (in one instance) really know so much about the EU? It’s possible of course, but I have friends involved in either local politics or who are activists, but they don’t seem to be overflowing with knowledge. Some tend to say “in” or “out” because it’s the party line.

            • Steve Cheney

              I’ll admit, I’m not 100% clear on precisely what is meant in the Viviane Reding quote; however, I do believe her when she says that the British media and Mr Farage have completely misinterpreted (and I think she’s giving them the benefit of a doubt there) what she said. Sure, Farage could have just gone with the tabloids’ interpretation and not checked to see if it was actually true but… wait, hang on, isn’t that kind of fact-checking what he and his fellow MEPs get paid a cock-ton of public money to do?

              As always, we find ourselves in the position of knowing that he either lied, or was too lazy to check, but not knowing which. (It’s like Blair and the dodgy dossier all over again!)

              Either way, he was quoting her – invoking her position to give his words authority in an “see, even the EU admits it!!!!!!” way. While we may not know the exact figure, we can be sure that Farage’s source was talking about something else completely. If Farage was referring to “a hodge podge of laws”, I don’t think he made that clear at all; I saw no ambiguity in anything that he said. Interestingly, though, a video called “FACTS” which featured a clip of Ms Reding edited to look like she was agreeing with the misinterpreted version of her quote, has conspicuously disappeared from UKIP’s YouTube channel.

              “I don’t know enough to state categorically that I want “in” or “out” because the EU is just too vast a subject and its treaties somewhat impenetrable for me to say that, if put to the vote tomorrow, I’d know all I needed to know. Am I a minority? Do the 40% cited (in one instance) really know so much about the EU?”

              I will say firstly that you are far better person for admitting you don’t know than those who form a strong opinion on the issue and attack anyone who doesn’t share it, regardless of whether they have absolute knowledge of the subject!

              To answer your questions though: it shouldn’t matter whether you’re in a minority or not; your opinion is your own and while I guess there’s an element of “if everyone’s telling you you’re drunk, it’s time to lie down”, on this issue, there has always been a broad split. My experience has been that those who want to leave the EU *really* want to leave, whereas those who want to stay aren’t as invested or obsessed with the issue; but that’s purely anecdotal. Similarly anecdotally, I have found that a lot of people who want to leave will insist that the majority is with them, either because they just assume they would be, or based on the “lots of people want a referendum so they’re bound to agree with me” line of reasoning. I wouldn’t mind a referendum if it would stop people whining about it – but I think probably it won’t.

              Like you though, I am more aware that I don’t know enough to hold a strong opinion than I am certain of what my opinion is. Based on what I do know, I’d rather stay in. My position is that the EU broadly protects employee rights that our present government has been undermining at every opportunity, and if we left the EU tomorrow I wouldn’t expect them to reinstate those rights. When you have people in the DWP trying to force people to work for nothing, for longer than the maximum community service sentence, when their only crime is not having found a job yet… well, I’m not going to trust them for a second. (Relatedly, while I don’t know the full details, the EU appears to have done us a solid recently by ruling that George Osborne can’t block a proposed “Robin Hood” tax that he – being a Tory – really hates. But don’t take my word for this) I also tend to trust the employers and manufacturers who say “please don’t take us out of the EU, it really will affect us badly” over those who claim that it won’t affect businesses from a position of… being a professional politician, usually.

              Lastly, I think it’s worth pointing out that when we start thinking in terms like “what if 40% of people are wrong” or “you can’t say 1 in 3 people are idiots” or whatever, we’re getting into difficult territory. For example, right now, give or take a few percent, about a third of people polled support UKIP in the Euro elections, and about a third of people polled think that UKIP is a racist party. Arguably, anyone who said “a third of people can’t be wrong about UKIP” would then be giving both groups equal authority. Similarly, when UKIP’s vote share is bandied around, the share of people who aren’t voting for them is usually ignored; this is kind of a big deal when someone talks about “the Lib/Lab/Con” as if they can be grouped together – since that group would be immense and hold far more of the vote. Personally, I don’t see any point in grouping them – the people who vote for those parties certainly don’t agree that they’re all the same, and acting like they are is just going to annoy them.

              Bit of a tangent, but the general point is that the main reason I *don’t* support an EU referendum is that I think most people, like us, don’t know enough to form a solid opinion; so we either vote not knowing what we’re voting for, or leave the referendum to people who DO have a strong opinion, which may be just as ignorant as ours but more certain regardless. I also don’t think it helps that, for most of my life, the Murdoch tabloids in particular have been printing complete garbage about the EU – just made-up stuff that can easily be debunked. There are reasons for this that have to do with Murdoch really hating the print unions and holding a bit of a grudge, among other things. But in general, it is why I find claims about the “MSM” being pro-EU/anti-UKIP a bit strange; Murdoch owns half of them and has always been anti-EU, so it seems kind of unlikely that he’d suddenly change.

              • Penny

                If you don’t mind me saying so, Steve, it is quite curious that you believe Reding but not Farage. I won’t ask why that is, but it does suggest a little confirmation bias. Which I can understand because you are clearly supportive of the EU and we all tend towards attaching to our preferred outcome.

                Still and all – let’s wait for the facts to emerge. As they surely will because Farage has made a claim that he will have to substantiate – in the same way that Clegg will have to with his claim of 3 million jobs being lost. Not forgetting his claim of his % laws made in Brussels which was pulled apart the following day. If neither are right then it may not show that they are out-and-out liars. Perhaps the whole thing is riddled with interpretation of the word “law”. Or perhaps there is something genuinely impenetrable about this. The Greek affair was a matter of deliberately fudged figures so I guess it’s possible.

                I think there are different reasons for being wary of the EU and for wanting out. My tentative reasons – because currently (and in the absence of commentary due to the “let’s smear Farage” campaign taking up so much time) I incline towards “out” but am open to persuasion – are going to be different from those of a small businessman who may be being hamstrung by directives.They will be different still from someone living in an area of high immigration whose services are being adversely affected. or by people in fuel poverty.

                I think a compelling reason – based on the principle of democracy – is that the people were never told that they were voting for a political union. And, to be fair, I’ve no idea why we need a political union in order to trade. It may not be a compelling reason to you, but democracy matters to me. What started as a common market morphed into passports, flags, anthems and now birth certificates are being spoken of. And that’s not even taking into account the “laws” (whatever that might mean).

                The silly stuff being touted by Richard Branson as good reasons to say in -i.e. you can travel / reside / work / set up business more easily is just a patronising nonsense. I travelled around Europe before the whole set of EU laws came into existence. I lived in Germany for over 2 years without the EU’s say-so.It really wasn’t difficult. The work thing is not exactly the revolving door it’s made out to be. English is the most commonly taught language in Europe which enables fairly rapid entry to the UK and increased fiscal prospects. The same is probably not true for Brits who, if they even studied a language to a proficient level, are probably limited to a few countries in terms of language and opportunity both. I would also be willing to bet that the average Brit is not chomping at the bit (or even able) to set up a business in, say, Hungary. The “pro” arguments need to raise their game a level up from this!

                I realise I’m speaking of the Eurozone, but I was alarmed when a democratically elected government was shoved out. Even more alarmed by the pro-EU folk I knew – all liberal minded – who could excuse this. Ditto the people of Cyprus being unable to access their own money for days until a percentage of it had been hived off by the EU-zone.

                Overall, I am wary of power being concentrated in one big political union. There is no guarantee that it will remain forever benign. History shows us that it is entirely possible for an ideology to arise and turn on a minority.

                These are basic reasons and having written so much, and the time ticking on, I’ll leave it at those basics for tonight! There’s more but ……!

                • Steve Cheney

                  (gonna just cover a little of this because I need sleep).

                  I believe Reding because

                  1) She has no real reason to lie.

                  2) While what she said was initially unclear, her explanation of what she actually meant makes more sense than the alternative.

                  3) If it’s a choice between what someone says they meant, and what the someone else says they meant, I tend to trust them to know their own opinions better than the someone else.

                  4) The misinterpretation of what she said is kind of silly, and there doesn’t seem to be any other evidence being used to support it by anybody.

                  I think this is enough to say that she was right – or at least, that she is right as far as she is aware. It was never suggested that she said this as a big secret or anything – it was part of a speech in support of the EU. That is kind of important, because Farage wasn’t citing statistical data; he was citing her quote. Her quote contained reference to statistical data, but that data didn’t relate to what Farage claimed it did.

                  So really, what is in question is whether Farage believed the quote, or whether he didn’t but used it anyway. And it’s a tough call, because on the one hand, Farage is an MEP, he spends time in the EU and is part of the EU parliamentary system, so you would think he would have sufficient knowledge to know whether a claim like that was plausible; and he’s a politician with a staff who could check it for him if he wasn’t sure. On the other hand, by all accounts he doesn’t bother much with his MEPing job, so it’s possible he genuinely doesn’t know that much about it.

                  But it’s kind of a moot point though. Whether he put out misinformation through ignorance or a desire to deceive, he still did it, and he’s yet to retract it publicly or apologise for misleading people. I’d prefer that he didn’t because he’s had way too much airtime already, but still, some acknowledgement that the quote and statistic weren’t what he said they were – and that the person who said it has said so – would be nice.

                • Stigenace

                  The way Reding’s claim was reported, whether wilfully misunderstood or her failure to express herself clearly, was spoken to impress on her audience how important the EU Parliament elections are. She wants a higher turnout and higher public engagement in the process of electing an EU Parliament, so she clearly wanted to give the impression that the EU and it’s Parliament are important law making bodies and not some dull sideshow of bureaucrats talking shop.

                • Steve Cheney

                  That sounds basically accurate.

                  What is undoubtedly true is that Farage’s interpretation of the quote – as an admission that Brussels dictates the majority of the UK’s laws – is completely erroneous. While you can argue that what she said was unclear and I wouldn’t dispute it, I feel that firstly, it would have been clear from the context that, whatever she meant, she definitely didn’t mean that; and secondly, that it would have made sense for a politician – particularly one who wants to present himself as different from the ones we are so frustrated with – to actually clarify what she meant, since that’s exactly the sort of thing we pay him for.

                  So yes, it is fair to say that the original quote was ambiguous. However, Farage’s interpretation of it conveyed no sense of ambiguity – as far as he was concerned, she was quite emphatic in saying something which, we now know, she didn’t say, didn’t mean, and does not believe to be true at all.

          • mightymark

            “…..yet he “won” because this fact wasn’t established and the debate trundled on.”

            He “won” Steve, because that idiot Dimbleby decided not to let it “get bogged down in detail” and it is precisely in the detail that UKIP types are unmasked as the frauds they are – as your final paras show very well.

            • Bill_der_Berg

              Why is nobody defending Clegg’s figure of 7%?

              • Steve Cheney

                Because it’s a completely different issue.

                Clegg cited a source which was actually saying what he said it was saying. Other sources might differ, and IIRC his source does warn that it may be an underestimate, but it is still far less dishonest than to cite a source and claim it said something that’s completely different from what she actually said.

                • Bill_der_Berg

                  Clegg asserted that only 7% of our legislation originated in the EU. He was wrong and must have known that he was wrong, unless he does not know what ‘legislation’ means.

                  He was also wrong in his claim that I out of every 7 new businesses are started by people born overseas, but there he was misled by the FT.

                  As for his claim that 3 million jobs would disappear if we left the £U, the least said the better.

                  Nigel Farage quoted Ms Reding’s figures in good faith. If the lady had intended to say something else entirely, he was not tp know.

            • Steve Cheney

              Yes, and wasn’t that just a testament to the calibre of that “debate’? How can referring to facts and disputing lies be called “getting bogged down in detail” by a supposedly serious person?

              Don’t get me wrong: Farage is still the guilty party for lying, but it’s pretty disgraceful if the chairman of a debate feels that he cannot risk boring people by finding out something a trivial as whether the lynchpin of someone’s argument is actually true or not. And it would have taken, what, five minutes, tops? It’s not like they’d have to stop the debate while Google loads up – and indeed, it would have been quite funny to see a politician called out on a bogus claim after he’s spent five minutes making more and more claims based upon it.

              Really, any debate that isn’t going to be fact-checked is pointless. It’s a big part of the reason that I think most people who weren’t huge Farage fans didn’t bother watching.

          • Bill_der_Berg

            That’s very confusing. If Ms Reding was talking about all EU laws, what have ‘laws in this country’ got to do with it?

            A few days after the Farage/Clegg debate, a national newspaper invited the staff House of Commons Library to comment. After pointing out that Nick Clegg’s 7% figure applied to primary legislation only (an innocent mistake by Cleggie, no doubt), they said that it was extremely difficult to come up with an accurate percentage.

            They also pointed out that where laws are concerned, percentages do not mean very much. Some laws have very far reaching effects, others are relatively trivial.

  • Lady Magdalene

    Another piece of free publicity. Nigel must be absolutely delighted.
    Leaving the EU won’t solve all our problems overnight. But it will give us the ability to solve them because we’ll be able to take decisions which are in the best interests of the UK and implement them.
    Which we can’t do whilst we remain in the EU and governed by Brussels.

  • JabbaTheCat

    The wrinklies Russell Brand…

  • Denis_Cooper

    Things would be different now if the Tories had just stuck with the pledge they made in their manifesto for the EU Parliament elections in 2009:

    “We pledge that if the Lisbon Treaty is not in force in the event of the election of a Conservative Government this year or next, we will hold a referendum on it, urge its rejection, and – if successful – reverse Britain’s ratification. And if the Constitution is already in force by then, we have made clear that in our view political integration in the EU would have gone too far, the Treaty would lack democratic legitimacy, and we would not let matters rest there.”

    But Cameron didn’t stick with that; just a few months later on November 4th 2009 he announced that he would “let matters rest there” after all, and he would swallow the Lisbon Treaty whole as a fait accompli, while trying to pretend that it didn’t even exist as a treaty any longer and so could not be put to a retrospective referendum.

    That betrayal cost the Tories a slice of support, maybe not a huge amount but probably enough to have made the difference between a hung Parliament and a Tory majority in May 2010; but then it was already becoming clear that Cameron was not at all averse to going into coalition with the LibDems, in fact he quite liked the idea.

    Having been deliberately misled by the Tories at this point five years ago it would be folly for anyone to believe anything that they say now.

  • cartimandua

    Russell Brand is a coarse talentless oaf who make me feel intensely sick. Nigel F makes me feel a little hope.

  • columbo3316

    When the next recession starts you will find out that the mainstream politicians `are a bunch of fraudsters`.They have tried to solve Britains economic problems by printing money.If a company or individual tried to solve their debt problems by counterfeiting money they would be arrested for yes fraud!
    If govts could solve their debt problems by printing money every govt in history would have done so.You never hear mainstream politicians saying this.Instead you get all 3 parties trying to create a myth that this govt has been doing serious austerity when it is a big myth.But it suits all 3 parties to maintain the myth.Greece,Ireland and Portugal have been doing `serious austerity` as well as the Iceland`s and Latvia`s
    When Britain enters the next recession it will do so with a far higher national debt than when it entered the last and with a still significant budget deficit and the social pain will be much higher than you anticipate as my guess is the national debt will have gone past the tipping point for the markets and as such the interest on Britains national debt will be raised significantly

  • Robertus Maximus

    “This is bollocks on stilts.”

    My word, what a classy journalist you are!

  • foxoles

    So why isn’t it racist when other parties talk about controlling immigration?

    • Steve Cheney

      It isn’t racist for UKIP to talk about controlling immigration. It’s racist for them to say racist things.

      Complicated stuff, I know.

      • cartimandua

        Speaking about it has been so denied people struggle to find the right words.

        • Steve Cheney

          Maybe. Still, the blame lies with those who make mature and informed discussion impossible – with racist hate-groups who hijack the issue and ensure that no one else wants to touch it for fear of being associated with them.

          Think about it: the established parties are relentlessly criticised for not engaging on this issue. It would be so much less of a headache if they did; so why don’t they?

          Don’t get me wrong: it would be better to plough ahead without those people, to shut them out and ignore their furious raging. We say we don’t want to give them ammunition, but they make their own, divorced from evidence. We should have the discussion rather than not, with no regard for how it might be perceived.

          So in one way, I find myself coming around to the anti-PC viewpoint; but in another way, I don’t want to be associated with the kind of people who normally rage against PC – i.e. the ones that are the whole reason it exists at all.

          • Bill_der_Berg

            “Still, the blame lies with those who make mature and informed discussion impossible – with racist hate-groups….”

            I have heard that time and again and remain unconvinced. The ‘antifascists’ have been trying to shut down discussion for decades.

            • Steve Cheney

              I don’t know.

              All I do know is, I very rarely see anyone called racist JUST for talking about immigration. Usually it’s either someone saying that can’t talk about immigration without being called racist (which naturally leads one to suspect that what they want to say about it might well be racist); or someone saying something racist while imagining that they were just talking about immigration (because a lot of people who are racist just think they’re being “commonsensical” or whatever).

              As with so many such subjects, we would be better off having the discussion and seeing what happens. We saw this with same-sex marriage – after years of hearing hypotheticals about how much support there was for it, we had the debate, a lot of ageing Tebbit clones aired their frankly insane views, and support for it has been skyrocketing ever since.

              Unfortunately, I think a similar debate about immigration would just be a lot of people saying “I know you’re going to try and trick me into saying something you think is racist” every five minutes, and generally acting like they aren’t free to say what they want because they know that what they *would* say would make them extremely unpopular.

              • Trofim

                I’ve been called a racist for loving the countryside. I’ve heard people called racist because they don’t like spicy food. I’ve heard people called racist for asking someone to turn down loud asian music in a hospital. You can always be called a racist for suggesting that England is densely populated. And it goes on and on. You’re certainly a racist if you don’t think Islam is the best thing since sliced bread.

                • Steve Cheney

                  I don’t believe that any of those examples are true.

                  I am sure you believe the last one to be true though.

                • Trofim

                  Cheeky sod. All absolutely true. It’s no secret that the countryside is virtually 99.99% white. I’m from Worcestershire, and it’s full of white flight from the south-east and Brum. I worked many years in psychiatric care in Brum, and not liking spicy food is a distinct indicator to the ethnic minority workers I worked with. Spicy food = curry. If you don’t like curry, then obviously, in the paranoid left mindset you don’t like asians. I was told “So you’re a racist, then” by a white SWP colleague when I mentioned how I was hoping to get back to my home village. Another sure-fire indicator of racism in the feverish lefty mind is liking classical music. This raises eyebrows at the very least, and a love of Elgar (I was born a mile from his birthplace) just says clearly to a lefty that you were born waving a St George’s flag as you left the womb.

              • Bill_der_Berg

                There is no objection to discussing immigration in glowing terms; it’s the critics who get called racist. After all, who but a racist would want to argue against immigration.

                It’s not that the subject has never been discussed. The BBC broadcast a debate many years ago. It sticks in my mind because of an amusing incident where the ‘independent expert’ (an academic) refused point blank to answer a question. It was clear that he thought the answer would not be helpful to the pro-immigration case. The reason he gave was ‘It’s not relevant’.

                One of the panel put it to him that a professor should be able to answer the question. He said that he was not a professor’. ‘Thank God for that’ came the reply.

                • Steve Cheney

                  “After all, who but a racist would want to argue against immigration.”

                  Um… the Labour Party? I mean, they did, back in the day. They pretty much stopped when it became obvious that any debate about immigration was going to flow seamlessly into the far-right raving about “repatriation” for non-white people – and you only have to saunter over to the Telegraph comments sections to see that that fear is entirely justified. Given the choice between giving tacit support to those people, and not opposing immigration, I think they made the right choice; and of course, pretty soon after that, lots of Brits started taking advantage of free movement because of unemployment in the UK, so the argument would have looked a bit silly.

                  I’m going to be boring and say that your anecdote doesn’t really support or oppose my position either way unless you can tell me what the question is – because obviously if it WAS relevant, the meaning is very different from it is wasn’t.

                  “With regard to your last paragraph, I do not see why the views of anti-immigrationists should be regarded as extremely unpopular. Have you seen the results of opinion polls on attitudes to immigration?”

                  You misunderstand: I am referring to views that they might express in the course of arguing against immigration, not views against immigration itself. I’m circling around the fact that a lot of people who are anti-immigration *are* quite racist in their views about foreigners.

                  So, for example, if someone argues “there are economic disadvantages to free movement of labour” – that’s not racist; if someone argues “there are economic disadvantages to free movement of labour, and anyway, they’re all lazy and want to claim our benefits” – that’s at least dodgy, and probably racist, in that it assumes something about a whole race of people which, hopefully, we wouldn’t believe about our own.

                  My point is that, quite often, when people make their case against immigration, they struggle to keep their negative views about foreigners to themselves… unless they don’t have those views, in which case, they don’t struggle at all and can make their case without raising any eyebrows.

                • Bill_der_Berg

                  “Given the choice between giving tacit support to those people, and not opposing immigration, I think they made the right choice”.

                  Is that how the Labour Party decides its policies? How frivolous of them.

                  “So, for example, if someone argues “there are economic disadvantages to free movement of labour” – that’s not racist;”

                  True. Nevertheless, discussions about immigration controls can be guaranteed to provoke accusations of racism.

                  The BBC debate was a long time ago and I have forgotten most of the details. I think that the question was about immigration controls in certain other countries. You will struggle to decide if it was relevant to a debate you did not hear. The Chairman thought it was.

                • Steve Cheney

                  “Is that how the Labour Party decides its policies? How frivolous of them.”

                  I have to admit, in light of the way that the EDL swarmed all over the attempt to downplay a few crimes involving Muslims, it is obviously misguided. Trying to second-guess bigotry and avoid giving it “ammunition” doesn’t work – if you don’t give it to them they just make their own. So it makes more sense to treat racism and xenophobia as a constant and focus on people who actually care about arguments and evidence.

                  But hey, lessons are being learned, that’s the important thing.

                  “True. Nevertheless, discussions about immigration controls can be guaranteed to provoke accusations of racism.”

                  I’m sure any discussion of anything will provoke a few. This does not change the fact that, with some rhetoric on immigration – such as Farage’s claims about Romanians and “criminal gangs” – it is completely justified.

          • cartimandua

            That sounds like someone telling an abused woman if “only she had asked him to stop nicely enough”.
            You cannot debate or discuss with people who operate in a tautology. They have internal logic.
            You just have to isolate the poison as much as possible or
            chuck them out.
            Good Lord a Dutch MP was not allowed to talk to the Lords and yet racist misogynist Islamist thugs are allowed to claim
            “free speech”.
            It really wasn’t likely that an aging peer was going to commit acts of violence.

            • Steve Cheney

              “Good Lord a Dutch MP was not allowed to talk to the Lords and yet racist misogynist Islamist thugs are allowed to claim “free speech”. ”

              I’m not sure of the contradiction here. Freedom of speech and invitation to speak at the House of Lords are not interchangeable. Unless you are claiming that racist misogynist Islamist thugs *were* invited to speak at the House of Lords, it seems like a false equivalence.

              While mad old bigots like Roger Helmer still have freedom of speech, I think it would be a stretch to claim that the white right-wing doesn’t enjoy just as much freedom of speech as any Islamist.

              • cartimandua

                Hate preachers ARE allowed to speak yet a Dutch MP was not.

                • Steve Cheney

                  …right, but I just want to be clear: you are saying that hate preachers were free to speak in the House Of Lords? Or just anywhere in the country?

                  I mean, I’m assuming you can see why that would be significant when you are comparing the two.

                  I also note that you are not describing the Dutch MP’s views. Can I ask what sort of views they were, and why you offered so much description of the Islamists’ views but absolutely none about the Dutch MP’s.

                  After all, you are surely not expecting me or anyone else to believe that a Dutch MP was banned from speaking to the House of Lords for no reason at all. So maybe you should say what the reason was.

                  EDIT: I’d also like to know why you omitted the detail that the ban was on the Dutch MP *entering the UK*, not on “speaking”; and that it has since been lifted.

  • Daedalus

    I cannot remember the last time I wasted this much time reading anything!


  • foxoles

    ‘ … representing constituents, reconciling competing claims and taking an interest in dry corners of legislation that affect people’s lives.’

    Ah, yes – ‘representing constituents’ by telling them they shouldn’t have what they want, because the MP knows better.
    Reconciling competing claims – expenses, is it??
    ‘Taking an interest in dry corners of legislation’ – ie rubber-stamping EU diktats, or voting as directed by the whips. Very onerous. Just yesterday we heard politicians spout a load of lies re HS2, either because they were too ill-informed to know the truth, or too idle to find out. They also voted for the bill when the government has deliberately ignored the Information Commissioner’s specific ruling that the reports on HS2 should be made public – how can MPs possibly be ‘taking an interest’, or be informed, when the information is hidden?

    How lucky we are to have these paragons! Shall we genuflect now, or later?

  • sfin

    I’ll descend to the level of this article…

    Alex – do you see that spit on the floor?

    That’s your swimming pool, that is.

  • Ad Pikett

    Nigel Farage has made a mistake with Newark.

    Last night, Norman Smith said he was talking about when he went to the Newark Conservative Party last year for a debate and considered the seat too staunchly Tory to win.

    He has called that wrong. Virtually all the members agreed with him, but most said they wouldn’t vote UKIP as he couldn’t win.

    Bear in mind, that’s party members, not Conservative voters.

    Add onto that it’s an election called after a disgraced MP, and it’s a by-election so turnout will be lower, and no one has ever heard of Robert Jenrick, and you get a protest vote against the ruling party, and the Torys have never won a by election in power for years, and the media interest, and the boundaries have been altered …

    I could go on and on. He would have won. Easily.

    • Penny

      I think he made the right call for two reasons: 1) being the party leader of a new and developing party is a job in itself. Add on MEP, then add on MP and I think you’d end up spreading yourself too thinly on each ground. Not least if you’ve parachuted in from another constituency entirely. The latter consideration is generally one considered a risk even at local elections. 2) He doesn’t want to risk being seen as a one-man-band. To go for all jobs is to suggest there is no one else that can do them. Not a good strategy!

      • Stigenace

        A third reason is that seats lost in by-elections with large swings against the incumbent party often swing back to the losing party in the subsequent General Election. For Farage to win the Newark by-election this May would turn into a PR disaster were he to lose it the following May.

    • Steve Cheney

      “I could go on and on. He would have won. Easily.”

      What makes you think that? It’s a by-election in a not-particularly-secure Tory seat; just playing the odds, it’s a good chance that the same people who elected the previous Tory candidate would elect another one. Furthermore, thus far, UKIP have never been able to cost the Tories a seat that they stood any chance of losing to Labour (which this one is), so they would not be able to rely on any wavering Tory voters.

      People might have been slightly more likely to vote for Farage than another UKIP candidate, but still, it’s unlikely that they would have one. And a defeat for Farage would be disastrous PR for someone whose whole campaign is based on momentum, and on being seen as not having been “given a chance”. It’s in his interests to avoid being “given a chance” until he is confident that he will succeed.

      We can only speculate about what would have happened if he’d won. To have one UKIP MP in the House of Commons, ahead of the general election, demonstrating how little he can actually achieve without a majority, would probably put off a lot of UKIP’s supporters.

      • Penny

        What do you think is driving that momentum, Steve?

        • Steve Cheney

          I would say Farage’s bluster and his ability to say things that aren’t true with utter confidence. It’s already been pointed out that he lied about Brussels’ control over UK law – misrepresenting a quote by Viviane Reding which she has confirmed as being about something else entirely, and using it as the lynchpin of his Sky debate victory. It is also true that two of UKIP’s major posters are based on incredibly shaky contentions – the building trade confirming today that it actually has a shortage of labour, and the “26 million unemployed” claim being simply misleading. His tactic of using *potential* immigration figures – including the insane 485 million figure cited in his interview – is obviously not going to bear out for long, but then, he doesn’t need it to; once the impact has been made, he can claim that *obviously* he didn’t mean it, knowing that a lot of people will still be parroting the figures for weeks to come and internalising them as if they were actually meaningful.

          Obviously in the long-term these things will not pay off for the party, particularly if they were actually able to get into power; their policies are all uncosted and at least estimated to be ridiculously expensive, and their scapegoating of immigrants for the employment situation is myopic in the extreme. But that doesn’t matter as long as he can keep coming up with new ones.

          • Penny

            Well, I’m not going to knock your enthusiasm for politics, Steve. It’s good to see. However, I disagree. I think – from your posts so far – 1) you’re zeroing in on a particular policy or two and perhaps assuming that because you find it/them unworthy or untenable, it must be the case that everyone voting UKIP is going to do so because of these same policies. Which has led to 2) your tendency to berate and disparage those saying they support UKIP – and deeming Farage’s approach as “bluster” is symptomatic of this. 3) you may be politically aware but perhaps you’re less aware of how to run a campaign and the dangers of negativity / insulting voters. Also what this does in terms of getting out the vote – a problem all four parties will share on the day (unlike a local election and – in varying degrees – a GE)

            As I said to “horserider” – if you were one of the many silent visitors to a blog such as this, and were undecided, can you honestly tell me that they would see the pro-EU argument as anything more than bluster, swipe, jibe and jeer? And how does that reflect on the ConLabLib parties?

            • Steve Cheney

              Actually, polls of UKIP supporters’ beliefs are quite interesting. There’s no guarantee that a UKIP voter will be anti-EU, or in fact that they will support the party’s position on anything. Support for same-sex marriage amount UKIP supporters is widespread, despite the party harbouring some pretty open homophobes among their current MEPs; most UKIP supporters that I’ve spoken to were appalled by their proposed flat tax – which, okay, they now claim not to support, but I’d be very surprised if they change their mind that much given that it would never have been a popular policy. A surprising number don’t even support leaving the EU.

              What concerns me is that UKIP are seen as an alternative to the major parties by people who are frustrated with them for being liars, for having their snouts in the trough, for representing their donors rather than their voters, for doing as little work as possible and getting drunk on the public dime… you can probably see where I’m going with this. As a protest against establishment politicians, voting UKIP sends out an incredibly mixed message.

              These things combine to make me wonder where the party gets its support. Some, I have seen, believe things about the EU which, if true, would make anybody want to leave; whether what they believe is true is another matter. Farage has been caught out on various occasions either lying about the EU (e.g. the infamous “70% of laws come from Brussels” claim, which has been completely denounced by Viviane Reding as an obvious misinterpretation – I’ll put a link at the bottom of the post that goes into this); or using inflated figures that no advertising standards authority would ever have let pass. This really should be more of a problem that the media is making of it, but then, there is this frustrating tendency now established to declare any and all criticism a “smear campaign”, when such criticisms of any other politician or party from the same sources would likely not be disbelieved at all.

              I have not made a pro-EU argument; an argument against UKIP is not an argument in favour of the EU, implicitly or actually. UKIP are not the only party that people who want to leave the EU can vote for, and many of their other policies warrant significant criticism – particularly regarding unemployment.

              I do not think I have been dismissive or jeering here. I do not assume that any individual UKIP supporter is representative of the whole. What I can say is that the number of times I have been accused of being “Lib/Lab/Con” or a paid activist (I wish) or any number of other baseless claims designed to justify disregarding anything I say, you would not believe. It would be wrong to claim that I’ve never heckled back, but still, the endless portrayal of it as one-sided – of so-called “smears” against UKIP that are no different from the scrutiny that any other party would expect – is legitimately frustrating.

              • Penny

                Steve – as part of my undergraduate course I had to have a focus on questionnaires and unless I can get at the back of the data (e.g. numbers asked, locations, questions asked, weighting and similar purpose-related stuff) I don’t take much beyond a “direct” question as meaningful. Most people can fit into a “yes”, “no” or “undecided” category but when you come to “beliefs”, you may be facing limitations. I’ve never found a questionnaire that I don’t prevaricate over because I don’t always fit into any of their descriptors. People may plonk for the nearest they can find but it may not be wholly representative of their actual position. You’ve no doubt heard of the phrase, “Lies, damned lies and statistics”. It’s quite true. You can make something look to be what you want it to be quite easily.

                I shall look into your comments re: Viviane Reding, but to be fair, Clegg stretched the truth somewhat, too, Steve. And his ” look in the small print” comment did nothing to encourage confidence. I took the time to look for the source of the “3 million jobs lost” and unfortunately traced it back to its origins only to discover that it had been rather manipulated. I can’t find the exact quote now so I’m wary of putting it up but it wasn’t far removed from “propaganda”. Similarly, there is a picture of Tim Fallon MP doing the internet rounds depicting a comment he made in 2013 along the lines of “we can’t say 3 million jobs – it’s not credible” – I shall look into the background of that. It may mean something or nothing. It’s likely a true quote but in and of itself may be something or nothing.

                Anyhow! We could parry truth v lies , position switches and poor remarks by supporters etc all day long but you will always be reminded by someone of the recent history of ConLabLib which makes Farage very small fish indeed. If you’re pro-EU then none of these negatives you mention will make your case for you. You have to present the benefits of EU membership – not continually and solely focus on whack-a-mole in your opposite camp. It simply translates into “defensive”.

                I think I already responded to you elsewhere about the indicators of a clean v dirty campaign. And this has been very much the latter. I’ve worked on more than a few and, regardless of my own future political affiliation vis-a-vis the EU elections, I am staggered by the sheer stupidity and mangling of it all. It’s done an awful lot of negative things (if you’re ConLabLib) but perhaps the overarching picture it has painted reminds me of one of those films in which you see an intelligent, caring and generally benign person suddenly bear fangs and morph momentarily into something quite ugly. The three main parties should be seen as comprising highly intelligent, decent hard-working men and women who can gauge the mood of the people and, where possible, respond. The politically-backed media, instead of running with that image, has descended into gutter journalism, bared fangs and attacked not just a democratic party but the people. How long will it be before people forget this mask-dropping exercise?

                • Steve Cheney

                  “Most people can fit into a “yes”, “no” or “undecided” category but when you come to “beliefs”, you may be facing limitations.”

                  My understanding is that such polls offer people a sentence describing a policy and ask “do you strongly agree, mildly agree, mildly disagree, strongly disagree, don’t know, or undecided” – certainly that’s how it went when I was called by Ipsos Mori for my views on HS2. It wasn’t confusing really.

                  Point being, it is possible to poll people on these things, and you will quite often find that someone who identifies as a supporter of a party will turn out to strongly disagree with a substantial number of their policies.

                  By the way, I am well aware of the “lies, damn lies and statistics” quote; I’m also aware that it’s not really accurate. Statistics don’t lie; interpretations or summarisations of statistics do. Most lies via statistics involve deciding a position, and finding a statistic that seems to support it, rather than reading statistics and then forming an opinion based on them. But statistics in themselves do not “lie” – they are just data described by methodology.

                  “Anyhow! We could parry truth v lies , position switches and poor remarks by supporters etc all day long but you will always be reminded by someone of the recent history of ConLabLib which makes Farage very small fish indeed.”

                  See, when people “remind” me of that, it’s always on the basis of the assumption that, because I am critical of Farage, I must be uncritical of “whoever [I] support”. It’s a generalisation, sure, but it is based on experience: UKIP supporters seem to live in a world where we all pick a party and defend them to the hilt. It is a difficult fight to win honestly, because of course the majority of “Con/Lib/Lab” supporters don’t adore their party’s leaders the way that UKIP supporters seem to adore Farage.

                  The other issue, of course, is that it’s easier to defend someone who hasn’t “had a go” yet… if we ignore the example of Nick Clegg. The Lib Dems gained support on pretty much the same basis that Farage is now – albeit from different people – and the result was that, while they were popular when they were an untested wildcard, they immediately lost that appeal when they got into coalition. I saw Farage talking about his willingness to go into coalition with the Tories the other day; to me, this seemed rather unwise.

                  Regarding the “politically-backed media”, I think it’s kind of funny when people suggest that they support “the Con/Lib/Lab”. They don’t. They support the Tories, just like did before Farage showed up. Even the Guardian has this bizarre desire to support the Coalition purely because it has the last greasy smudge of a Lib Dem fossilised within its strata. This isn’t me complaining – no party should get an easy ride from the British press, least of all Labour – but it is one of those issues where the UKIP supporter practice of lumping three major and different political parties together ignores or dismisses the ways in which they are different and differently treated (and, I would argue, the ways in which the Tories in particular are far more similar to UKIP than to Labour).

                  One last point:

                  “You have to present the benefits of EU membership – not continually and solely focus on whack-a-mole in your opposite camp.”

                  I actually don’t have to. This article is about UKIP, not about the EU. The two are not inseparable and, as I’m sure I said already, opposition to UKIP does not imply support for the EU; there are lots of things to dislike about UKIP that have nothing to do with their position on the EU. While I do broadly support our EU membership for rather dull reasons that I know are not going to persuade anybody, my reasons for disliking UKIP have to do with their conduct when elected, their other less-well-publicised policies, and with their presentation as an “Alternative”.

                  You seem to be saying that, if I don’t argue in favour of the EU, none of those things matter; but I think that’s wrong. In fact, based on those annoying polls, it seems that it is very relevant, since there are far more anti-EU voters than there are UKIP voters. If people who oppose the EU are still opposing UKIP, then I do not see why I should be expected to justify opposing UKIP by defending the EU! I think there are more important issues facing Britain right now, and UKIP’s position on those issues is my reason for opposing them.

                • Penny

                  A lot to reply to so I may just take some points as it’s late.

                  If it is “agree, strongly agree” etc etc – then it may be the case. I’d have to see the questions, though, to say one way or another.

                  Re: statistics. I’m not sure if you’re being pedantic (and I don’t mind that at all) but are we on the same page here? Statistics are generally the end product of a survey or research. What lies behind them can construct the “lie”. I used to have to devise questionnaires and undertake research and the resulting stats are only as good as the foundations you’ve laid in the construction phase. Bias can be introduced – deliberately or unwittingly – in so many ways and will inevitably result in a flawed project. It matters not a jot how you interpret the end result if what went in in the first place is flawed.

                  I wasn’t suggesting that you were uncritical of your own party, Steve. I was suggesting that you can’t make a good pro-EU case out of promoting only negatives about your opposition.

                  No – you don’t have to make the pro-EU case if you don’t want to. Entirely up to you. That said, the argument you have is unclear – i.e.: “I think there are more important issues facing Britain right now, and UKIP’s position on those issues is my reason for opposing them”. The up-coming elections are about the EU, so if you oppose UKIP’s position, doesn’t that slot into a form of pro-EU? And why not argue your concerns about UKIP’s position instead of writing about lies v truth, Farage’s chances of being an MP – and so on?

          • the viceroy’s gin

            For a party you think is about to disappear, you have certainly loaded your pants over them, lad.

            • Steve Cheney

              What an endearing image.

              I don’t think there’s anything particularly revealing about a British person being concerned by UKIP. It is not because I think that they can do much damage – they’ll do well in the Euros, and then fizzle in the generals, so other than adding a few more useless parasites to the public coffer, nothing will happen.

              But the fact that a party like that can become appealing to British people, despite flaunting how much like the worst kinds of politicians they are quite openly, is naturally troubling. I’m not scared of them, but I am saddened by how readily public engagement shifted back into Partisan Nonsense Mode, after a few years when voter pressure groups had actually been making some headway in driving party policy by making sure the parties realised they couldn’t take any voter for granted anymore.

              Since Farage became this elephant in the room, a lot of that resistance and interest in policies rather than parties seems to have been flattened out. Parties are able to use UKIP to justify acting against the voter’s interests – shifting to the right to compete in the Tories’ case, and refusing to do anything too lefty in the case of Labour.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                …did you actually think I was going to wade through that enormous swamp of blather, lad? Dream on.

                It is amusing though, that you’re soiling yourself daily, and over those you think inconsequential.

                • colinintokyo

                  He has also been doing it for a number of years. I do think he ought to declare his interest.

          • Bill_der_Berg

            ” His tactic of using *potential* immigration figures – including the insane 485 million figure cited in his interview”.

            His point was clear enough. Where there is free movement of labour, any talk of reducing immigration to a target level is moonshine. It is not within a national government’s power to do it.

            • Steve Cheney

              Really? It seemed to me that his point was to say “immigration” and a really big number in rapid succession and hope people weren’t paying too much attention.

              I think I’ve been over this already: UKIP’s tactic of using a supposed maximum potential immigration figure is basically just a scare tactic.

              The idea of the entire population of Romania and Bulgaria emptying into Britain just because of a slight law change was ridiculous… so why bother bringing it up?

              The idea of the entire unemployed population of the EU being after “British jobs” is ridiculous… so why bother bringing it up?

              And the idea that so-called “open door immigration” would result in the entire population of the EU emptying into Britain is ridiculous… so yeah, again, why bother?

              In every case, the “information” is nothing of the sort – it is simply saying a number and then moving seamlessly into a context where that number doesn’t belong.

              Don’t get me wrong: I know that most UKIP supporters don’t believe that these figures are realistic. But they very rarely seem to know what a realistic estimate would be, so trying to balance a completely misleading figure against no other figure, they still grossly over-estimate.

              This isn’t unique to UKIP – the Tories and their tabloids do it all the time. A recent, less extreme version involved setting “caps” on benefits, where the maximum on the cap was high enough that anyone who wasn’t completely taking the piss would easily saunter under it (which is fine, btw). But pretty soon I was seeing people citing it as if it was something like the average claim, or at least as if there were a substantial number of people who would be affected by it. This is the problem: just putting the information out there, and then saying “I never said it meant x”, isn’t enough; if someone knows that people will be misled by what they say, then that IS misleading them.

              • Bill_der_Berg

                ” UKIP’s tactic of using a supposed maximum potential immigration figure is basically just a scare tactic”
                It brought out very well the absurdity of Cameron’s declared aim of reducing net immigration to 100,000 by election time.
                We have been in the EU for some time without the entire population of other member counties descending on us in search of work. Nobody could possibly believe that things are going to change because new member countries have joined.
                However, Nigel Farage made the very fair point that.

                • Steve Cheney

                  I don’t know if citing a ludicrously high figure makes the point that well. It is equally likely (or equally unlikely) that immigration will drop to zero, mass emigration will occur, and Britain will be left with about ten people in it, but I didn’t see Farage making that claim!

                  I would also say that you are wrong to claim that “real estimates” are mere guesses. Again, you are buying into Farage’s campaign. It is possible to make an educated guess, or to study phenomena that are normally affected by known population change, or any number of .

                  While the final figure won’t be an in/out headcount, it would be glib to dismiss it as a guess, and wilfully glib to suggest that it would be only as plausible as Farage’s outrageous figures.

                  Maybe we could do the Price Is Right thing – get the closest to the number of immigrants without going over?

                • Bill_der_Berg

                  “I don’t know if citing a ludicrously high figure makes the point that well”.

                  From what I’ve seen of the reaction to the debates, nobody has objected to Nigel Farage’s use of the figure.

                  “I would also say that you are wrong to claim that “real estimates” are mere guesses”.

                  Government statisticians will work from the most recent census figures to come up with estimates. It would be interesting to know what they think of the difficulties posed by the uncertainty about immigration.

                • Steve Cheney

                  “From what I’ve seen of the reaction to the debates, nobody has objected to Nigel Farage’s use of the figure.”

                  One of the luxuries of preaching to the converted.

                  “Government statisticians will work from the most recent census figures to come up with estimates. It would be interesting to know what they think of the difficulties posed by the uncertainty about immigration.”

                  Hard to know. What I would say is that there are definitely anti-immigration people who are using that uncertainty to speculate higher and higher figures. Anecdotally, I saw someone claim the annual immigration figure to be “probably more like 15-20 million”, and he definitely meant it; I’m assuming you would agree that THAT figure is obviously nonsense, yes?

                • Bill_der_Berg

                  “One of the luxuries of preaching to the converted”.

                  I can assure you that Nigel Farage has few friends among the political commentators in the national press. I’m surprised that you have not noticed.

                  Out of curiosity, I have looked at the website of Office of Populations Censuses and Surveys. It seems that they have trouble getting accurate migration statistics for previous years, let alone the future. They recently had to issue a correction.

                  “I’m assuming you would agree that THAT figure is obviously nonsense, yes?”

                  Yes. It’s as fanciful as Nick Clegg’s figure for job losses likely to result from our leaving the EU.

                • Steve Cheney

                  So you’re backing Farage in the race to the bottom. Good for you.

                • Bill_der_Berg

                  His opponents are such a self-righteous lot and, in some cases, not very honest.

          • colinintokyo

            “It’s already been pointed out that he lied about Brussels’ control over UK law”

            I can ‘point out’ anything I like proving it is a different matter isn’t it?

  • Smithersjones2013

    We all know – because the polling tells us so – that UKIP supporters are likely to be older and whiter than the average voter

    Ah yes the “average voter”. Have you ever met the “average voter”? No nor have I? So off we go again to that never-neverland where deranged urban liberal elitists indulge their panty wetting fantasies of what the perfect british citizen should be.

    Are you bored with Massie’s rant already? Yeah so am I. I’m off to read the next pathetic set of slovenly, small-minded, shallow predictable and ill-considered assertions and bigoted childish hackneyed smears against Farage and UKIP from a so called ‘ intelligent’ political ‘commentator’ or ‘journalist’..

    Its so hilarious to watch the headless chickens of the Westminster Freakshow panic….

  • Gregory Mason

    How can they be ‘whiter’ than the average voter when the average voter is white.

    • Steve Cheney

      I suppose they mean “more likely to be white than the average voter”. Certainly that would be accurate – UKIP’s support is overwhelmingly white, male, and older.

      • mohdanga

        From the 2011 British census: “White was the majority ethnic group at 48.2 million in 2011 (86.0 per cent). Within this ethnic group, White British was the largest group at 45.1 million (80.5 per cent).” So we’re expected to believe that the 14% non white population somehow makes the ‘average voter’ non-white?? OK then.

        • Steve Cheney

          What I am saying is that far less that 14% of UKIP’s supporters polled are non-white; therefore, they have a higher than average chance of being white.

          I don’t think I can clarify that any more.

  • Bill_der_Berg

    One of the impressive (and surprising) claims made by Nick Clegg in one of his debates with Nigel Farage was that 1 in 7 new businesses in the UK are founded by people born outside the UK.

    We have now been told that it’s not true. Whoever compiled the statistics overlooked the fact that registered company addresses are very often in places outside the countries where the companies’ main trading activities take place. Thus (apparently) the figures show that there are almost 9,000 Germans running businesses in Birmingham.

    • foxoles

      Nick Clegg, being economical with the actualité?

      What a shocker.

      • Bill_der_Berg

        He was repeating someone else’s mistake. The FT was taken in, too.

        • foxoles

          I think both Clegg and the FT are more than eager to be taken in by anything that makes their beloved EU look good -they would grab it automatically, with both hands. If it also smears the British as ‘lazy’ or ‘unambitious’ in some way, that is a bonus for them.

    • Steve Cheney

      Does this mean that Britain is being used as a tax haven of sorts?

      Because that’s always been Cameron’s dream.

      • Wessex Man

        The Pub will be open soon, will you give it a rest then?

  • brossen99
  • Colonel Mustard

    Just another sneer. Ageist too.

  • Bill_der_Berg

    MP’s may do sterling work in representing our interests, but it is alleged that the sexual harassment of younger staff is rife in the Commons. How do our hard-working MP’s find the time?

    • Steve Cheney

      You just do it hit and run, while passing people in the corridor.

      • Bill_der_Berg

        Hit and waddle, in Sir Cyril Smith’s case – assuming that he could squeeze past people in the corridor.

        • Steve Cheney

          I think he just kind of absorbed them into his gross paedoguts.

        • Jonathan Burns

          As if being sexually molested isn’t bad enough being molested by Cyril Smith is really stomach turning.

          • Steve Cheney

            I assume he dressed up as Santa or posed as a couch or something.

        • Stigenace

          More specifically smack, rather than hit, bare boy posteriors, amongst other allegations. There is little or no opportunity for that in the HoC so his fetish of choice was, for the most part, conducted in Rochdale.

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