the cheeky chappy
Last week I forced myself to watch a Channel 4 documentary “Nigel Farage: who are you?”, made by self-styled “fashionable left-wing film-maker turned wicked libertarian” Martin Durkin. He has previously made such edifying and entertaining pieces as “Against Nature” and “The Great Global Warming Swindle” and regularly accuses greens of being fascists.
Durkin used to be a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, founded by University of Kent radical academic Frank Furedi. As society changed, the RCP morphed into the magazine Living Marxism, until that was forced to close – having accused ITN of faking coverage of the Trnopolje concentration camp during the Bosnia war. I think the idea was that the plucky Serbian holders of the Socialist flame could not possible have been to blame for such outrages – and anybody who suggested they were were labelled fascists, in time honoured Trotskyite fashion. ITN successfully sued LM for libel and it closed down. Almost immediately, the RCP grew a new excrescence called Spiked Online, which continues to exist – using much the same approach as the RCP and LM (Trotskyite entryisim and contrarianism)- but with an apparent radical change in political position. Spiked Online is now a mouthpiece for right-libertarian commentary having seemingly lost its communistic shackles. Irish online Magazine Forth is another outgrowth apparently. Where the LM network gets is funding is as transparent as any other right wing thinktank but corporate funding has been linked to them. Of course this could all be a very long game being played and they are in fact still marxists – it wouldn’t be the first time the RCP have worn reactionary clothes to discredit their competitors and confuse their enemies. For me though, that’s a conspiracy theory too far (even for me) and I think they have ended up believing their own false flag propaganda.
In the Documentary, Durkin seemed a bit disappointed with Farage – complaining that Farage’s anti-immigration stance was mistaken, as the free movement of people was as important as the free movement of capital in this best of all possible globalised market-driven world.
But then again they are different aren’t they? While capital can flow (fly) to tax-havens like the Turks and Caicos, or out of Russia, people cannot or choose not to. Farage (and the far right of the Tory party) through that organ of the outraged right, the Daily Mail, and fellow travellers, raised the spectre of millions of Romanians and Bulgarians arriving in our island in January. Could they come? yes they could. Did they come? No they didn’t. Decisions taken by individuals as to whether to move from their home country to another one are not taken lightly, and not necessarily driven by pure economic necessity. I know this: my mum emigrated to England in 1954, from Australia.
Farage sought to portray himself in the doco as a man of the people, a defender of what used to be known as The Man on the Clapham Omnibus. We followed him back to the village in Kent where he was born, brought up, and still lives today. He visited the local pub where he was regaled by his locals. The image of Farage with pint of beer and fag in hand is now well-embedded in the media and it is a familiar trope.
The plan is clear and I guess being led by UKIP’s media expert Patrick O’Flynn: represent Farage as normal, friendly, up for a good laugh and a chat about politics down the local. He is portrayed as a pub politician and we were treated to seeing his public verbal assault on The President of the European Commisson Herman Van Rompuy. We were also witness to Durkin and Farage running around The Strasbourg European Parliament like a couple of naughty schoolboys, sniggering as they filmed where they weren’t allowed to, and catching journalists asleep at their computers. This I imagine was supposed to reflect Farage’s “naughty but nice” cheeky-chappy persona. It appealed to my sense of the absurd, but that was about it.
This image is of course a sham. Farage was born into privilege. His father was a stockbroker and Farage went to a top public school, Dulwich College. At the time a teacher had attempted to prevent Farage from being made a prefect on account of his “racist” and “neofascist” views; he was made a prefect though.
Of course we all do and say silly things when we are teenagers and he may have grown out of these views. Farage went on to make a lot of money in the city, as a metals trader before turning to politics. Consequently Farage has many friends in the city, as the film showed. He loves the City of London – he believes it is a force for good.
Durkin called a number of witnesses to attest to Farage’s character and influence. Right Wing/libertarian commentators Simon Heffer and James Delingpole were both happy to shower him with praise, among many others. Only Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was an opposing journalistic view, while former Labour leader Neil Kinnock was wheeled out and portrayed as a straw man to knock down from his Euro-pedestal (after failing to beat John Major in 1992 he went to Brussels to be a Commissioner.)
I suppose it should not be that surprising that the libertarians are warmish fans of UKIP. While Durkin’s hagiography of Farage is well-timed in advance of the Euro elections, there are other connections. Another member of the Living Marxism network, Ben Pile, who writes an anti-environmental and climate change denial website, is also UKIP’s climate change advisor.
It is no surprise that the now exiled Godfrey Bloom was the UKIP climate change leader – either someone in UKIP has a sharp sense of irony or more likely it illustrates their utter contempt for environmental concerns. Bloom is out, now Roger Helmer is at the err Helm on climate change and Pile is his “expert.” Pile has a BA in Politics and Philosophy from the University of York. Helmer who is now positioned as the leading UKIP MEP after Farage, has in the past been funded by the Oil Palm industry to lobby Brussels to reject criticism of this industry which has to clear rainforest to grow the palms, attack climate change “alarmism” – but counter-intuitively, help portray Oil Palm as a carbon sink – as if that would matter if there were no climate change!
Climate Change denier Helmer is also happy to take public funds to put up solar panels.
Helmer’s climate denier wingman Pile is a regular contributor to Spiked Online, as well as running an Oxford Salon, and speaking at various LM events such as the Institute of Ideas. The LM network has a number of these fronts – the Battle of Ideas, Intelligence Squared, Science Media Centre, Sense about Science and so on. If you look carefully you can see other LM network members turning up in the media on a regular basis, such as Claire Fox on the Moral Maze and Timandra Harkness who turned up as resident reporter on social psychology prog “the human zoo” on Radio 4. Next time you hear see or read something that sounds a bit libertarian or anti-environmental – check out the journalist – you might be surprised how often they turn out to be LMers.
Delingpole in a recent interview with Conservative Home talked about the continuing fight against Cultural Marxism, and included climate change and other environmental regulations in that all encompassing term. Water-melons is another favourite phrase of the far-right – because they are green on the outside but red on the inside (geddit?). I didn’t realise I was a Marxist. Interestingly other fellow-travellers of the LM network include arch climate change sceptic and self-styled “rational optimist” Matt Ridley and anti-green re-wilding advocate (huh?) Peter Taylor.
After the programme ended, I wondered to myself “is UKIP racist”? The party does not officially espouse racist policies in the way that the NF or BNP did (I grew up in East London in the 1970s). But it seems unthinkable that UKIP has not attracted in many who previously supported or were active in those extreme and fascistic parties.
I think UKIP has been clever to focus in on Europe because the issue of skin colour is more nuanced. Those of a certain generation (and most UKIP support comes from the over 50s) will recall that the Brits (or should that be English) had highly derogatory terms for every conceivable ethnicity in Europe. The phrase “w….s start at Calais” I am sure still has a certain appeal to that generation.
This cultural superiority, or perhaps a festering nostalgia for such superiority and a burning resentment at its loss, is a malevolent flame burning inside the popularity of UKIP. No wonder the Romanians and Bulgarians (and of course the Roma) are the target of invective (and hatred from some.) Remember the Roma was as comprehensively exterminated in the second world war as the Jewish peoples.
All this must be further confirmation (if any were needed) amongst mainland Europeans, that we Brits (though in truth it is the English who have the problem) are a very weird lot. We just have no idea that people have been moving around the continent for millennia and that it is nothing unusual for ethnic Germans, Poles, Hungarians, Romanians, Russians and other Slavs, and others to happily/unhappily co-exist with each other, recognising their differences but also sharing their commonalities. When we forget about our similarities and focus on our differences, this is when the problems arise, whether in Nazi Germany, or post-Tito Yugoslavia. We the “native” English are, after all, mostly Anglo-Saxons – Angles from north Germany/Denmark, Saxons from Saxony. Perhaps what UKIP fears most is recognising our European, Germanic roots.
For some, UKIP are the pantomime clowns of British politics, not taken seriously. This is wrong. They are likely to do well in the European Elections next month, they could even win the popular vote. Their views on Europe may be offensive, but their anti-environmental anti-climate change views are more damaging. And the unholy alliance between UKIP and the libertarian movement, under whatever guise, is something to watch and expose.
photo by Berchemboy [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons