When the mainstream media left asks what has become of the Labour Party, it fails to notice that it has also lost its stomach for a fight and chosen to hang around gallery openings, waving at Grayson Perry while eating very small Yorkshire puddings with a small piece of curled beef in it. I wonder if it thinks everyone else lives of shrunken snacks on trays? I have nothing against small snacks, some of my best friends have eaten pastry the size of a thumbnail and garnished with possible cheese, and sometimes I see my face reflected in the bubble I am in. (I would like to make it clear that was not a dig at Grayson Perry who I find far more interesting and radical on culture and politics than most who fester and feast in the political world).
Everything is showbiz nowadays. It’s a short step from being a grotesque and loathed politician, to presenting documentaries on knitting and kittens. The knitting and kitten experts must regret not spending more time in the public eye chaining women in labour to radiators, maybe they’d be on telly too.
Pootling in a service station, on a dark night’s venturing to Totton, I picked up the New Statesman. Once presumed to be the photo negative Spectator and a home to John Pilger and other left wing firebrands, I was interested to see what they had done with their cover star, Nigel Farage. Not so long ago, he was seen as a comedy character of the right, a well-spoken Andy Capp, but, just as Eastenders have knack of turning their villains to cuddly characters when new plots need them regenerated for the purpose of narrative arc, Farage is now a serious political face in a Leni Riefenstahl remake of Mr Smith Goes to Washington.
And everyone, except James O Brien, seems to find him alluring. I don’t know what the secret of his pheromones is, but they are very effective.
The New Statesman interview infuriated me because it wasn’t inquisitive. It acted as a reminder that, in the popular publication and newspaper world, the rebellious and the curious and the left are almost dead. It is all middle ground, even though the middle ground is now far more on the right than it once was. Perhaps Margaret Thatcher, in the last use of our scientific background, dabbled with the tectonic plates beneath us.
This was a milksop interview.
The first few paragraphs mix tittle tattle and first draft scene setting from a novel destined to be left in a drawer. We met “a pleasant middle aged woman called Lizzie”. She makes some tea. She is “courteous and charming” and “motivated by contempt”.
Nigel Farage “strides in purposefully”, it is pointed out that he “is not wearing a black or a brown shirt”. They talk about cricket. Both The Journalist and Farage like it. We have the appearance of Farage sketched for us. He is slim, his eyes are bulbous.
It is noted that Farage, unlike many other politicians interviewed by the journalist, is curious. The iJournalist (I realise that by writing this, destined to be read by a few hundred, I am unlikely to be asked back to write anything for the New Statesman), seems less curious. Farage’s words are rarely scrutinised or questioned.
He notes that talking with Nigel is like chatting to an opinionated bloke in the pub, and he guesses that may be his appeal. Didn’t we know?
As I read on, I fumed, “where were the questions?” This might well have been a transcript of a Loose Women interview, just lacking the incite of Colleen Nolan.
“Farage would say that much of this dissatisfaction is being caused by the elite, anti democratic project that is the European Union, with its commitment to open borders and centrally imposed austerity on the weaker peripheral nations of the Eurozone. You know the arguments”.
Most of the arguments I see on telly and in the papers seem to go no further than, “bloody Brussels”, now you have him in a room (the air is stale in the room, I forgot to mention), let’s find out the specific problems and let’s hear the alternatives. It can’t just be, “then we leave the EU and everyone feels better and we all live happily ever after”.
Farage talks about people “believing in us”, but then isn’t asked, “what exactly are they believing in?”
He informs The Journalist that when we get the control of our country back, then we get proper democracy. Farage asks why no one is debating employment legislation, but is not asked what changes he wants to make to employment legislation. (I am also confused by UKIP’s dismissal of a house of commons filled with career politicians, and their delight when those career politicians bail out of their old parties and join UKIP)
It’s a long interview that replicates what we know of his popular image. He likes a beer and a fag, he is less certain on Eastern Europeans, oh and he has “a pale, lumpy length of flesh” under one of his trouser legs. Maybe Nigel Farage is one of the few interesting humans in politics. This interview continues to strengthen the cult of his personality, but The Journalist doesn’t interrogate or enlighten. Has this part of a presumed left given up, or does it not believe in enough to be bothered anyway. There will still be small Yorkshire puddings under a UKIP/Conservative coalition, and you can still probably wave at Grayson Perry.
I remain on tour – Exeter, Coventry, Dublin, Banbury, Edinburgh and on http://www.robinince.com also more Christmas science shows at http://www.thebloomsbury.com with guests including Mary Beard, Stewart Lee, Josie Long and Andrea Sella.
The Smiths special Vitriola music podcast part 2 is here https://soundcloud.com/vitriolamusic/vitriola-8-and-linda-mccartneys-coming-round-as-well