Try as I might, I cannot remember a time when Britain’s various elites were as united in fury as they are now over UKIP leader Nigel Farage. In the run-up to this week’s Euro-elections, in which the Eurosceptic UKIP is expected to do well, leaders of every hue, from the true blue to the deep red, and hacks of every persuasion, from the right to the right-on, are as one on the issue of Farage. From Nick Clegg to the Twitterati that normally gets off on mocking Nick Clegg, from David Cameron to radical student leaders who normally hate David Cameron, fury with Farage has united all. It has brought together usually scrapping sections of the political and media classes into a centre-ground mush of contempt for UKIP. Not even Nick Griffin – who is a far nastier character than Farage – attracted such unstinting universal ire. What’s up with this Farage fury?
It’s everywhere. You can’t switch on the internet or open a newspaper without being greeted by news reports or op-eds on what a contemptible character Farage is. From the Guardian to the Sun, a paper you might once have expected to be sympathetic to a Eurosceptic politician yet which now brands some of Farage’s comments as ‘racism, pure and simple’, Farage-bashing is thriving. Even right-leaning broadsheet papers, including the supposed newspaper of record, The Times, have of late devoted themselves myopically to exposing the idiocies of Farage and his minions. Many of The Times’ stories about UKIP’s foot-in-mouth incidents are leaked to it by a devoted team of UKIP-watchers at Conservative Party HQ. Which means, yes, we now have politicians too cowardly to state their opposition to UKIP openly and a media so compliant, and also so politically influential, that they are more than happy to do one party’s bidding against another – especially if the other is the apparently terrifying UKIP.
Where Govephobia (an allergy to every comment uttered by Conservative education secretary Michael Gove) only unites the old public-sector left and Guardianistas, and anti-Jeremy Clarkson sentiment largely only brings together the time-rich Twitterati and members of the commentariat with 800 words to file pronto, anti-Farage fury is a great deal more far-reaching. It touches all politicians; it invades every dinner party in the land; it freaks out Tory snot and radical leftist alike; it is de rigueur everywhere from the horsey shires to the leftish Twitterverse.
What’s it all about? It can’t simply be down to the arguments Farage espouses. Take immigration. Loads of political and media types are illiberal on immigration, favouring strict border controls. Indeed, it was Labour, whose supporters in the media choke on their macchiatos whenever Farage mentions the word ‘Romanian’, which took the unusual step of keeping certain Romanians and Bulgarians out of Britain when those two nations joined the EU in January 2007. This instantly turned Romanians and Bulgarians into the second-class citizens of Europe, who did not enjoy the same freedom of movement as Poles and others who had joined the EU in the 2000s. It takes politics to a new low for Labour leaders and Labour-leaning commentators to gasp in horror when Farage says something dumb about Romanians moving in next door, considering it was their party which for seven years physically and legally prevented Romanians from moving in next door. Or consider Farage’s Brussels-bashing, his angst with the EU oligarchy. Lots of people share this view, or a variant of it. spiked is anti-EU, but thoroughly pro-Europe, on the basis that the EU is an anti-democratic behemoth which treats European voters with contempt. Others think similarly. So it can’t be Farage’s Euroscepticism that makes him such a figure of hate for pretty much every politician and observer in the land. What is it, then?
The real motor to the anti-Farage outlook, the fuel to this unprecedented fury of the elites, is a powerful feeling that he has connected with the public, or a significant section of it, in a way that mainstream politicians and observers have utterly failed to. The elites see in Farage their own inability to understand the populace or to speak to it in a language it understands. They see in his popularity – his oh-so-stubborn popularity, so notably undented by the daily furious outpourings of the anti-Farage elites – their own failure to swing public attitudes in what they consider to be the ‘right’ direction. That Farage’s popularity in the polls has remained pretty high even as our elites have been attacking him on a daily basis fills them not only with fury but with fear: their arguments seem not to have much traction outside the Westminster bubble, outside of medialand, where despite their best efforts the awkward, annoying little people still remain fairly favourable towards a loudmouth politician who isn’t PC and drinks beer. The fury behind the attacks on Farage is really a fury with the throng, with the masses, whose brains have clearly been made so mushy by UKIP propaganda that even the supposedly enlightened arguments and policies of their betters can now make no impact. It isn’t Farage they hate – it’s ordinary people, and more importantly their own palpable inability to make inroads into those people’s hearts or minds.