Making Plans for Nigel

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Thursday’s confrontation between Nigel Farage and Scottish protesters has led people to question just why Ukip is so unpopular in Scotland. However, it is the wrong question to ask. Instead we should be asking just what has happened to English culture that a party with a loathsome agenda of homophobia, barely masked racism and a litany of other far-right notions has made such headway in the 21st century. One answer is the media’s obsessive treatment of personalities and not politics. The other is the extraordinary gulf that’s developing between Scotland and England about the twin referendum campaigns and the political cultures they reflect.

Farage told Good Morning Scotland’s David Miller on BBC Radio Scotland that Ukip had set its sights on Scottish success, but with this PR disaster it seems unlikely the party will improve on their 0.28% showing at the last election in Scotland. So why has such a party – that has no base at all in Scotland – been plastered all across our media for months? Partly this is the enduring Anglosphere – English culture and values writ large across the whole of Britain like a suffocating blanket – partly it is the depoliticised nature of contemporary media.

It’s striking how much of this whole situation has been hyped by media intrigue. “I agree with Nick” has been replaced with “I agree with Nigel”. This is from a media culture that is often unable to engage in political discussion of any depth and resorts repeatedly to individual portraits: Brown – surly, Kinnock – windbag, Nick – affable and so on. What’s been largely absent has been a real examination of Ukip’s policy platform or the actual consequences of withdrawal from the EU.

The outburst of venom unleashed by Ukip supporters after what was, after all, just a peaceful if vocal demonstration in a free society was telling. One prominent Ukip voice, Ron Northcott, the candidate for Plymouth appears to have tweeted: “Amazed that 50 Jocks could get out of bed that early. It’s not signing-on day, is it or is the chemist open?”

Visceral hatred like this is more and more commonplace but with such clear feelings it does kind of make the question why is Ukip so unpopular in Scotland? a little redundant.

Last night Ukip was met directly on the streets of Edinburgh by a well-organised group run by the Radical Independence Conference (RIC) – leaving the allegations being flung about by Farage on the Today programme that this was “fascist scum filled with total and utter hatred of the English” as little more than pitiful irony. The group’s slogan – “Another Scotland is possible” – reflects the movement’s roots in radical and left-green politics. They are as far away from being fascists as Farage is from being elected north of Gretna. They, like many, are interested in “independence without nationalism”.

But the episode certainly put paid to the lazy and stupid attempts by some to equate the Ukip phenomenon with Scottish nationalism, or even the anti-EU referendum with the Scottish independence one.

Nothing’s certain in either plebiscite and comparing them is futile and manipulative. The SNP won a landslide on a promise to hold a referendum. Ukip hasn’t a single MP. As Seamus Milne has it: “A good part of Ukip’s bubble is as much a xenophobic expression of powerlessness and falling living standards as it is of opposition to the EU, which is well down most voters’ priority lists.”

Are people really obsessed by the EU? I very much doubt it. This is not an agenda supported by anyone working in trade or business and the whole anti-EU culture is likely to drive a heap of sane and savvy businesspeople towards the Yes campaign.

This Westminster Euro-frenzy may split the Tories, but it’s also likely to make the schism between Scotland and England on international trade and immigration into a chasm.

In February, Ipsos Mori polling showed us that 53% of Scots would vote for the UK to remain part of the EU, with 34% opposed, while 61% think an independent Scotland should be an EU member. A 19% margin in favour of the EU in Scotland, and an 8% margin against in England is particularly important in terms of the UK government’s latest announcement.

Further data from Ipsos Mori gives strong evidence of a significant divergence of opinion between the two nations. In a similar poll in November, 50% of people in England said they would vote to leave the EU compared with 42% wanting to remain.

If Ukip hadn’t had such an easy time in the media, Farage might have not believed his own hype and made such a disastrous PR blunder.

This from the Guardian, read the full article here.

Comments (18)

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  1. Patrick S Hogg says:

    Well done to the RIC protesters and to Liam O’Hare in particular for highlighting the inherent racism of the UKIP crew.

  2. DougtheDug says:

    Hi Mike it’s a good article and a change from the “good ol’ boy” cheery man with a pint treatment Farage has got from the media to date.

    There are several elements to this episode which are interesting.

    The first is the equation of UKIP and the SNP as “nationalist parties” who are both outside mainstream politics and who are fighting for the same votes. The Guardian front page today was a case in point, pictures of Farage and Salmond face to face above a headline “Battle of the nationalists”. http://yfrog.com/nhj6n8j

    Another is the failure of Labour in Scotland, the Conservatives in Scotland and the Lib-Dems in Scotland to side with the protesters as all have taken the side of Nigel Farage.

    But that’s linked to the first element. The SNP are not a nationalist party outside the mainstream of politics in Scotland but simply two of the five nationalist parties fighting it out in Scotland. The main british nationalist opposition to the SNP and the Greens in Scotland is not UKIP but the Labour party followed by the Conservatives and the Lib-Dems. UKIP aren’t even a player in Scotland.

    UKIP are actually on the same side and a sister nationalist party to Labour, the Tories and the Lib-Dems. They might have a few minor policy differences but their main aim of a unified British nation, culture and identity are in complete accordance so Lamont, Davidson and Rennie are going to side with them as a sister party against the SNP as that aim overrides all even though the votes UKIP are chasing in Scotland are not going to come from the SNP but from disenchanted unionist voters from the other three parties.

    There’s also an element of the Susan Calman stushie about this whole business. The media are trying to ramp it up into some anti-SNP media firestorm but without evidence that the demonstration was connected to the SNP or the Yes campaign and the information coming out that several of the protesters were in fact English means the story simply hasn’t got legs whoever much they push it.

    The Edinburgh incident highlights that the mainstream press don’t understand Scottish politics at all, they don’t understand that Labour, the Conservatives an the Lib-Dems are as british nationalist as UKIP and it’s as plain as it always was that any incident which can be linked in any detrimental way to the Yes campaign will be ramped up by the media.

    1. Billfaedenny says:

      DougtheDug is spot on in his assertion that the media will manipulate any information to discredit the Yes campaign.For example, the Scotsman front page headline today (why do I buy this biased rubbish?) screams “Salmond hit by Farage freedom of speech row”. Apparently political opponents at Holyrood “demanded a tougher stance on ‘extreme’ elements of the pro-independence movement” with Willie Rennie urging the FM to “speak out against this attack on free speech” Had the FM done so you can bet the Scotsman would have criticised him for supporting a racist homophobic right-wing extremist. Here’s a thought – why didn’t the Scotsman lead with “Rennie supports English extremist party leader”?
      The Scotsman has long since lost any respect as a “quality” newspaper with their persistent anti-Yes propaganda. Their editorial a few weeks ago hilariously stated that the publication still had an open mind and they had yet to take a stance on Scottish Independence. All those with more than one functioning brain cell beg to differ.

    2. bellacaledonia says:

      Correct on all counts

  3. An Duine Gruamach says:

    Great article – just a pity you passed up the opportunity to entitle it “Misfortunes of Nigel”!

  4. Piobaire says:

    You might want to have a word with Prof. John Curtice who seems to think there’s very little difference between Scots and English over leaving the EU. The BBC’s Raymond Buchanan reckoned Farage got what he wanted; publicity. Pish, On both issues..

  5. jdmank says:

    “For some reason the British media has never talked about the excesses of Scottish nationalism and how deeply unpleasant they can be,” he said.”

    quoth Nigel Farage
    soor ploom anyone?

  6. You ask,
    what has happened to English culture that a party with a loathsome agenda of homophobia, barely masked racism and a litany of other far-right notions has made such headway in the 21st century.

    Just think back a while, who was oswald mosley, who did the old king support ?

  7. douglas clark says:

    From what I can understand from the comments elsewhere on this site this was essentially a demonstration with it’s roots in the anti -fascist movement rather than the independence movement. That said, there is, well I like to think there is, a substantial cross-over between these two groups.

    Is it to be the case that, from now on, any anti-fascist demonstration in Scotland, or indeed any demonstration at all, is to be portrayed as an assault on free speech?

    Whose free speech is being threatened here? It certainly isn’t Nigel Farage’s.

    To the extent that this matters at all, Farage appears to have lost the skirmish and then been given a free ride by most of the media. It is this vacuum of any actual analysis of what happened that is most depressing about the event.

  8. Macart says:

    The media to a certain extent have created Farage and UKIP, the ideal soundbite political headline grabber. This week they also created a mountain out of a molehill and deliberately left both their conscience and professional ethics safely under lock and key as they attempted to conflate the SNP and the greater independence campaign with right wing xenophobia and and a different kind of nationalism altogether. The Guardian’s headlines and bylines, as an example, are no accident brought on by politically ignorant journalism, they are only too deliberate in their selection and intent.

    I think we’ll find that both said conscience and ethics will remain under lock and key till well after September 18th 2014. Probably after which a great deal of column space will be dedicated to how we should all cut along now and head down the pub for a pint.

  9. Douglas says:

    I agree with most of these comments, but you are all informed, enlightened people. Most voters out there aren’t, and we live in the age of spin. Of course the papers will spin this, that is why Farage should have been ignored.

  10. annie says:

    It goes against every fibre of my being but I’m now beginning to understand the SNP’s and the Yes Campaign’s slowly, slowly, softly, softly approach. The established media are circling like vultures, ready to pounce and manipulate any story they can get their grubby little beaks in to.

    The Guardian? Well, it’s not only Westminster who are shitting themselves about losing Scottish oil.

  11. Patrick S Hogg says:

    Good point Annie. The historian Peter Calvocoresi said ages ago that England, economically would be the sick man of Europe if it were not for the tax income of North Sea oil, propping up the UK. The Unionists cannot afford to lose Scotland! It makes me sick that they so often say Scotland has so many people dependant on the state and handouts – well well, who was it who devastated our heavy industries and put so many people on the Dole to DRIVE DOWN WAGES? Thatcher and her Tory buddies first and then the Greed Explosion of 2008 which bankrupted Britain when the ship of Capitalism sunk to bottom. I want a SCotland where the real economy of work is allowed to thrive without the death tentacles of the Stock exchange madness. An economy that works for the majority of the Scottish people, for the Commonweal – not fo the ultra rich bloodsucking vampires of greed who do not need a penny and do notthing but create poverty and thrive on austerity they created!

  12. douglas clark says:

    Ré Patrick S Hogg,

    I am becoming increasingly disgusted with Westminster. It seems, as you point out, to have a very narrow, but very rich constituency. There is nowt Commonwealth about it. Now that is a notion you don’t hear very often – or even ever – from anyone in the UK Government.

    Whilst we are all in it for the ‘pain’, no-one is offering a better future once the pain is over. It’s going to be more of the same:

    SHE WAS POOR, BUT SHE WAS HONEST
    (aka IT’S THE SAME THE WHOLE WORLD OVER)
    (Traditional – English Music Hall)

    Billy Bennett – 1930

    She was poor, but she was honest
    Though she came from ‘umble stock
    And an honest heart was beating
    Underneath her tattered frock

    ‘Eedless of ‘er Mother’s warning
    Up to London she ‘ad gone
    Yearning for the bright lights gleaming
    ‘Eedless of temp-ta-shy-on

    But the rich man saw her beauty
    She knew not his base design
    And he took her to a hotel
    And bought her a small port wine

    Then the rich man took ‘er ridin’
    Wrecker of poor women’s souls
    But the Devil was the chauffeur
    As she rode in his Royce Rolls

    In the rich man’s arms she fluttered
    Like a bird with a broken wing
    But he loved ‘er and he left ‘er
    Now she hasn’t got no ring

    It’s the same the whole world over
    It’s the poor what gets the blame
    It’s the rich what gets the pleasure
    Ain’t it all a bloomin’ shame?

    Time has flown, outcast and helpless
    In the street she stands and says
    While the snowflakes fall around ‘er
    “Won’t you buy my bootlaces?”

    See him riding in a carriage
    Past the gutter where she stands
    He has made a stylish marriage
    While she wrings her ringless hands

    See him there at the theatre
    In the front row with the best
    While the girl that he has ruined
    Entertains a sordid guest

    See ‘er on the bridge at midnight
    She says “Farewell, blighted love”
    There’s a scream, a splash……Good ‘eavens!
    What is she a-doing of?

    So they dragged ‘er from the river
    Water from ‘er clothes they wrung
    They all thought that she was drownded
    But the corpse got up and sung

    It’s the same the whole world over
    It’s the poor what gets the blame
    It’s the rich what gets the pleasure
    Ain’t it all a bloomin’ shame?

    (Contributed by Mel – August 2007)

    Seems to me that this is the new model Commonwealth.

    Just sayin’

    1. Patrick S Hogg says:

      Quality reply DC. Loved the old poetic ballad.

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