This article is neither an endorsement of UKIP – a party with obvious challenges which we’ve discussed before – nor is it an ode the amazing power of the media to control my mind. It has no such power, it is laughably incompetent to wield the power it does have. However, I am now fully persuaded to vote UKIP at every opportunity tomorrow.
Initially this decision seemed like an easy matter: I want a small state and the institutions of the EU increase the size of the state, so I must vote against the EU. The EU is a political union, after all, it is not a free trade area like EFTA. The Tory Party talk about a referendum but in practice a vote for them endorses continued involvement in political union, only UKIP represents a vote against participation in political union. If there was a party with fewer challenges and a greater reputation that also offered a policy of opposition to the EU then I would vote for that party, but there is not.
Of course, some have told me that UKIP cannot deliver a referendum because that is a Westminster matter. Well all the better, for once the system helps me separate two decisions – usually it forces every issue onto one ballot paper. If I wanted to, I can signal my dislike of the EU tomorrow and vote Tory next May if that looks persuasive.
There is another upside to voting UKIP – it will piss off the political elite and scare them stupid. They will be forced, at a minimum, into seeking to justify their policies to the public rather than holding the public in contempt. Good.
The down side, which is new to me is racism. I’ve met several members of UKIP, including senior activists. One of them, over some drinks, spoke at such length to my wife that he bored her senseless. Aside from that though he was entirely civil and friendly to me and my wife, which is important. Why so important? Because my wife is brown in colour. Prima facie then, UKIP was not, for me, a party of racists. The media however, having dredged up every last possible example of racism have done an amazing job on UKIP. I am still not persuaded that UKIP is full of racists, but the media have done enough to make a vote for UKIP look like a vote in favour of racism as a political policy. UKIP will loose votes tomorrow because voters will not want to associate themselves with the bad smell of racism. This is a fine sentiment as far as it goes, and I was teetering on the edge of voting that way myself, but it does not go far enough to overcome one additional factor that weighs in favour of a UKIP vote: pissing off the media.
The media have treated UKIP and Nigel Farage in particular in an abysmal manner. For example, far from being a “car-crash” for Nigel the LBC interview was an example of how out of touch and desperate the media class have allowed themselves to become in trying to get at him. Little things stood out in this affair, like the point Nigel made about an audit of fixed sum allowances being a little odd, and in need of careful consideration. James O’Brien treated that point with disdain. O’Brien also tried to make a big deal out of Nigel’s role as company secretary of a failed company. It used to be the case that every company needed a separate person to act as secretary and it was fairly normal to use a relative – I used my mum’s name on the paper work for a few years – and it is noteworthy that the authorities recently dropped this requirement. Did my mum keep much of an eye on things? No, not really. Making this out to be a personal failing for Nigel is ridiculous. O’Brien’s sneering remarks about being a “normal person” and not understanding financial matters made him seem hateful and disrespectful of business in general. Failing to understand the difference between a petition to wind-up and an actual winding up show that James O’Brien has never had to use, or defend himself from, these procedures himself. That means he has never properly considered the options for dealing with an unpaid debt and he must be either very lucky or very green, and either way is unqualified to be so snide. Finally, there were the word games:
You cannot reasonably ask someone their opinion about a compound concept: dirty water, white sheets, good wine, foul smells, and try to break apart that person’s response after the fact. If I asked you whether you prefer to drink “dirty water” or “red wine” you would say “red wine”. If I said you have some kind of problem with the moral character of “water” based on that answer, that would be utterly ridiculous. In the same way, asking someone about a group of male Romanians and a family with German children, then criticising Nigel’s opinion of the group of men is just a foolish game of playing with words. Seriously, who would not find it odd that more than a normal houseful of men are living together worthy of note? It directly speaks of the group’s economic circumstances. Such verbal tactics do not allow the truth to be uncovered and the public are sensible enough to see immediately that they are not even an attempt at getting the truth. It is all an attempt to trick Nigel into loosing a word-game.
If it were just James O’Brien acting this way, it would not be such an issue. Regrettably though the media picked this up on TV and on the radio and repeated the same trick over and over. This was not the only trick, nor am I the only person to notice. Brendan O’Neill has more.
This whole witch-hunt has showed me that the media as a class is dysfunctional to its very core. Truth does not matter to them, nor even does entertainment (the LBC interview is not at all entertaining as a listen). I am not in favour of stuff like Leveson, which reverses the proper relationship between politics and the media, but nor am I comfortable with a media class that attempts to determine the winner of an election by a tournament of competitive word games and muck-raking. Politics, if we have to have it, should serve the interests of voters and the political media must be allowed to represent the voters by scrutinising politics (this is a division of labour in the politics industry and is quite valid), but the media must also have respect for its audience and it clearly does not. Allowing this prolonged mistreatment of UKIP to sway your vote tomorrow would grant a victory to a dysfunctional political media - I propose to give that group a bloody noise instead.
I will be going ahead with my UKIP vote some time after 7 tomorrow. So if you want to talk me out of it, leave a comment.