A pretty girl has engaged in sexual activity. She foolishly allowed her boyfriend to take naughty photographs of her and now he has gone and tried to flog them to the tabloid press. This is why you shouldn’t vote UKIP in the European elections and why you definitely, definitely shouldn’t vote UKIP in next year’s general election.
I think this is a fair summary of the latest media hit job on UKIP, this time involving a widely reported story about a hapless young woman in the party’s employ. Lizzy Vaid works for Nigel Farage as UKIP’s events manager. She was featured in a UKIP press campaign as one of the new generation of young Britons who are going to be voting UKIP. This, in itself, was treated by the media as an embarrassing and gossipworthy event – though goodness knows why.
If you’re a political party, of whatever hue, you’re obviously going to be inclined towards featuring in your ad campaigns a potential voter who is young, female and photogenic. The fact that she happens to be in the party hierarchy ought hardly to be scandalous. It’s a simple fact of logistics that if you’re running a party’s PR campaign, you’re going to take advantage of low hanging fruit – someone who’s available, known to you and fits the bill – rather than devote hours of time trying to find some outsider. Journalists know this situation as well as anyone. Say they’re commissioned to do a feature on how much TV 13 year old girls watch, their first response is to ring around all their friends. Is that unethical? Does it undermine the reality of the article – that all the 13 year olds featured are going to be daughters of the London media class? Or is it, as I’d argue, basic common sense: a function of the fact that life is too short?
But the sex photos story is in another realm of obnoxiousness altogether. In what way is it in the public interest for this sordid and sorry detail about a young woman’s private life to have been exposed in the media? She’s not a politician. She’s not a celebrity. What right does the press have to put her through such pain?
I’m not remotely a fan of the proposed Leveson regulation. I believe a free country needs a frank, fearless and occasionally offensive press. But what is going on here strikes me as a grotesque abuse of media power. Various newspaper proprietors have decided that they want David Cameron to win the next general election, not because they love him especially but because they are rightly terrified of what will happen if Britain’s most left-wing Labour leader in a generation – Ed Miliband – gets his sweaty fingers on the keys to Number 10. It will be like Hollande’s France all over again and I can well understand their palpable terror. What I don’t think this terror justifies, however, is this ongoing campaign to dredge up whatever dirt they can on UKIP regardless of what innocent lives are ruined.
Let’s put this into perspective for a moment. The Lib Dems are currently mired in a scandal in which, virtually the party’s entire hierarchy seems to have been complicitous in covering up for the paedophile activities of one of its star MPs, the late Cyril Smith. Labour are the party responsible for destroying Britain’s economy by racking up massive debts on a huge public spending spree, for trashing social cohesion by encouraging uncontrolled immigration, for initiating the disastrous green energy policy, and much more besides. The Conservatives have continued Britain’s ruinous renewable energy policy, allowed the once beautiful British countryside to be carpeted with wind farms, stoked a housing bubble, ramped up the money printing, failed to address Britain’s iniquitous relationship with the EU. And all three of these parties – the LibLabCon in the Westminster bubble – are absolutely riddled with MPs whose stupidity, venality, drunkenness, lecherousness, hypocrisy, corruption and greed makes UKIP look like rank amateurs.
UKIP isn’t perfect. But this concerted media campaign against them is out of all proportion to anything they have done wrong or any mistakes they may have made. What we’re seeing here is just how cosy is the relationship between the media establishment and the political establishment. UKIP are being punished for being outsiders who want to rock the boat. This though is precisely why so many disparate groups – from disappointed natural Labour voters to betrayed natural Tories – are being drawn to them. It’s less, I suspect, because of anything UKIP says in its manifesto or even anything Nigel Farage says on TV, than that UKIP represents a force for rebellion against the oppressive status quo.
And maybe that’s why, in the end, the media will come to regret this nasty, dirty politics game it’s playing to undermine UKIP. It reveals the establishment for the controlling bullies they are. And it makes the rebel faction more determined than ever to bring the bastards down.