“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.”
Brendan O’Neill is right. I can’t either. Outside Breitbart London you can count on the fingers of one hand the journalists who have remained sufficiently independent-minded not to fall in with the prevailing narrative that UKIP is dangerous, unBritish, racist, extremist, utterly unsuited for any kind of political office, angry and unpleasant.
Apart from Brendan O’Neill, there’s Douglas Murray in the Spectator, Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph, Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday and er….Well apologies to anyone I’ve missed out but I think under the circumstances I’d better amend that phrase to “fingers on a saw-miller’s hand.”
Does this not strike you as slightly weird? Not just weird but surely also rather sick. For well over two centuries now, Britain has been both renowned and infamous for the robustness of its press and the crusading, no-prisoners fearlessness of its hacks. (It’s why so many of them end up being headhunted by the US media, even ones who’ve not been obviously successful at their jobs, such as Mark Thompson, late of the BBC, now of the New York Times.) This was the supposed raison d’être of the Leveson Inquiry: that the UK media had grown so savage, irresponsible and out-of-control that only government regulation could curb its rabid tendencies.
Yet across the British media, even in notionally right-wing publications, the unherdable cats of Britain’s mighty fourth estate have all now been meekly corralled like spayed poodles to do their masters’ bidding.
And what are their masters saying? “Get Farage! Get UKIP!”
This unanimity, as O’Neill notes, is all but unprecedented:
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.
How do we explain this mass outbreak of groupthink – even among journalists and publications known to hold views very similar to UKIP’s on a host of issues, from the tyranny of the EU and the dearth of British sovereignty to the problems with mass immigration and the sheer pointlessness of wind farms and HS2? Why have they been so relentless in their attacks on the very party whose manifesto likely most closely resembles their own personal wish lists of the things that need to be done to make Britain truly great again?
The answer is that this is about something altogether more exciting, dramatic and novel than the tired old clashes of left and right. On this occasion, the right and left of the media class and the right and left of the political class have united against a common enemy. And who is that enemy? Us.
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.
Exactly. The rise and rise of UKIP isn’t really about Europe or about immigration or closet racism or any of the other specific issues on which its mainstream opponents have been striving so desperately to skewer it. It is – not unlike the Tea Party in the US – about an idea, a feeling, a mood.
It’s about that conversation people have, every night, in pubs all over Britain about how they just don’t recognise their country any more, and about how it doesn’t seem to matter who you vote for, you always get the same.
It’s about political correctness gone mad: like the head of Premier League football being censured and threatened with the sack for the contents of his private emails – and the Conservative Prime Minister cantishly joining in to swell the chorus of disapproval.
It’s about things beyond the realm of politics, like the depressing sight I saw at the tube station shortly before writing this piece: a class of primary school children, their uniforms obscured by hideous hi-visibility vests which their staff had apparently decided when filling out the inevitable risk assessment forms that everyone should wear, for reasons of elf ‘n’ safety.
This is the world most of us inhabit and which most of us would rather not inhabit. It is the political class which created this world. Is it any wonder we want revenge?