If you scanned Twitter over the past 24 hours you might be forgiven for thinking that UKIP leader Nigel Farage was awarded the Nobel Prize for Quantum Physics, such was the mass condemnation from lefty trolls over the award actually given to him by the Times of London newspaper: Briton of the Year.
Conservative Party activists and left-wingers alike were quick to share memes claiming that Mr Murdoch’s paper had handed the award to a “racist” (yes, that’s still all they’ve got) and liken the award to Time Magazine naming Adolf Hitler man of the year in 1938. It may well have been the fastest breach of Godwin’s Law in the internet’s short history, with some confusing Time Magazine and the Times newspaper altogether.
But the award may have been more to do with the paper’s admission of guilt, having mischaracterised and demonised UKIP as both hobby and policy for the past several years. Under stewardship by Conservative Party donor, Executive Editor Lord Finkelstein, the paper has railed against UKIP in no small terms; even representing a few of its journalists as “Investigations Reporters” when indeed it seems they were hired specifically to root out or concoct anti-UKIP stories.
Here are some of the reasons the Times might have had for offering Mr Farage the prize:
1. An Apology, But Not a Sign of Things to Come
The guilt complex doesn’t mean the Times will be changing its ways on the run up to the General Election in May 2015, however. It is still the most establishment newspaper in Britain, and its staff will doubtlessly feel some form of calling in the way of protecting the Westminster elite. So how about this: “Sorry, Nige. For all the hard times and non-stories. We actually quite like you, so here’s a little present for Christmas. But prepare for war.”
2. An Attempt to Get UKIP to Lower Its Guard
For obvious reasons, Times journalists find it very difficult to engage UKIP spokespeople and get further news stories out of them. No one else seems to have that much of a problem, because by and large most other outlets, bar the Telegraph perhaps, play the game with a straight bat. If they’re going to stab you, they’ll stab you in the front. Whereas the Times seems to have this repeat obsession with duplicity and underhandedness. It’s for this reason that several Times journos are now on UKIP’s ‘shitlist’ — not to be spoken to, not to be invited, not to be engaged. The Times giving Mr Farage this award may have been a cynical attempt to get the party and its spokespeople to lower their guard. It won’t work.
3. A Ploy for Publicity
If you’re a Times editor, and you’re wondering how on earth you can bolster publicity surrounding your paywalled newspaper, what do you do? Do you give the award to someone like cancer-victim and charity fundraiser Stephen Sutton? Or do you give it to one of the most divisive political figures in Briton? It’s sort of a no brainer. Everyone and their mother was reporting the Times’s Briton of the Year award yesterday, and it may even have encouraged some of the millions of UKIP voters to sign up as subscribers.
3.1. The Old ‘Rope-a-Dope’
With relation to the above, the strategy may have been as follows: reel in some swing, UKIP-leaning voters, then bombard them with anti-UKIP stories on the run up to the election. This is sort of clever. Which it why it probably wasn’t the Times’s motive.
4. Mr Murdoch Has Taken a Shine to Mr Farage
As Breitbart London exclusively reported earlier this year, Mr Farage and Mr Murdoch met in Manhattan in September, and it is understood that they got along quite well. Could The Times’s Briton of the Year award have been Mr Murdoch’s way of doffing his cap to his new friend? It’s unlikely, especially given the consternation it might have caused amongst Times staff. But if they were sold 3.1 (above) as a rationale, who knows what they might have agreed to? Mr Murdoch will of course always be 10 paces ahead of those he employs.
5. Good, Honest Journalism, Admitting That UKIP Won 2014
It could of course have been some good old fashion journalistic integrity kicking it, and perhaps we’re cynical for suggesting anything else. Of course there was no shortage of fantastic achievements by a number of high profile Britons this year, but all things considered, including the fact that the Times very much still sees itself as the Westminster/political agenda-setter, the Farage choice may have just made sense.
From the European Election victory, through to the two major defections, by-election wins, and more, there’s no doubting that Mr Farage has gone above and beyond what anyone expected of him and his party in 2014. Naming him Briton of the Year may well just be an admission of that fact, in spite of the attacks from the Times and its establishment friends. Perhaps this was a, “well played, Mr Farage… but round two will be even harder” response.