What will the five terrestrial broadcasters do when, at the beginning of April, the short campaign of this General Election starts? How on earth will they fill their evening listings when parliament closes down, MPs go back to their constituencies to fight tooth and nail to retain their slim majorities and press regulations state that the broadcasters must apply a level of reason as to their coverage of the various political parties vying for your vote?
We know what they are doing so far; within the last few weeks alone, we have seen a series of horror futurology dramas and pseudo-reality dystocumentaries. With depressing predictability, all of these offerings had one common theme: “UKIP, aren’t they scary; aren’t they mad?” The undertone was clearly that a vote for UKIP can lead only to bad things and to be a UKIP voter is to be unutterably (delete where appropriate) mad/racist/homophobic/ignorant/elderly/fat/ugly/working-class/white/stupid.
The first in this mini-series was Channel 4’s mockumentary “UKIP: the first 100 days”, lauded as “groundbreaking and provocative”, notable for zombie-apocalypse scenes of fat, working class white people supporting a pretty, thoughtful Sikh UKIP candidate. The first result of a UKIP victory, the director made clear, was that Airbus Industries would leave the country, instantly sacking their 17,000 direct employees and the tens of thousands who were employed by suppliers and subsidiary companies.
What has happened since this came out? 1. The program has received more complaints to Ofcom than any other stand-alone program in the past ten years. 2. The director, Chris Atkins, has since been to court charged with £2.5 million of tax fraud; and 3. Airbus has fought back, with their Chief Exec Tom Enders, an advisor to David Cameron, denouncing the program as wholly inaccurate.
Next up: ‘Meet the Kippers’ by BBC2. This was actually a documentary, sort of. It was a seven month project designed to look at the people involved in the UKIP stronghold of Kent and specifically the constituency of Thanet South where UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, is tipped by Ladbrokes 3/1 to win in May.
What better place to winkle out the greater-spotted-UKIP-loon? And after seven months of digging, to their credit, they found and recorded a three minute video clip of Cllr Rosanne Duncan spouting what was the clearest expression of racial prejudice seen on British television for years.
On discovering this, back in December, UKIP’s increasingly excellent press team took less than fifteen minutes to boot her out of the party after confirming her “jaw dropping” comments. Aside from the worrying incident of Cllr Duncan, the program was a masterclass in metropolitan contempt for the sort of people who do vote for UKIP; ordinary lower-middle and working class people with their collections of stuffed toys and porcelain clowns. It reeked of the sort of disdain by the Islington “liberals” that saw Labour MP Emily Thornberry punished last year.
Following that was BBC4’s “Great European Disaster Movie” an even more blatant hatchet job than its predecessors. This one was written by the former editor of that great Europhilic journal The Economist, Bill Emmott, and starred Angus Deayton of “sacked for taking cocaine with a prostitute while presenting Have I Got News For You” fame.
This was a portentous warning against the dangers the break-up of the European Union and the horrors of a Farage-run United Kingdom. The great dictator would, amongst other horrors, throw out all migrants to Britain over the past ten years – which would be, according to ONS figures, millions of people – despite the fact that at no point ever has UKIP suggested the deportation of any legal migrants. Europe, with Britain gone, would be a disaster. ISIS was lapping at the gates of Vienna. And somehow it was all UKIP’s fault. Emmott has since admitted that he received European Union funding to translate his fairy tale into a variety of continental languages.
Finally came Channel 5’s grand opus, the fantastically brilliant “Farage Fans and UKIP Lovers”, starring a cast of oddballs and caricatures well-suited to Channel 5’s usual evening guests on such documentary blockbusters as ‘Embarrassing Bodies’, “Worst Weather Ever” and “Sex: How to do Everything”. Twitter erupted. Between the lesbian racist, the enormous dominatrix hoping that UKIP would appoint a Minister for Bondage and the gaunt, bald chap who claimed that Hitler was the “Jewish Messiah”, it was hard not to applaud the diligence of the film makers for finding such prize and rare specimens while making a documentary. I know they spent hours filming other UKIP supporters, member and candidates across the country but, unsurprisingly, the sane ones were found wanting.
Amid the unprecedented propaganda against one of the most successful and supported political parties in the UK, one small fact is worth noting. UKIP’s position in the polls has remained stubbornly buoyant. Yesterday, Ashcroft polled UKIP at 18 percent; The Sun’s YouGov tracker keeps UKIP at 14-15 percent despite all the best efforts of its editorial directive.
None of these programs is making the blindest bit of difference to UKIP’s supporters. From the perspective of a potential UKIP voter, I find these programs tiresome, deliberate and so painfully obvious. Of course the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5 are wading in on the establishment’s side.
What I do find interesting is what UKIP would do if given a shot at power. 1. UKIP are proposing a fairer, simpler tax system. 2. UKIP would reform our immigration system from one that is, at its core, racist to one that judges individuals on their own merits regardless of where they are from. 3. UKIP would bring choice into education; and 4. Looking at a carelessly revealed briefing note, UKIP intend to remove the VAT luxury tax on those “luxury” sanitary products that was inflicted on women when we joined the “common market” back in 1973. According to the government figures it would only cost £15 million to take it away but under EU rules you cannot stop VAT on an item on which VAT has already been levied.
UKIP faces ridicule for the views of unaffiliated supporters and on the back of policies that they do not actually have. When they come up with something as sensible and brilliant as removing the Tampon tax they don’t receive the coverage they deserve. When it does come to the short campaign, when UKIP is obliged to receive the same air-time as other political parties with “major party” status, then let’s hope the broadcasters give as much coverage to the policies as they are now doing to the parodies.