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No end to media's Ukip love-in

Farage enjoys endless publicity but offers only turbo-charged austerity, says JOHN HAYLETT

Nick Clegg has no regrets about tangling so unsuccessfully with Ukip leader Nigel Farage in a two-hour mauling on prime-time TV.

"At least I have the courage to get up and say this is what I believe," he declared.

Well, yes he did, and the tousing he received at the hands of Farage and in post-bout viewers' polls indicated the unpopularity of his cause and underlined his lightweight political status.

Remember, it was Clegg who sought the tear-up. He brought the hiding on himself in a desperate bid to publicise his party's unique selling point.

Former City trader Farage is not short of a bob or two and has big money behind him, but neither he nor his party could have afforded a two-hour party political broadcast as beneficial as this one-sided bloodsport.

That was not the only free advert he received this week, courtesy of Channel 4.

Its Nigel Farage - Who Are You programme, fronted by Martin Durkin, a self-styled former leftwinger turned libertarian, was supposed to lift the lid on what Farage believes.

As if we didn't know already. He hasn't exactly been starved of the oxygen of publicity, having appeared more often than any other politician on the BBC weekly political showcase Question Time.

But Durkin thought it would be worth spending a few months with the Ukip leader, trailing him from one pub to another, popping into the European Parliament and interviewing fellow right-wing journalists Simon Heffer, Kelvin McKenzie, Allister Heath and Rod Liddle.

Heffer, McKenzie and Heath took issue with Farage's stance on immigration from the European Union, seeing this as contradicting his libertarian ethos.

Liddle identified himself as a Labour man unlikely to vote for Farage, but "I might vote for him to spite other people."

He highlighted the growing gulf between the Labour leadership and its traditional voters by stressing that "the view in Islington doesn't accord with views in Middlesbrough or Keighley."

Fair point, although Islington North Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn has constantly identified working-class
concerns, campaigned on them and been re-elected.

There is more to Islington than its bijou areas of Barnsbury and Canonbury beloved of the Blairs and other new Labour money-grubbers.

Liddle's comments are intended to reinforce the spurious image of Farage as an outsider, evidenced by Heffer's breathless assertion that he has emerged from the "real world" of making money in the City.

Even the man himself - son of a stockbroker, public schoolboy, City trader and lifelong resident of the picturesque Kent village of Downe - admits: "We're a middle-class southern family. No point in pretending otherwise."

So where is there a basis for seeing him as an outsider, somehow an alternative?

In Liddle's words, "successive bourgeois governments are telling the working class how to behave - to cut down on their smoking, cut down on their drinking and Farage is a politician who does both."

Wow, that's pretty damn alternative. Does that explain why the media establishment, including the BBC and Channel 4, offer him countless platforms?

Maybe, but more likely is his consistent advocacy of capitalist globalisation, neoliberal economics and a slimmed-down state.

"I hate big government," he roars, giving "speed cameras everywhere" as an example.

"This European Union is the new communism. It is power without limits," he tells the European Parliament.

Farage would "lift the shackles of taxes and regulation off the backs of ordinary folk so they can borrow money and take risks. Wealth is not created by government but by people."

Filling in the blanks, McKenzie notes that Ukip would reduce government spending, while Durkin says that it would "shrink the welfare state and take us out of the EU."

To the surprise of no-one, the programme did not invite comments from socialists or trade unionists to counter Farage's rejection of social solidarity.

Its supposed political balance consisted of liberal journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown - "he's not handsome, not sexy, not charismatic" - wondering why the media gave him so much time and pro-Brussels gobbledegook from Lord Kinnock of EU Gravy Train.

Kinnock conceded that the European Parliament is not a parliament in the normal sense, while claiming that it had gained over the past 10 years "much greater rights of consultation and involvement, which is much more democratic."

Try that one on the doorstep, Baron Kinnochio. You might learn why so few voters can be bothered to vote in EU polls.

Pro-EU propaganda is doomed to failure, as is the scaremongering over jobs that Clegg tried.

The idea that leaving the EU would cost 4.5 million jobs is preposterous. It ignores the reality that trade is bilateral and cutting commercial links would be mutually harmful.

As Alex Gordon pointed out in the Morning Star this week, jobs are already being lost to other EU locations, assisted by EU regional funds.

Fighting Farage on false allegations that he is a "pinstripe fascist" or on the phoney internationalism of cheerleading for the undemocratic centralist EU is doomed to defeat.

His party's Achilles heel is its commitment to the same austerity agenda backed by all major parliamentary parties and most sharply by Ukip.

The only political formation standing for EU withdrawal and, in contrast to Ukip, defence of working people's living standards, jobs, pensions, the NHS and public services is No2EU: Yes to Workers' Rights.


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