Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Farage: The (Would Be) Knight Who Says Nay


When, two years ago now, Douglas Carswell quit the Tories to join Ukip I was astonished. I've always rather liked Carswell. He is one of the good guys, a man who is in politics for all of the right reasons, who is principled, self effacing and intelligent. More than that though he is a liberal Tory, someone who is for immigration, wants Brexit and has campaigned for it but not the Brexit favoured by most Ukippers. Ukip is the party of the Daily Mail or of disgusted of Tunbridge Wells. Carswell is a patrician who is popular in his very working class constituency almost despite himself. He is, in other words, the diametric opposite of Nigel Farage and many of the fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists of Ukip.

And this week never has David Cameron's famous description of that ridiculous party been more apt. As far as I understand it, the famously shy and self effacing Farage is upset with Carswell because he made a joke about his efforts to get a knighthood. Carswell has also been known, on occasion, to disagree with the leader of his adopted party on various things, although presumably they also agree on a great deal because otherwise he would never have agreed to jump ship. How, incidentally, he must regret that particular decision.

Farage anyway is supposed to be retired now isn't he? He is no longer leader and yet is casting around for a new career, or possibly yet another stint at the helm of his party. It's hard to tell. Thus far, in addition to spending time in a golden elevator with a man even more loud and disagreeable than he, Farage has become bumptious about the British government's sniffy attitude to suggestions about his becoming this country's ambassador to the US, wondered out loud why he has not been given the peerage or knighthood he considers his just desserts and been smug, loud and rude in the EU parliament thus rubbing up the wrong way the very people we need to smooth and be nice to in the coming months and years. And yet he wonders why a career as a diplomat is not seen as a good idea.

Nigel Farage is buffoon. He is a terribly effective one, much like his orange friend from across the pond, but he remains a buffoon. Of course as such he would not look that much out of place in the House of Lords as this week's BBC series on that ridiculous chamber has revealed, but then Nige does not want to go there as it would mean him taking a massive pay cut and render him inconsequential. It would also be a golden opportunity for people like me to point out that the only way he could enter parliament was by bypassing the electorate. Not very man of the people that is it.

And anyway, since Nige is supposed to be anti-establishment why would he want to be in the House of Lords or to accept a knighthood? Isn't our getting and then winning that referendum enough for him? Didn't he retire to get his life back? Or did he retire so that he can join the establishment he so clearly wants to be a member of? Or is his desire for a title so that he can impress his friend Donald?

Douglas Carswell is entirely right about Farage and his joke about his knighthood being given for services to headline writers is on the money too. There is speculation that he will probably rejoin the Tories by the time of the next election. But that means he will have to hang on until 2020 as things stand since it is unlikely he would put his constituents to the trouble and expense of yet another by election just to indulge the petty whims of the man who is now his ex leader, even if he seldom acts as if this is the case.

How Farage must be hoping against hope that Paul Nuttall stands down as leader in the coming weeks or months. Then, don't be at all surprised if he feels it is his duty to become leader again if only so he can despatch Douglas Carswell back where he came from. Farage has famously failed numerous times to be elected to parliament, despite his man of the people schtick. If he succeeds in driving out his bete noire, it is unlikely that Ukip will ever have an MP again. If it really wanted to be taken seriously it would be reinventing itself right now as it has to. And surely a proper grown up party ought to be able to accommodate the likes of Carswell and Farage who agree on a lot, disagree on a little. Isn't that what political parties do? That's how the Tories manage to accommodate Ken Clarke and Peter Bone after all. It's why I used to be one of those who backed Clarke for the leadership even though I profoundly disagreed with him on Europe, although having read his memoirs recently I now recant this lunatic viewpoint and thank god he never won.

But, since Ukip cannot operate at this level of maturity it is doomed to irrelevance and eventual extinction. Ukip is a pointless party, a vacuum looking for a cause and so is the would-be knight who says Nay.

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