While it’s been a rather mundane time in the weeks just gone by, what with the majority of Parliament swanning off to the very same sunlit uplands we’re on course to be diametrically opposed to this time next year, you may recently have noticed a rather disconcerting shift in the relatively calm political winds – suddenly tugging at your hat with irksome insistence as the nostalgic yet foul stench of jingoistic twattery begins to seep once more into your nostrils. What could it possibly mean?
Yes, the repugnant pong of duplicity could only herald the arrival of one man – Nigel Farage. His much teased return to “front line politics” has only increased in terms of inevitability as public mood gradually shifts against Brexit, though many would justifiably argue that a seven time electoral loser deemed too toxic to have any involvement in the official Vote Leave campaign (trust me, this fact only gets more hilarious with hindsight) was only really ever on the periphery of the Westminster bubble. However that’s always struck me as somewhat of an irrelevance. While his eternal failure to get his hands on a glossy parliamentary seat all of his own is undeniably hilarious, I can’t help but suspect that firing snide potshots into the perpetual chaos of Parliament from the relative safety of the sidelines is exactly how he likes it.
Let’s face it, why wouldn’t he? Obviously there’s been some degree of scepticism as to whether he’s still the potently iconoclastic political saboteur he once was, a viewpoint entirely at odds with the joyous celebration amongst his hardcore base – dancing with the unbridled delight usually associated with Captain Scarlet joining you in the ongoing war of ideals.
The former, more grounded perspective is perhaps the more rational – after all, the public are arguably becoming more savvy to the tricks employed by Farage and his cronies is pursuit of the ultimate Brexit deception. What possible sophistry is there left that would penetrate the public’s collective fortifications of mistrust? Promise a second, even more elaborately ostentatious unicorn?
The truth however, is somewhat less idealistic. From the standpoint of an tragically naive optimist, the public would be sufficiently incredulous to recognise that the fabled unicorn will be little more than the exact same shabbily behorned pony from before – only this time coming equipped with a hastily scribbled go-faster strip across its back and the discarded motor from a derelict Ford Focus jammed up its rectum.
However in practice past deception is unlikely to hinder Farage as much as his opponents may have hoped. Sure, Nigel won’t be bringing anything new to the table. It’ll be the exact same untruths he belched out before and he certainly won’t be bringing a viable Brexit masterplan to proceedings anytime soon; but the reality as to why is simple – he doesn’t need to.
The reasoning behind this is twofold – firstly, despite being a considerable catalyst for Brexit sneaking the referendum amidst David Cameron’s disgraceful complacency, it isn’t really his problem. While true that it’s a damning indictment on his moral responsibilities as an alleged human being, in practical terms he’s holds no tangible sway in Westminster beyond that of an agent provocateur – leaving him free to sit back, light up a fag and gallivant across the globe endorsing suspected paedophiles.
There may well be a case that the public perception of Farage, already teetering on an incredibly dubious footing, could sour irrevocably, but that seems distinctly unlikely any time soon – at least in terms of him becoming a persona non grata for the entire universe. Ultimately, he’s not the one pulling the strings that yield significant consequence and there’s no reason for him to stick around as the shit inevitably torpedoes into the fan – with Nigel largely shielded from the ensuing splatter as cabinet ministers bear the overwhelming brunt of the proverbial faecal bullet. There’ll be damage, but Farage is used to playing the villain; a few newly formed patches of brown upon but one of his innumerable tweed jackets won’t cause him to lose much sleep. He’ll happily slither off in search of another previously tranquil pond to piss in, a preposterous cackle accompanying every splash of racid urine.
The second reason is considerably less obvious, though has unquestionably played a crucial role in maintaining Farage’s efficacy as a cultural antagonist – the mainstream media being unforgivably toothless.
Despite proudly establishing himself as a man who holds the mainstream media with the same disdainful contempt you would a genital wart, they’re surprisingly keen to have him on. The word on the street is that he’s “box office” – chortle worthy perhaps, but they’ve definitely got a point. Farage does have a certain expertise when it comes to drawing your attention – much in the way you’d sit up and take notice if he suddenly sauntered into your house whistling a tune from the Hitler Youth back catalogue, before proceeding to burn down your living room and throw your dog out the window. He creates outrage – and there’s nothing that quite draws the crowds like a chance to add our voice to a screaming cacophony of collective disgust.
While never shy to champion their own sense of morality, the ratings game will take precedence every time – hence why television studios across the land continue to roll out their comfiest chairs and (seemingly) least inquisitive interrogators to lob soft-balls in perpetuity for Nigel to wallop towards a swarm of Romanian immigrants that only he can see; basking in their staggering hospitality like the anti-establishment folk hero he so obviously isn’t.
With the quest for viewers established firmly in your mind, it’s of little surprise to see Farage receive the kid glove treatment. He’s fully aware of the leverage he holds, it’s entirely within their mutual best interests to keep him relatively sweet – even if it’s an experience akin to chomping down on a vinegar soaked lemon.
As contemptuous as his apparent omnipresence is however, I’m not especially opposed to him being involved in the discussion – providing said discussion includes a thorough cross examination of Nigel’s spurious claims and distasteful rhetoric via the intellect of a well informed and incisive mind.
Yet that’s where our media fails us most of all.
Have a listen to this. Or this. Or even this chucklesome number. Now compare and contrast Nigel’s lamentable performance with that of pretty much any one of his 68.7 billion Question Time appearances for the BBC. Quite the difference, isn’t there? Gone is the self assured smarm, drowning out all attempts at scrutiny with the odd toot of his trusty dog-whistle and allowing him to filibuster his way to a different question. Instead we see an anxious man, his ignorance and deceit laid bare by the smarts of a keen mind and a steely determination to prevent any desperate attempt at derailment. He stammers, he misdirects, he ends the call or requires his press officer to come in to bat for him – and it’s fucking hilarious.
So why don’t see more of this particular Nigel – his leathery hide shimmering with an anxious sweat as his poisonous artifice is ruthlessly castrated by a factually based argument?
Simple. It’d be of no benefit to the players involved – whether it be Nigel or the media. If Farage is torn a superfluous rectal cavity upon the second his original arse-chute comes into contact with the Sky News sofa, he wouldn’t show up. Nor would the many viewers his divisive presence brings. Sneers or cheers, the TV executive doesn’t much care – as long as you’re watching.
It’s often said that the best way to expose a charlatan is to let him speak and subsequently dig his own grave. There is indeed an element of truth in this but, without a vociferous and robust counterpoint to deliver the coup de grace and ultimately bury them, we’ll still end up duped – collectively standing in front of an empty grave wondering how the hell he got away with it.Follow @grahamlithgow