Nigel Farage has replaced Nick Clegg as the promising outsider tipped to have a bright future. Local and European elections are weeks away. He is certainly attracting significant media attention. Channel 4 curtailed their news programme to fit in an hour long documentary about Nigel Farage which painted a rosy picture of a self-made man prepared to stand up for Britain.
For those who missed it, Channel 4 took viewers on a journey which began in the City of London where Farage made his money as a trader, initially in commodities. They then obtained what livery companies describe as a stirrup to speed them on the way (a generous wine glass measure of port, although from a pub on this occasion.)
The correspondent accompanied Farage to the European Parliament where Farage proceeded to smuggle the cameras into the Parliament chamber, smoke inside the estate and generally display his disregard for the rules. These examples may appear trivial but they are evidence of a man who is fundamentally irresponsible and isolationist.
Farage’s speeches in the chamber confirmed this tendency towards dissent, even anarchy, which would be very dangerous in Government and destroy democratic decision-making. Would Farage tow the party line and obey the whips in a bigger party? Would he make decisions based on the maximum possible benefit for the majority and represent his constituents? Is this one reason that it is much easier for him to found UKIP than win the arguments within the Tory Party? Easier to become a big fish in a small pond, easier to protest and attack than develop rational and practical policies.
Then there was the Dimbleby debate. Nigel Farage wants Britain to get up off its knees and govern itself. This sounds reasonable enough. However, successive Governments, Labour and Coalition have sought to remain in the EU.
The Conservatives are divided but David Cameron wants to reform rather than leave the EU. The UK’s budget rebate saves the British taxpayer £3 billion per year. Britain is the only Member State to negotiate a rebate. TheCityUK has forecast that the UK’s trade surplus in financial services now stands at a record £61bn, up 10% on 2012. More than £20bn of this trade is with other European member states making the EU Britain’s largest single trading partner. Leaders of the business community in the city of London wrote to the Independent last year including the current and next presidents of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) as well as the chairmen of BT, Deloitte, Lloyds and Centrica, in the first co-ordinated response to increasing anti-European political rhetoric.’ (20.05.13) Economically, it is in the national interest to remain in the EU where the City of London is ‘Europe’s global, financial centre.’
Trade treaties in the 1970s were acceptable to Farage but surrendering economic power and government to the EU is not. Farage left the Conservative party when Britain signed the Maastricht Treaty. The treaty established the three pillars of the European Union: the European Communitypillar which set up the common institutions of government and extended the powers of the European Economic Community (EC), the Common Foreign and Security Policy(CFSP) pillar, and the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) pillar. Farage is appealing to any Euro sceptics of whatever persuasion, including the working classes from the North, with emotive arguments that touch the heart.
Nick Clegg’s task was onerous because he tried to win the argument with logic. Nick Clegg did make some good points:Farage praises Putin as ‘brilliant’ and names Putin as ‘the world leader he most admires as an operator, not as a human being.’ Nick’s point is that Putin has resolutely refused to pressurise President Assad in a manner that only he can, to bring to an end the civil war and death of 200 civilians every day in Syria. Assad has the largest stock pile of chemical weapons in the world. This is a cause of great concern to the international community within and beyond the EU. The Guardian reported in February: ‘Less than 5% of Syria’s chemical arsenal… has been shipped out for destruction supervised by the UN.’ The target in February was 90%. In addition, Nick Clegg states that only an EU Superpower can attain some parity with the economic might of the US. However, these arguments are subtle and cerebral.
British jobs for British people, British law for British people, staying out of foreign wars, will indeed result in Little England. UKIP argues that Westminster alone should make UK law and UKIP do not support EU foreign policy. Our influence in Europe is already diminishing as the referendum approaches and Britain is seen as an isolated and divided, dissenter without common European priorities.
The countries of the European Union will watch the elections in May and the Tory in-fighting ahead of the referendum closely. This will damage the European Project, whatever the outcome. All parties need to be vigilant and beware the popular appeal and increasing influence of Nigel Farage and UKIP. Nigel Farage should stay in the pub with his pint. This protest party must be kept far away from Government.
Postscript from Michael White in the Guardian yesterday: ‘Nigel Farage cheerfully admits to his participation in the Great Euro-Gravy Train robbery to the tune of £2m of expenses since 1999 – far more than Ronnie Biggs managed from his 1963 caper. Some fellow-Kipper MEPs do even better, and all this on top of their £79k salaries in a job they all despise, especially the work bit. One (UKIP MEP) was jailed for fraud (£36k diverted to cars and wine), another for benefit fiddling (£65k). That’s an even higher proportion than Labour considering Ukip currently has seven MEPs, after losing six to pub sulks and defections since 2009.’ (09.04.14)