Rachel Cooke can barely restrain her contempt for Mr Farage as she pens this rather fascinating article in the magazine section of the Observer today. I am sure it was set up by the media boffins in the Dorset HQ of UKIP with the thought that Nigel is the party’s greatest asset, but he is a bit like Marmite. I have never really liked Marmite. And I get the impression from this article that he is actually a bit out of his depth. He is running a National election with a sticking plaster and a rubber-band. Whatever your views about his policies, hats off to him for his spunk.
Given my own recent brush with the powers of UKIP, I thought it would be interesting to analyse the main points in the piece.
Firstly there is a photo which is captioned, “Whatever my faults, I have some principles.” Certainly not any ones I would admire, Mr F! Not anymore. My eyes have been thoroughly opened (and incidentally, I am still waiting for a response to my letter!)
But what is interesting about the article is that, given Rachel’s evident dislike of the man’s policies, he comes across as someone we would all enjoy meeting, actually someone we might actually like. He describes himself as a “sentimentalist” and as a man who wants to watch lots of theatre when he retires – I certainly hope he has booked himself into plenty of shows after May 7th, then- She does her level best to do him down “looking at his weary face, clammy and puce”, but for all her efforts, what I felt by the time I finished was a wave of sympathy for a man against the odds. And I liked his observation that politics is full of “corruption and laziness.” Having had a brush with it, I concur.
I remembered the awful pictures taken of him getting out of the plane wreck, as I was reading Rachel’s article and urge you to check above his brilliant summary of what happened and the way it has affected him. Then, of course, there was the terrible melee last week when his family was attacked by the “hope not hate” people. Also, I realise I must know some of his contemporaries at Dulwich. There are moments, certainly for me, when the Farage image moves from marmite to something rather more all-embracing, and there is undoubted warmth. He has the theatricality and actually the charisma and “common touch” to appeal to a much wider audience, but something stops him doing that.
There was a bit where Rachel pressed him about his family, and I felt his discomfort. (“his absolute refusal to wheel out his family. .. I won’t even let you through the front gate.”) But then, he tells us that his wife would pass the Australian migrant points scheme, and that made me cringe.
Some of the points he makes are blatantly wrong of course – he claims that Blair is responsible for the influx of “hard-working Polish builders”. It was not Blair, but John Major who signed the Maastricht treaty and Blair was simply following the inevitable progress of the Brussels juggernaut. The treaty guaranteed European Citizenship over and above National citizenship. This allowed for freedom of movement within the community, the right to vote and stand for elections in the country of residence and the right of petition to the EU parliament and of complaint to an ombudsman. It also provided for monetary union. A number of subsequent treaties (including Nice, Lisbon and Amsterdam) may have had some Blair input but they were essentially tinkering with what was set up in 1992.
Mrs Thatcher rejected Maastricht saying that she “could never have signed that bill”. And the rebellion against Maastricht formed the centrepiece in the Government of Mr Major, with famously the approval of the Maastricht agreement inching through the Commons with a majority of only 18 votes.
But despite the title on the front page, Rachel does not really draw any conclusion about “what drives Farage”, though I certainly have my suspicions.