Despite the absurdity of the Brexit Party’s recent antics, we can’t afford to ignore their influence, says STEVE ANGLESEY.
Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars. A white chocolate Freddo bar. Crush the surfer dude turtle from Finding Nemo. A nicotine-stained man-frog. All things Nigel Farage has been compared to in the past. Now Brexit Party founder Catherine Blaiklock has a rather different take.
The Norfolk hotelier, who resigned from the party last March over Islamophobic blog posts, recently told right-wing comment website The Salisbury Review: “His presence is electrifying… Few people have this type of presence. Clinton had it, de Gaulle, but not Mrs Thatcher… Jordan Peterson has it, so did Einstein, Martin Luther King, Churchill and Mahatma Ghandi (sic).”
Nigel’s tweed dhoti might still be at the tailor’s, but Blaiklock isn’t alone in her estimation of Farage’s appeal.
In this crucial week, the Brexit Party leader has held busy rallies in Watford and Cambourne and will stage another in Westminster on Friday. His party’s poll numbers might be hovering at around half of their 26% mid-June high, but despite a wholesale Tory land-grab of their territory, they are so far proving stubbornly unflushable.
Should the Commons go for any sort of Boris Johnson-endorsed compromise deal, Farage’s next general election manifesto is written for him. Whenever the vote comes, he will seek to hoover up the no-deal diehards and WTO wackos, making an overall Tory majority near-impossible and raising the possibility of a pebbledash of Brexit Party MPs across the Commons’ green benches. Perhaps they might even become junior partners in a coalition, with a cabinet job for the gammon Gandhi.
It’s a remarkable possibility given the slapstick nature of how the Brexit Party has conducted itself in the past few days and weeks.
A Mirror investigation proved that the official £8 baseball caps sold on the party’s website turn out to come from China, while the £24.99 hoodies and £10 t-shirts are both made in Bangladesh, where textile workers are paid as little as 39p an hour.
Party chairman Richard Tice made an unwise appearance on Al Jazeera, where he dismissed as “complete nonsense” the suggestion that Leave would be campaigning for a second referendum had they lost the first one 52% to 48%. When reminded that Farage had said in May 2016 “in a 52% to 48% referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way” Tice replied: “I didn’t hear him say it.”
Having accused the EU of behaving like a “dictatorship”, West Midlands MEP Andrew England Kerr was stripped of the party whip 10 days later by its unelected leader Farage, who cited “irreconcilable differences”.
Meanwhile, Gandhi-spotter Blaiklock claimed in another blog post that the party was being taken over by the far-left, accusing it of “playing the Marxist identity and diversity politics game in the same way as every other major party… unfortunately, left-wing Marxists seem to now be running the show”.
The party has reserved its most fatuous and farcical behaviour for the EU parliament chamber, where on October 10 its MEPs voted against a resolution calling for tougher measures to fight against Russian interference in European elections. This added to the proud moment when, on September 19, they abstained on a resolution demanding that Iran release imprisoned EU-Iranian nationals, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
When not tweeting videos of a largely empty chamber (often taken when other MEPs are in committee), Brexiteer MEPs tend to restrict their own speeches to hectoring invective. Only last week South East England MEP Belinda de Lucy could be found – apparently seriously – complaining that Michel Barnier had referred to “British negotiators as just British” and not as coming from “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.
West Midlands MEP Martin Daubney called Guy Verhofstadt “the Darth Vader of Europe” and the EU parliament building “his Death Star”. The former lads’ mag editor also seems to believe you “throw” rather than “hold” elections, asking Verhofstadt “remember how you opposed Turkey wanting to throw a new election because you didn’t agree with the first one yet you want us to throw a second referendum in the UK?”
But Daubney can make an arse of himself on social media too.
On the day the Brexiteers bravely abstained from asking for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release, he tweeted a video of himself wandering around the EU’s Strasbourg building while whistling Queen’s I Want to Break Free.
This week he has been back in the UK, leading pro-Leave protests outside parliament, during which he has claimed the decades-old “What do we want? When do we want it?” chant was originated by Brexiteers, as well as suggesting that the mayor of London is opposed to voter ID “because the Labour Party has become dependent on ‘organising’ its postal vote”.
It’s possible Martin might have been showing his passport to the slit in the letterbox before posting his own ballot, but the rest of us know you don’t need voter ID to cast a postal vote.
Given that this sort of stupidity costs £92,000 a year in salary, plus £46,000 in expenses, it’s almost tempting to hope for a Johnson Brexit deal which would render the lot of them unemployed.
But then, we must not lose faith in humanity, for humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
Gandhi said that. Or was it Nigel Farage?
Brexiteers of the Week
4) ANDREW BRIDGEN
The North East Leicestershire MP has predicted that Ireland will be the next country to leave the EU – despite a recent survey showing 93% of voters there would back Remain.
Bridgen told a podcast polls would turn because “Ireland will be the only English-speaking nation left in the EU” and “they will have very little voting power without us as their ally”. He added: “Ireland’s out in the Atlantic, it doesn’t border another EU state.”
The veteran Brexiteer might just have other things on his mind at the moment – in a plot worthy of Succession, he has accused his own brother and other directors of fraud related to their family’s veg farming business. In return the firm deny all allegations and claim the MP owes them £100,000 in rent for living in a £1.5 million five-bedroom house owned by the company.
3) ESTHER McVEY
Sick of infantile comparisons between Boris Johnson and The Hulk, the housing secretary staged a dramatic intervention designed to elevate our political discourse. “Boris is the Kung Fu Panda of British politics,” she told the Times, later tweeting: “Boris is a panda he has the energy and tornado personality needed to reconnect with working voters.”
Unkind observers might point out that Boris is sort of like a panda because he eats, shoots and leaves. Meanwhile McVey continues to build on her magnificent Tory conference speech, in which she hailed the efforts of “3D architects, 3D visionaries, doing it on a computer, doing it with a whole new raft of jobs”. Was that written by a panda?
2) GERARD BATTEN
UKIP’s fallen leader tweeted on October 4: “Today is the 953rd anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. The Anglo Saxons fought a brave & desperate fight for national survival & lost. Brexit is a desperate fight for national survival too. We cannot afford to lose. King Harold at least was not surrounded by traitors.”
Bless. Who is going to break it to Gerard that:
a) The original Anglo-Saxons were migrants from what we now know as northern Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark;
b) The Christian name Gerard comes from Gérard, introduced to Britain from France by the Normans; and
c) The surname Batten was introduced to Britain by the invaders of 1066 and was originally Flemish?
1) BREXIT BUBBLY
What to buy for the Brexiteer who has everything but good taste? Drinks company Gold Emotion are selling the ultimate gift – a limited edition bottle of sparkling Chardonnay containing 24 karat gold flakes, in a bottle embossed with the Union Jack and the words “Brexit, we made history”. There’s also a rosé version with sparkling Pinot Noir instead.
The wines will set you back a very reasonable £138 and £148 apiece, but there’s just one small catch. Gold Emotion are based on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris, from where spokesman Olivier Pocholuk says: “Some customers buy our bottles and keep them like a piece of art. It’s something unique – just like Brexit itself.” Presumably before laughing all the way à la banque.