STEVE ANGLESEY examines the fishy performance of the UKIP leader, Gerard Battern, and names his Brexiteers of the Week.
It was early in the morning on Halloween and UKIP leader Gerard Batten was scheduled to appear at Lowestoft fish market’s 7am auction.
The room was filled with cold-blooded, dead-eyed creatures – a familiar sight for the man who presided over the 2018 UKIP conference. But Batten was not there to rule over them. Having overslept, he turned up 12 minutes late and missed the whole thing, bringing to mind this old playground joke: ‘What is the sleepiest fish in the world? A kipper.’
It was a case of right plaice, wrong time for Batten, whose floundering party are in the carp. And though their overlord would dismiss talk of a crisis as ‘hake news’, he does not have much time left to mullet all over before he loses his £92,000 job as an MEP for London next March.
It does not help that Batten keeps dropping a pollock here and there (note to fish name pun fans: that was the last one in this article). A few hours before his late show at the Lowestoft auction, he told an audience of supporters in the town that despite the objections of veteran ‘Kippers like Nigel Farage and the revulsion of many voters, he still hoped Tommy Robinson might be allowed to join the party.
Batten claimed that Robinson ‘did four months in solitary confinement’ (‘totally false’ according to the prison service, who say he was placed in a care and separation unit for less than 48 hours before joining the main jail population). He added that Robinson, who has been jailed for mortgage fraud, for illegally entering the USA on a false passport and for assaulting an off-duty police officer, was ‘not a criminal’.
Days earlier, the UKIP supremo could be found fuming over a news report which claimed high street bakers Greggs would ‘rebrand in a move towards a gender-neutral business model following criticism that their name sounds too male’.
Quickly mounting his high horse with an enthusiasm not seen since Catherine The Great, the 64-year-old told his 35,000 Twitter followers: ‘Criticism from who? Probably someone who doesn’t buy from Greggs. A cheese roll is a cheese roll. When is this madness going to stop? By the way, almost all the staff in Greggs are female. Do they operate a biased recruitment policy?’
Alas, before these important questions could be answered someone pointed out that Batten had been reacting to a spoof Guardian news account, leaving poor Gerard’s face the colour of one of the kidney beans in Greggs’ delicious new beef chilli bakes.
But comparing Batten’s face to a foodstuff now carries its own risks. A pro-EU protester who recently encountered him on Westminster’s College Green called out, ‘Mr Batten, it’s not going well, is it?’ In a clip widely shared on Twitter, Batten can be seen replying, ‘Why don’t you f**k off?’ He goes on to add: ‘The last time I saw you, you called me a gammon, which is a racist slur.’ Honestly, you can’t say anything these days without some snowflake being triggered! It’s political correctness gone mad!
But seriously, let’s hope Gerard continues to confront racism wherever he finds it. He might want to start with video of a speech on immigration made at UKIP’s September conference by the party’s general secretary Paul Oakley, who asks, ‘frankly, there is only so much ‘diversity’ that we can comfortably celebrate, so what is to be done?’ An audience member shouts ‘send them back’ and receives no admonishment from Oakley, while other audience members can be heard laughing and applauding.
This was the conference which, hilariously, Batten chose to hold at Birmingham’s ICC, built thanks to a £50m grant from the European Union. And the same conference at which he was upstaged when a merchandise stall condom bearing the face of his predecessor Farage earned more – ahem – column inches than his own speech.
With his grim countenance and dull monotone, being outshone seems to come naturally to Batten. He is forever doomed to play second (forvever bendy, thanks to Brexit) banana.
How Gerry beamed when name checked by Robinson as they stood on a hastily-erected stage outside the Old Bailey following his recent court appearance! Then he had to watch as the more charismatic, Morrissey-approved Anne-Marie Waters of For Britain was also introduced to an adoring crowd. To paraphrase the old Radio Active gag about Ringo Starr and the Beatles which is sometimes credited to bandmate John Lennon: ‘Most Islamophobic party leader in the country? He’s not even the most Islamophobic party leader on this platform!’
Meanwhile Batten’s strategy of getting down with the alt-right kids by embracing Robinson, YouTube conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson, Nazi salute pug trainer Count Dankula and whoever the hell Sargon of Akkad might be is conspicuously failing to bear fruit.
In the final opinion poll under his predecessor Henry Bolton’s embattled stewardship, conducted by YouGov for the Times on 12-13 February, UKIP languished at just 4%. Under Batten’s inspired guidance, according to the latest published poll (YouGov/Times, 29-30 Oct) that figure has soared to, erm, a whopping 4%.
If this continues, how long before Farage returns as UKIP capo di tutti capi and, in Godfather parlance, Gerard Batten oversleeps with the fishes?
What made a socialist and a social media guru so antisocial?
One of the strangest reactions to news of the National Crime Agency investigation into Arron Banks came from writer Owen Jones.
‘The idea that people in Mansfield and Blackpool looked at Twitter, at some bots with no followers and then went ‘Do you know, I was going to vote Remain, I will vote Leave now,’ is ridiculous,’ he told BBC Politics Live.
Jones’ scepticism was greeted with enthusiasm by Darren Grimes, the pro-Brexit campaigner fined £20,000 for breaking EU referendum spending laws ‘Bloody hell, I agree with Owen Jones,’ he tweeted. ‘Time for a stiff drink I think.’
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell agreed with both of them. ‘I’m not sure that people who voted either way can say it was the campaign that determined their vote,’ he told Sunday Politics Scotland.
‘People came to a considered decision on the basis of how they felt. I’m not sure this investigation opens up the legitimacy of the referendum.’
So let’s get this straight. Jones does not believe that social media swiftly changed attitudes during the referendum despite having written in May that one of the drivers of Labour’s 2017 general election advances was ‘a social media campaign that reached millions of voters. Combined with a transformative manifesto, the shift in public attitudes in a six-week campaign was unprecedented’.
McDonnell does not believe that campaigning changed anything in June 2016, despite admitting that campaigning changed everything in June 2017. ‘I thought that if we could get broadcast coverage, people would realise what we were about, and realise what Jeremy was like as an individual, and it would turn,’ he told The Guardian in September last year.
And Grimes does not believe social media affected the referendum despite operating the much-praised social media campaign Be Leave and helping Vote Leave funnel £650,000 to Aggregate IQ so it could buy even more social media advertising.
Brexiteers of the week
Calling it ‘politically, ethically and practically
the right thing to do,’ the former Brexit secretary broke his thoroughly welcome silence by calling on Theresa May to release the government’s legal advice about Chequers.
Now, can anyone remember who it was who spent months trying to avoid releasing the government’s advice on a hard Brexit, which happened to be highly damaging
to his own cause?
THE MICROWAVE MOB
Members of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group are buying microwave ovens for their offices and putting their mobile phones inside to counteract spying by those dastardly Europeans.
A Tory MP told the Sunday Times: it was possible
‘to eavesdrop on conversations when a mobile phone is turned on. So the Brexiteers are now being advised to take the precautionary step of installing
a microwave in their offices to stop anyone listening into their calls’.Just two questions: How long until we see Jacob in a top hat constructed entirely of tinfoil, and has anyone advised the ERG that the whole eavesdrop-blocking tactic works far better if you put your phone inside the microwave and then set it to cook?
In a valedictory speech to a newspaper conference, the former Daily Mail editor defended his infamous Lords-bashing ‘Enemies Of The People’ headline, saying it was ‘the title of an Ibsen play’.
What Dacre neglected to mention was that the Ibsen play in question is about a man hounded out of his home and job by mob rule; a man who ultimately destroys his own life and everything around him because he is unwilling to compromise in any way, even with natural allies.
Remind you of anything?