Making fans for Nigel is tough down under
- Credit: AAP/PA Images
Nigel Farage's tour of Australia gets off to a false start
Have the dangers of importing toxic amphibians been lost on Australia? In 1935 they brought in cane toads to deal with sugar cane bugs, then watched in horror as the warty pests began to poison their pets. And in 2018, the Aussies opened their doors to Nigel Farage.
The nicotine-stained man-frog has hopped it down under on a speaking tour with the sub-Partridge title An Entertaining Evening With. 'What a successful start to my tour of Australia,' he wrote after last Sunday's opening night in Perth. 'We are mainly sold out.'
As has been the case with other Farage statements, this wasn't 100% accurate. Yes, 'house full' signs had gone up at the awkwardly-named Adelaide Town Hall Meeting Hall (capacity a whopping 160). But tickets were very much available in Brisbane and in Australia's biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne.
Indeed, the Tix.com website was offering a 40% discount on £50 general admission tickets for Melbourne and Sydney, while the cost of the VIP Farage experience - including seats in the first few rows and a grip-and-grin photo with Mr Brexit afterwards - had been reduced by almost £70 to a bargain £95.
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Farage is said to have drawn fewer than 500 people to the 2,500-capacity Brisbane Town Hall and soon after his Sydney gig was cancelled with less than half the tickets sold - although Nigel has suggested it will be rearranged in a smaller venue because of security costs.
Almost a case for a tour manager with the spinning ability of the great Ian Faith, who memorably told Spinal Tap: 'The Boston gig has been cancelled… I wouldn't worry about it though, it's not a big college town.'
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Faith would no doubt have told the press that people were locked out of Farage's date in Perth. True, but these were anti-Nige protestors who he later derided on TV as 'anarchistic and anti-democratic'. He also called them a 'rentamob' - perhaps an idea he should take up to put bums on seats in Melbourne and Sydney.
Nigel got a far more friendly reception in his televised chat with Sky News Australia's Andrew Bolt, a kind of less cuddly Bill O'Reilly. 'You are a far more substantial figure than Milo Yiannopoulos,' Bolt told him - high praise indeed.
The pair chuntered away about how tough it was these days to be a far-right controversialist. Bolt described Aretha Franklin's funeral as 'an orgy of hatred' against Donald Trump. Farage discussed how he had been racially abused in Edinburgh four years ago. 'I was attacked by a mob of 100 student radical protesters saying things that were openly hostile, racist, abusive,' he said. 'It's quite scary.
'I've had to live for nearly five years with security around me the whole time, at times 24/7 security. They've even started attacking the houses of conservative figures.' As expected, neither Farage or Bolt mentioned Jo Cox, murdered by a far-right activist.
Australia has a habit of opening its arms to Brits who remind us of the 1970s - Reg Varney played to packed houses there long after On The Buses had been parked for good - and perhaps it would be beneficial to both Nigel and the land of the southern cross if he spent more time there in future.
The country is trying to solve its cane toad problem by feeding the animals which eat them - and are then killed by the poison they secrete - on small sausages made from the deadly amphibians. The theory goes that these will make them vomit but not kill them, teaching them to avoid eating cane toads in future.
So exposure to small doses of Nigel Farage now - and the resultant chundering - may well teach future Australians to steer clear of this toxic invader for good.