The Brex Factor: Why Nigel Farage won’t stop using the lexicon of war
PUBLISHED: 10:00 21 October 2018
2018 Getty Images
STEVE ANGLESEY on Nigel Farage, Priti Patel, and crowns another Brexiteer of the Week.
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“This is the most important campaign that has ever been fought in British history,” Nigel Farage told the couple of hundred supporters who turned up to his Leave Means Leave rally in Bournemouth on Monday night.
Quite the statement for older members of his crowd, who may have remembered that whole 1939-1945 thing; now, alas, a mere historical footnote to the Battle of the Blue Passports.
But maybe this was a night on which Farage felt he had to throw his audience a bit of red meat - redder, even, than their own faces.
With typically expert timing, the Leave Means Leave mob - who’d held their first rally in Bolton on a day when the city was full of rainbow-clad ravers taking part in the city’s Pride celebrations - had scheduled him to address a crowd of English patriots at almost exactly the same time as Gareth Southgate’s lads were knocking three past Spain.
And so Farage dug deep into his khaki knapsack of dismal military rhetoric. He reminded his audience that after “fighting and battling” for a referendum, they had “stood together and fought” in the campaign. Now, he explained, it was “time to stand up and fight again”.
He told them he was “reactivating the People’s Army”, and urged the crowd to not bother writing to Remain-supporting MPs in Leave-voting Dorset but to “meet them face to face, make them feel the heat”.
After hearing him spout guff like this, you wonder if anyone has ever taken Farage aside and reminded him about the fate of a woman called Jo Cox. Perhaps those who did concluded that their time would be better spent explaining the concept of morality to a wasp.
And perhaps it never crossed anyone’s mind to do so as Leavers are so wedded to lexicon of conflict, combat and calls to arms. Just look at the last few days alone.
“It is better to go down fighting and honouring the democratic decision of our British people than to be long remembered for waving a white flag and surrendering to EU demands,” tweeted Brexiteer MP Andrea Jenkyns at the weekend, shortly after a source close to Arlene Foster told reporters that EU negotiations were now “a battle of who blinks first, and we’ve cut off our eyelids”.
So, a choice there between maiming yourself to win a fight or being killed in action. Not quite what we expected to be the main activities on the sunlit uplands.
Military action was on the mind of Daniel ‘Brain of Brexit’ Hannan too. On Sunday October 14, he tweeted: “Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings - arguably the worst man-made catastrophe to befall the English people.” Can any readers think of an impending man-made catastrophe which might be even worse?
And then came Nick Timothy, orchestrator of the worst-written manifesto and worst-run campaign in modern British political history, with a remarkable Sun article calling on his former boss to “discover her inner Boudicca”.
Timothy talked about a friend praising how “this ancient British queen rose up against the Roman Empire, winning battles, slaughtering enemies and forcing the Romans to contemplate leaving Britain all together. ‘But, hang on,’ I replied. ‘Wasn’t Boudicca eventually defeated?’ Whatever the details, my friend was right.”
Whatever the details? Boudicca poisoned herself after masterminding a battle in which 80,000 Britons were killed at a cost of 400 Romans - a body count which even that source close to Arlene Foster might find unpalatable.
Why didn’t Timothy see that his comparison was flawed and would draw widespread ridicule? Again, because those on the Leave side seem to believe that rather than a political decision followed by a process requiring diplomacy and negotiation, Brexit is part of a holy war of liberation.
Just look at how they spend their spare time. A YouGov analysis of people with a positive view of Farage reveals that they are drawn to war films - the Dam Busters, Reach For The Sky, 633 Squadron, the Dad’s Army movie. Hours and hours in front of the TV watching Britain stand alone and win against the foreign invader. Rewind and repeat, forever and ever.
It must have been this kind of belief in ultimate victory for his side which caused local MP Conor Burns, speaking at the Farage rally in Bournemouth, to ridicule what he called a “small, bedraggled group” of Remain protesters outside the hall.
No doubt he will enjoy the scenes from Westminster on Saturday. But Conor, Nigel, Nick, Daniel, Andrea, Arlene: the People’s Vote March will be a mass protest. Not a world war.
She’s Priti vacant (and she don’t care)
Priti Patel has a memory problem. This time last year, as international development secretary, she was struggling to recall that the fun excursions she’d booked on her package holiday to Israel ended up involving 14 secret meetings with politicians and lobbyists. And now she’s the only person in Britain who can’t remember that the 2017 Conservative manifesto was a bit of a dog’s dinner.
That is the only conceivable explanation for Patel’s recent article in The Sun article demanding that Theresa May should deliver on it by giving us the hardest of hard Brexits.
Patel mentions the manifesto 10 times, as if it were some kind of sacred text. There’s talk that May must “honour the manifesto”, meet “our manifesto commitments” and “keep our manifesto promise”.
Just as a reminder, the 2017 Tory manifesto contained winners like the dementia tax, the return of grammar schools, the scrapping of universal free school meals, means testing for winter fuel allowances and ending the triple-lock on pensions, all of them since quietly ditched.
It also contained a pledge to deliver the cliff-edge Brexit which Patel proposes. And how did the electorate react? Less than 30 per cent of them voted Tory, losing May 13 seats and her overall majority while creating the last 16 months of anarchy in the UK - one of many entries from the Sex Pistols songbook which come to mind when Patel is mentioned.
Alas, there will be no more Holidays In The Sun on which she can run into Benjamin Netanyahu. But we’ve still got Silly Thing, Problems and, of course, Priti Vacant.
BREXITEERS OF THE WEEK
3. BORIS JOHNSON
The former foreign secretary, who earns £275,000 a year for his rubbish Daily Telegraph column on top of £77,379 a year as a backbench MP, has hired an intern to run his flagging social media accounts. The lucky applicant is earning the princely sum of £10.20 per hour, four days a week - less than five per cent of what their master trousers.
The job ad said Bozzer’s new helper should “be highly organised and have strong attention to detail” with the “ability to work cooperatively” and to “work to time under pressure” - all of them notoriously strong suits for Johnson himself!
2. BOND… JAKE BOND
“Let’s make Jacob Rees-Mogg our 007 and let him loose on Brussels,” wrote John Hearn from Rainham to the Daily Express letters page. Well, it was either going to be him or Idris Elba, but let’s roll with it, John!
After all, both are fictional characters who went to Eton and whose cars have been modified - James’ with pop-out gun barrels and revolving number plates by Q branch, Jacob’s with a purple dildo by some anarchists. And Project Fear sounds like a pretty good Bond title, although Jacob would doubtless prefer Never Says Chequers Again, From Prussia With Love or even Spectrecles.
But what if post-Brexit trade talks fail and we find that The World Is Not Enough? In that case, will the EU Only Live Twice?
1. ANDREW BRIDGEN
The Brexiteer Tory MP stunned Radio Five Live listeners when he declared that everyone in England is entitled to an Irish passport and vice-versa. Bridgen told an audibly shocked Stephen Nolan: “As an English person I have the right to go to Ireland and I believe that I can ask for a passport, can’t I? I’m sure that currently we have a reciprocal agreement where I can go to Ireland and ask for an Irish passport and someone from Ireland can come to the UK and ask for a British passport. That’s the system we have, isn’t it?”
In a word… no!
Perhaps Bridgen, a member of the European Research Group, should do a bit of research into Europe now and again?
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Almost four years after its creation The New European goes from strength to strength across print and online, offering a pro-European perspective on Brexit and reporting on the political response to the coronavirus outbreak, climate change and international politics. But we can only rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press with your support. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.Become a supporter