BREX FACTOR: Making a meal of Nigel Farage's big splash
PUBLISHED: 08:01 25 May 2019 | UPDATED: 08:05 25 May 2019
In a week where Nigel Farage was splattered with milkshake and even held hostage on a bus from the milkshake men, Steve Anglesey looks past the jokes to the bigger issue.
What is the difference between a milkshake and Nigel Farage? One is rich, thick and very bad for you. The other is a milkshake.
The day the Brexit Party leader went from just intolerant to lactose intolerant sparked several jokes like these, but those in his camp insisted the whole thing was no laughing matter. Three years after Breaking Point, here was their Shaking Point.
Leave.EU, the organisation funded by Arron Banks - who has also funded Farage's lifestyle to the tune of £450,000, which Nigel seems to have forgotten to declare on the European parliament register of MEP interests - tweeted that "vile Remain thugs" had staged a "pathetic attack" on the milkshake-stained man-frog.
Alt-right commentator Brendan O'Neill fumed: "In celebrating these milkshake-throwers, everyone from newspaper columnists to woke corporations are effectively saying: 'Carry on. Carry on assaulting these people. It's cool.'"
And Farage himself fulminated at Remainers who "have become radicalised, to the extent that normal campaigning is becoming impossible".
Wherever you stand on the milkshaking phenomenon - and I have strong objections, not least because anyone who spends £5.25 on a Five Guys shake when you can get unlimited refills of other soft drinks for £3.15 needs their head examining - these complaints leave a sour taste in the mouth.
Farage moans about "radicalised Remainers", but has spent much of the European election campaign radicalising the people who attend his rallies, leading them into Trumpian call-and-response booing of Brexiteer hate figures like Anna Soubry, never intervening when the shouts of "traitors" and "lock her up" begin.
O'Neill's article says he believes that "if you disagree with a politician, let them know - send them a letter, write them an email, discourage people from voting for their parties". But in December 2017 he wrote "the public fury and online anger with Remoaner MPs like Anna Soubry is the most sensible thing in British politics right now". Earlier this year, following Soubry's harassment on her way into the Commons, he appeared with the Broxtowe MP on Sky News' All Out Politics and told her: "I'm amazed there aren't larger, angrier protests outside parliament… You deserve to be protested."
As for Leave.EU, there was a time when they believed that throwing drinks on politicians was a matter of hilarity rather than horror. That time was 11.05am on May 19, 2019, just 26 hours before Farage's dunking, when they posted a video on Twitter showing the heads of Farage, Ann Widdecombe and Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice superimposed on those of the Beastie Boys in their promotional clip for Make Some Noise. We see 'Farage' lobbing an open can of lager at, and hitting, a figure with Jean-Claude Juncker's head superimposed on it. Later, 'Widdecombe' sprays beer over figures with Michael Gove and Theresa May's heads superimposed on them. The fake Tice, Farage and Widdecombe then throw a fake Jeremy Corbyn through a window.
In short: Leave.EU were pro throwing drinks until they were anti throwing drinks, O'Neill supported hassling politicians until he opposed hassling politicians and Farage thinks it's OK to radicalise people except from when they are radicalised against him. (And for the false equivalence gang who will moan that none of this equates to the 'assault' on Farage, grow up: While I wish people would stop throwing milkshakes at idiots, a milkshake over your suit is not the same as a punch in the face. It's also, thankfully, a million miles away from what a radicalised far-right extremist did to Jo Cox).
In short, these reactions are not too dissimilar to what happened when UKIP candidate Sargon of Akkad (how do you even get to be Sargon of Akkad? Is it a democracy, a sword-from-stone scenario or does Tyrion have to choose you?), aka Carl Benjamin, appeared on TV the other day.
Benjamin moaned the media were encouraging people to gang up on him. When told that, in light of his rape jokes about Jess Phillips, this sounded like hypocrisy, he replied "who isn't a hypocrite?" Quite a few of us, actually.
Meanwhile Farage is so traumatised by the whole affair that he is started making jokes about it. "Perhaps it's a case of 'keep buying new clothes and carry on'," he told one rally, before tweeting a photo of him laughing with the caption "whatever they throw at us, we will never give up".
Some believe that Farage will turn up at Sunday's inevitable victory rally sucking on a milkshake. In which case the very worst thing about milkshaking will have been that it distracted us from the undeclared Arron Banks money, the foreign PayPal donations, the ban of Channel 4 News and all the myriad other ways in which Nigel Farage is unfit to represent this country.
Apropos of nothing, which was your favourite character in the 1970s TV series Bod? Mine was the orchestra leader Alberto The Frog, who ended each performance with a refreshing milkshake. Can't think who he reminds me of…
STEVE'S BREXITEERS OF THE WEEK
4 ESTHER McVEY
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When the member for Tatton launched her thinly-veiled leadership run exciting new 'grassroots campaign forum' Blue Collar Conservatism the other day, she did so with a refreshing bit of honesty.
"Our economy now is on a much stronger footing than the mess that was left by the Conservative party," she said, not even bothering to correct her mistake afterwards. Truly the sort of integrity we need more of in public life!
Meanwhile McVey's leadership rivals Priti Patel and Steve Baker have been merrily tweeting in support of another 'grassroots campaign forum', Free Market Conservatives.
Their social media messages use the hashtag #ChooseFreedom - a decent slogan, which is no doubt why it is used by several firms who have nothing to do with politics. Hence anyone searching Twitter for it will find the FMCs' messages mixed in with adverts for trucks, business loans and a junior school in Memphis, Tennessee.
3. RICHARD TICE
Not a great week for the chairman of the Brexit Party. A sound problem at their Bolton rally rendered much of his 10-minute opening speech inaudible, and he took the stage in the Black Country with a cry of "It's nice to be here in Wolverhampton" before jeers from the locals reminded him he was actually in the Walsall suburb of Willenhall, where locals tend to support the League One Saddlers rather than Premier side Wolves.
But far worse was his Today appearance in which Tice admitted that the party might well be being partly funded in foreign currencies, telling Nick Robinson: "I don't sit in front of the PayPal account all day so I don't know what currencies people are paying in." That sparked a visit from the Electoral Commission, which Tice knows well - they fined Leave.EU, of which he was joint chair, for breaking electoral spending law and referred his co-founder Arron Banks and CEO Liz Bilney to the National Crime Agency.
2. JAMES CLEVERLY
The inaptly named Brexit minister had to issue a correction after underestimating the amount Britain has spent preparing for a no-deal Brexit by a mere £1.8 billion.
The Braintree MP told Labour MP Pat McFadden that since 2016, the Treasury had allocated "over £2.4 billion of additional funding for all exit scenarios". In fact they had allocated quite a bit over £2.4 billion - the actual figure was £4.2 billion.
Alas, this is not Cleverly's first struggle with numbers. Earlier this month it was revealed his Commons credit card, which MPs use to pay for expenses, has been suspended more than ten times. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has the power to temporarily withdraw the cards them for a range of infractions, including incorrect spending, failing to repay incorrect spending and failing to provide receipts.
1. JACOB REES-MOGG
He is fond of Latin phrases, so perhaps Brexit's Professor Yaffle should have heeded the words of Virgil in the Aeneid: "Non omnia possumus omnes" - "We cannot all do everything."
The reviews are in for Rees-Mogg's venture into historical non-fiction, new book The Victorians: Twelve Titans Who Forged Britain, and they are damning.
"What a staggeringly silly book this is," said AN Wilson in the Times, calling it "morally repugnant" and "anathema, surely, to anyone with an ounce of historical, or simply common, sense." Kathryn Hughes in the Guardian added: "At least we know The Victorians isn't ghost written, since no self-respecting freelancer would dare ask for payment for such rotten prose."
Dominic Sandbrook in the Sunday Times concluded it was "absolutely abysmal… terrible, so bad, so boring, so mind-bogglingly banal that if it had been written by anybody else it would never have been published". Still, nil desperandum and all that, Jake!
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