• Friday, July 19, 2024

Column

Will Nigel Farage’s rhetoric appeal to voters?

Reform leader must consider ‘consequences of his words’

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage

By: Amit Roy

NIGEL FARAGE is richly entertaining, but he is getting a little ahead of himself.

Before he becomes prime minister, there is the smaller matter of becoming an MP. Can he be certain he will be elected as the Reform MP for Clacton?

He appears to have forgotten that he campaigned for Brexit, which most people now think has badly damaged Britain.

In an article in the Daily Telegraph, which seems to be giving him a lot of space, he predicted Reform will have more MPs than the Tories: “Mark my words: Reform will be the next opposition, then government awaits.”

He wants to cut immigration to “net zero”. Sooner or later, like everyone else, he will find himself in hospital, where the chances are he will be cared for by nurses from abroad who will also change his bed pan. They do jobs local people wish to avoid.

Farage has also been none too subtle about attacking Rishi Sunak’s ethnicity. In his Telegraph article, he said: “The 80th anniversary of D-Day has proved to be a pivotal moment in this campaign. I was in Normandy to raise money for the magnificent London Taxi Charity to help veterans to attend these events who otherwise could not afford it.

“Contrast that with the prime minister, who couldn’t even be bothered to attend the international service with other world leaders. Sunak’s insult to our remaining veterans is unforgivable, and it shows he has no connection with the people of our country. His instincts are those of the global elite. He is simply not a patriotic leader.”

In an interview with the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg (9), he said: “It shows the man doesn’t understand. He is not patriotic – he doesn’t care about our history, our culture.”

Kuenssberg said viewers “might imagine that you are trying, not very subtly, to emphasise the prime minister’s immigrant heritage”.

LEAD Amit 1 Rishi Sunak Akshata Murty GettyImages 2155645727
Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty with 98-year-old D-Day veteran Alec Penstone and others at the commemoration ceremony in Normandy last Thursday (6)

Realising he was accusing Rishi of not being patriotic because he wasn’t white, Farage squirmed: “I know what your question is leading at – 40 per cent of our contribution in World War One and World War Two came from the Commonwealth. He is utterly disconnected by class, by privilege, from how the ordinary folk in this country feel. He revealed that, I think spectacularly, when he left Normandy early.

“Out there now there are millions and millions of people who were Conservative voters, traditional Conservative voters, not the red-wallers, who are now thinking, ‘Do we go on supporting the Conservatives or do we support Reform?’ This is going to be, I think, the acid test of this election.”

As a leading scholar of history, Farage will be all too aware of the tradition of fascism in Britain. The British Union of Fascists was formed by Sir Oswald Mosley in October 1932, following his failed attempt to start a more traditional political party, the New Party. Mosley changed its name to the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists in 1936 and, in 1937, to the British Union. In 1939, following the start of the Second World War, the party was proscribed by the British government and in 1940 it was disbanded.

The notorious Battle of Cable Street was a series of clashes that took place at several locations in the East End of London, on Sunday, October 4, 1936. It was a clash between the Metropolitan Police, sent to protect a march by members of the British Union of Fascists led by Mosley, and various anti-fascist demonstrators including local trade unionists, communists, anarchists, British Jews, and socialist groups.

Fast forward to 1982 and the founding of the British National Party by John Tyndall and other former members of the fascist National Front. There was also Combat 18 paramilitary – the letters were a code for Adolf Hitler.

In 1968, of course, the Tory MP Enoch Powell not only sought net zero immigration, but repatriation as well. “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’,” said Powell.

He added: “We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependents, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre.”

Targeting minorities has always been part of politics, not just in Britain, but all over the world, including in India. Since Farage understands the history and culture of Britain so much better than Rishi, he will appreciate that words, even when spoken in the heat of an election campaign, can have dangerous consequences.

Reading the memoirs of the journalist Mihir Bose, I was shocked to read the following passage in a chapter on “Love and hate in a changing Britain.”

Mihir recalled “a day forever imprinted on my mind, Friday 30, May 1980….on the Piccadilly Line. I had just left the offices of the Sunday Times thinking of then going the next day to Taunton to report on Somerset v Middlesex, a match that had assumed tremendous significance. The word was that Ian Botham, who played for Somerset, would take over from Mike Brearley as England captain.

“The Tube was packed and I was standing holding onto the straps. As the train stopped at Holborn, a skinhead who had been sitting, got up, and as he left the train, smacked me in the face with his fist as if he was swatting a fly. The force with which he did it made my glasses fly across the compartment. As I bent down to gather them up, the rest of the passengers neither said nor did anything as if they were in the cinema watching a film.”

Suella Braverman, who will never be elected Tory leader by the current membership of the Tory party, should know better than to encourage Farage: “I would welcome Nigel into the Conservative party. There’s not much difference really between him and many of the policies that we stand for. We are a broad church, we should be a welcoming party and an inclusive party and if someone is supportive of the party, that’s a precondition, and they want Conservatives to get elected then they should be welcomed.”

There is a world of difference between Farage and One Nation Tories such as John Major and David Cameron. It is up to the voters of Clacton to show whether they identify with Farage’s brand of politics.

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