Monday, June 03, 2013
Introducing Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader who's charming the ladies...
Britain's most "incorrect" politician
It was an apparent late surge by female voters that led to Ukip’s electoral success last month Melissa Kite checks out party leader Nigel Farage’s girl appeal
'People see me as approachable. Perhaps they don¿t see me as a politician. That¿s the point'
'People see me as approachable. Perhaps they don't see me as a politician. That's the point'
Going to the pub with Nigel Farage is very therapeutic. Within seconds of our drinks arriving, I realise I am telling him my troubles as we sit beneath an umbrella at a table in the street.
He is nodding sympathetically, sipping from a pint of beer and puffing on his trademark cigarette. As I offload my frustrations, he says all the right things. Before long, we are setting the world to rights and I catch myself thinking that I must tell Nigel about that problem I had with my local police because…
Because what, exactly?
Farage has that indefinable quality that makes you believe he is interested in your problems and even that he might be able to put them right. But to be realistic, he can’t possibly put anything right, can he?
He’s the leader of a fringe party that, on the face of it, hasn’t a hope in hell of getting into power. Yet with the UK Independence Party hitting 19 per cent in the council election polls last month, people have started to sit up and take notice.
And they are now looking at its chirpy leader as someone who cannot be as easily dismissed as David Cameron would like.
Most surprising of all, given that Ukip was once a nerdish, male-dominated party, is the fact that Farage, 49, is becoming a hit with women. Indeed, it was apparently a late surge in the female vote that led to Ukip’s stellar performance in last month’s council elections.
A few weeks ago, I asked my circle of friends how they voted in the local elections and one glamorous, wealthy divorcee revealed she had voted Ukip, saying: ‘Nigel Farage is a straight talker. He isn’t surrounded by spin doctors. He’s a real man.’
‘There is a country out there desperate for success. You see it in the Olympics, in football. People want to belong, to be proud'
Perhaps it’s the pint, the cigarette, the reassuringly macho banter. Perhaps women are tired of the touchy-feely, organic, free-range posturing of Cameron and his Notting Hill metrosexuals.
After all, Farage wouldn’t make a song and dance of telling voters he went home early for bath time.
This is the man who emerged with minor injuries from a serious plane crash while campaigning in the 2010 general election.
He wouldn’t tell us how he loves to cook lasagne, naming his favourite celebrity chef’s recipe.
But is he really becoming a sex symbol? Farage rocks with laughter. ‘Oh, I don’t…ha ha… Oh, no, you are not going to get me to answer a question like that. I very much doubt it anyway. I’m English, for God’s sake.’
‘I can cook. I’m good at fish I’ve caught. It’s the hunter-gatherer thing’
And he goes on chuckling, but looking ever so slightly flattered. When he eventually calms down, he says: ‘Look, people see me as approachable. Perhaps they don’t see me as a politician. Perhaps that’s the point.’
But I have obviously planted an idea because Farage develops the sex symbol theme as he sips his pint.
‘Isn’t it funny? It’s the perception thing: how women see men and how men think women see men. Men can never work out why some women find some men interesting or attractive. “Why is he so popular with women?” they say.’
But Farage is still pondering the sex symbol comment. ‘I’m going to go all shy now,’ he says.
‘Seriously, maybe the others are a bit too polished.’ I put it to him that the others are indeed polished, and that politicians such as Cameron and Clegg make all sorts of slick claims about being good with children and cooking Sunday lunch.
He says: ‘I’m really good with nobody’s children. But I can cook, actually. I’m good at fish.’
What fish? ‘Fish that I’ve caught.’ Macho cooking, you see. His press secretary Annabelle reveals he is a dab hand at gutting sea bass. ‘He’s useless at cooking artichokes, though,’ she adds.
But who needs artichokes when you’re a man who can gut bass? Farage, a keen angler, has even written columns for Total Sea Fishing. He enjoys shooting as well. ‘It’s the hunter-gatherer thing,’ he explains, rather extraneously.
The effect of this old-fashioned chauvinism on the numbers is impressive. Female support for Ukip is now only fractionally behind male votes and the party has burgeoning numbers of female councillors, some of whom arrive at the pub later for a drink with Nigel and are really quite chic.
By contrast, while Cameron brags about doing the school run, his female vote continues to plummet.
One might postulate that women, who have keen antennae for authenticity, warm to Farage because he does not put a gloss on things. He is prepared to manfully put his foot in his mouth if the moment requires it. He described the first president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, as having ‘the charisma of a damp rag’ and called Belgium ‘pretty much a non-country’.
Has he consciously cultivated this maverick streak? ‘That’s just the way I am,’ he says, before adding wistfully, ‘I’m an accidental politician.’ For a moment, he looks reflective, almost troubled. ‘I had no plan to do this. It wasn’t my boyhood dream.’ He is staring into the middle distance as he slowly exhales smoke. What was his dream?
‘I had different ambitions and aspirations. I thought in my early teens I would join the army. Then Thatcher got elected. The birth of the yuppie. I thought, “I’d like to be one of those. I want to make lots of money.”’
That’s Nigel, you see. Ask him what he wanted to be and he’ll tell you that he wanted to make lots of money. Cameron would never admit that. He would come out with some guff about how he wanted to serve his country.
Farage says: ‘In my late 20s I didn’t change, the world changed. Maastricht [the 1991 agreement that gave birth to the EU], the ERM [European exchange rate mechanism, a precursor to financial union that went disastrously wrong for Britain in 1992]. These things motivated me to get involved.’
But what else drives him, personally? I ask about his wife and four children, who – unlike other party leaders’ wives and families – are never trotted out for the cameras. I offer him a chance to say what a devoted father he is, but he turns it down.
‘If I was honest with you, I’m not there enough because of the demands of this job. I have sort of failed on that score really.’ Failed? Even by Farage’s standards of straight-talking, a politician using the f-word is astounding. ‘I’ve had four children. I wouldn’t say when they were little that I was particularly brilliant. I try. I have tried. But I’m not very good.’
His German-born wife Kirsten is an elusive figure. They met when he was working in the City and she was a bond dealer. Now she’s works as his PA. She is obviously devoted, yet he refuses to put her on display.
‘I haven’t mentioned my wife because you can’t have it both ways. If you make your family public property… I have tried to make sure there isn’t a single photo of my children.’
When he talks about his hobbies his face lights up. ‘I love the big outdoors. I enjoy watching cricket. Going to Lord’s for the Ashes. I won’t sleep the night before.’
When he outlines his vision for Britain it is tinged with the same excitement and idealism:
‘There is a country out there desperate for success. You see it in the Olympics, in football. People want to belong, to be proud. And we cannot have any sense of pride or self-respect if we are not a self-governing nation. Our entire political class has given up on this country. It’s the concept of managed decline: “Let’s go down the tubes with dignity. We are no bloody good, let’s admit it.” Well, I think we are an extraordinary country. Of course we can turn it around.’
I can almost hear Elgar in the background. And no, I haven’t been drinking pint to pint with Farage. I’m on the mineral water. But does it have to be hokum? Can’t we believe in Farage’s simple, patriotic vision? He makes it sound so straightforward: ‘You can’t pussyfoot around.
You have got to get the hell out of the EU political union. You have got to have an amicable divorce and replace it with a trade deal.
‘But we have got these spineless, pathetic, weak politicians and this weak prime minister who says, “Sorry, it makes me sick to my stomach, but there is nothing I can do about it.”’
Farage, a former Tory who resigned from the party during John Major’s leadership, clearly does not have much time for David Cameron.
The most damaging insult he levels at the prime minister is an aside that comes out casually as he poses for photographs. As he reaches into his pocket for his Rothmans, he reveals something Cameron used to do when the two were between takes on TV debate shows: ‘He was always nicking my fags. He never had his own.’
Authenticity. Cameron cultivated his wholesome image while sneaking cigarettes from his adversary. Farage may be flawed. But at least he wears his vices on his sleeve.
Tony Blair says murder of Lee Rigby PROVES 'there is a problem within Islam'
He's finally getting it right
Tony Blair today makes his most powerful political intervention since leaving Downing Street by launching an outspoken attack on ‘the problem within Islam’.
The former Prime Minister addresses the shocking killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich by going further than he – or any front-rank British politician – has gone before over the issue of Muslim radicalism.
Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday, he departs from the usual argument that Islam is a peaceful religion that should not be tainted by the actions of a few extremists.
Instead, Mr Blair urges governments to ‘be honest’ and admit that the problem is more widespread.
‘There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam,’ he writes.
‘We have to put it on the table and be honest about it. Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.’
He adds: ‘At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don’t admit it.’
Mr Blair’s comments are likely to be seized on by critics who will argue that by leading us into the Iraq War he has helped to swell support for radical Islam around the globe.
The former PM’s remarks come as David Cameron prepares to make a Commons statement about the Woolwich murder tomorrow afternoon.
The statement will come just hours after the first meeting of the Prime Minister’s Tackling Extremism and Radicalisation Task Force (TERFOR) – made up of senior Ministers, MI5, police and moderate religious leaders – tomorrow morning.
Whitehall sources said that it would be a ‘preliminary meeting’ to draw up the agenda for a full meeting within days. The group, which the Muslim Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi, will examine new powers to muzzle hate preachers.
Mr Cameron’s Commons speech is also expected to address the situation in Syria.
In his article, Mr Blair, who is trying to establish a Palestinian state through his work as a peace envoy, also addresses the Syrian situation, warning: ‘We are at the beginning of this tragedy ..... Syria is in a state of accelerating disintegration.
‘President Assad is brutally pulverising communities hostile to his regime.’ Mr Blair says that ‘the overwhelming desire of the West is to stay out of it’, which he goes on to describe as ‘completely understandable’.
He suggests that ‘the problem within Islam’ can start to be tackled by ‘educating children about faith here and abroad’.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Foreign Secretary and chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, said: ‘Much of what Tony Blair says is sensible.
‘The Islamic terrorists who kill people have the silent support of many more in their community who share their ideology, if not their methods.
‘But even combined, they represent only a small minority of British Muslims, and we must never forget that.
‘However, he appears to be still trying to justify the Iraq War rather than acknowledging that that war provided an unprecedented opportunity for the Sunni and Shia extremists to slaughter so many of their co-religionists.’
Violent Far-Left "anti-Fascists" arrested in Britain
Violent clashes took place outside the Palace of Westminster between anti-fascist campaigners and BNP supporters. As the trouble erupted, dozens of police officers rushed to break up the disorder.
The angry scenes led to groups kicking and punching each other as police struggled to keep the opposing sides apart.
A total of 58 people - all anti-fascist campaigners - were arrested at the scene by police officers and packed onto London buses.
They were then transported to London police stations for further questioning.
At least one man, a BNP activist, suffered a large cut to the nose after fierce shouting from either side of gated barriers spilled into violence.
Police dogs were also deployed to the scene as the protesters fought with each other. The crowd of anti-fascist protesters heavily outnumbered the BNP supporters. They held banners which read 'smash the BNP' and 'say no to Islamaphobia'.
The BNP had planned to march from Woolwich Barracks, but were banned from doing so by Scotland Yard, amid community fears that their presence could prompt disorder.
Around 100 people gathered on Old Palace Yard, clutching BNP banners and calling for 'hate preachers out'.
A short time later, counter protesters began directing chants at them, calling them 'fascist scum', 'you racist Nazis'.
Scotland Yard said that a group, believed to be part of the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) protest, gathered in a pre-arranged penned area - but some were unwilling to remain within that area.
The BNP had planned to march from Woolwich Barracks, but were banned from doing so by Scotland Yard, amid community fears that their presence could prompt disorder
A spokesman added: 'Due to police concerns about serious disruption to the life of the community, and the potential for serious disorder should this counter protest confront the BNP organised protest, police have imposed conditions under Section 14 of the Public Order Act.
'Those conditions state that the protest must take place in Whitehall Gardens junction with Whitehall.
Around 50 anti-fascist protestors were reported to have rushed towards one man as he was escorted by police to the area containing the BNP group.
BNP leader Nick Griffin also attended the protest. He said the murder of soldier Lee Rigby would not be an isolated incident.
Labour leader Ed Miliband today joined celebrities and thousands of others in signing a letter to a newspaper in protest at far-right groups using the death of Drummer Rigby for their own agenda.
In the letter to the editor of the Daily Mirror, they wrote: 'The EDL and Islamic extremists are more similar to each other than to us. They share a violent, hate-fuelled desire for conflict and war, and we will not let either group tear our country apart.
Meanwhile officers in Scotland last night said a 25-year-old man had been charged in Inverness in connection with an alleged hate crime on an internet memorial page for Drummer Rigby.
In a statement, police in Scotland said a man was charged 'in connection with an enquiry into alleged hate crime comments on Facebook'.
The man is expected to appear at Inverness Sheriff Court on Monday.
Feminists warn British supermarkets: Stop selling raunchy lads' mags or we will sue
Shops selling ‘lads’ mags’ with covers of featuring scantily-clad women, could be sued for sexual harassment by their own customers and staff, feminist groups have claimed.
Campaigners are warning high street retailers to remove magazines that display naked and near-naked images on their covers or face the risk of legal action.
The Lose the Lads' Mags campaign, by pressure groups UK Feminista and Object, says displaying publications in stores or requiring staff to handle such magazines could amount to sex discrimination or sexual harassment.
In a letter in the Guardian today, 11 equal rights lawyers say there have been previous cases of staff suing employers in respect to exposure to pornographic material at work, and called on retailers to stop selling 'lads' mag' publications.
'High-street retailers are exposing staff and, in some cases, customers to publications whose handling and display may breach equality legislation,' the letter said.Displaying lads' mags and pornographic papers in 'mainstream' shops results in the involuntary exposure of staff and, in some cases, customers to pornographic images.
'Every mainstream retailer which stocks lads' mags is vulnerable to legal action by staff and, where those publications are visibly on display, by customers.'
The group says it has been contacted by employees who dislike handling such magazines but who feel they have no power to take the issue up with their employers.
UK Feminista and Object are discussing with lawyers about bringing a test case and will support employees who are uncomfortable with images of naked or near-naked women on magazines, the Guardian said.
Kat Banyard, founder of UK Feminista, told the newspaper: "For too long supermarkets have got off the hook, stocking lad's mags in the face of widespread opposition, but this time we have the law on our side.
The barnyard lady. Guaranteed to deflate anyone
Every shop that sells lads' mags - publications which are deeply harmful to women - are opening themselves up to legal action."
Sophie Bennett, campaigns officer for Object, added: 'Lads' mags dehumanise and objectify women, promoting harmful attitudes that underpin discrimination and violence against women and girls.
Reducing women to sex objects sends out an incredibly dangerous message that women are constantly sexually available and displaying these publications in everyday spaces normalises this sexism.'
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.