If someone is obviously lying, it should be the work of a moment to expose them and reveal their lie to the world. But what if they are telling the truth? If they are your opponent, what do you do? If your intention was to bring them down, you’d have to lie about them yourself.
So it is with Mr Farage and his Brexit Party.
If Farage and co were simply spouting lies, which is what they have been accused of by their opponents, then either the lies would be so obvious that people would see through them, or the wise and informed people who populate British public life would be able to succinctly expose their statements as untruthful.
As things stand, three years after the British public voted by a majority to leave the European Union, we are about to vote in European Parliament elections. And the Brexit Party, despite the accusations, is set to perform well. What could explain such a shocking turn of events?
The answer would seem obvious. Which is possibly why, when Nigel Farage appeared on Andrew Marr’s show on Sunday, Marr confronted him with a list of old charges, designed to wrong-foot and ‘expose’ the politician – as though the British public had no idea what Mr Farage’s views were. The BBC deemed it was its job to warn the public of the dangers of voting for a party headed by such a man.
Turning the fire on his host, Farage said – with some justification – that the subject of the day was Brexit, and the Brexit Party in particular. Surely the BBC, he said, should be asking why a party that had only existed for a few weeks was now beating those which had dominated British politics for the last century.
While it might be reasonable to disagree over which man was right, it would be unreasonable – and, indeed, bordering on the deranged – to conclude from the exchange that Nigel Farage was ‘non-patriotic’. This, though, was Sir Alan Duncan’s verdict. The Conservative MP and Foreign Office Minister tweeted to that effect immediately after the interview. He also tried to spin that the Marr appearance had been “catastrophic” for Farage – proving the Brexit leader to be “a single issue anti-Europe, simple-minded, non-patriotic, rabble rouser and that his party has zero credibility on anything else”.
Catastrophic interview for Farage on BBC #Marr, proving he is a single issue anti-Europe, simple-minded, non-patriotic, rabble rouser and that his party has zero credibility on anything else. He now admits circumstances have changed since the referendum. But sadly he hasn’t.
— Sir Alan Duncan MP (@AlanDuncanMP) May 12, 2019
As an expression of contempt for others, the Tweet is standard Duncan fare. It’s also the sort of accusation the political class has been levelling against Farage throughout his career.
But what makes Alan Duncan and the Conservative Party the arbiters of such things? Are they really in such a strongly patriotic position that they can dismiss so summarily those who are “non-patriotic”? In any case, is it even true? What is it about Nigel Farage that is so clearly, demonstrably, “non-patriotic”?
Not for the first time, it is not Farage but his accusers who look lost and bewildered. The man himself – whatever you may think of him – continues to display an extraordinarily clear-sighted set of goals and intentions, which would appear to begin and end with taking Britain out of the European Union.
But people who have facts running against them will seize anything they can to reverse that tide. And so, a day later, it was the turn of Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP and Minister in the Department of Defence. According to Ellwood, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party “haven’t been very clear about what they want. They just want to sow confusion.”
When Ellwood’s interviewer pointed out that perhaps a party called The Brexit Party might actually be introducing an element of clarity into a political scene dominated by confusion, a heated Ellwood replied, “He’s sowing confusion. He’s deliberately playing on populism. He’s actually playing on fear, and that’s what really, really worries me.”
He went on to reiterate that claim: Farage was “playing on populism. Where’s the leadership in playing on anger? Where’s that got to us [sic] in our history?”
I have little truck with this term ‘populism’; it’s ill-defined and over-used, and in recent years it has been weaponised in one single political direction. It is used to take out any and all expressions of popular opinion which incline to regulated borders over open borders, strict immigration policies over lax immigration polices, and national self-determination over supranational governance.
In fact, President Macron is the closest Europe comes to a ‘populist’ leader in the usually agreed upon definition – a one-man force, claiming to be the only intermediary between the public and chaos. But nobody calls him that, because his views all tend in the ‘right’ direction.
As for Ellwood’s wild claims that Farage is “playing on fear”, surely this must be the last gasp of a political tactic which has been used to patronise electorates across the West for the last three years and whose utility is dying fast.
The crowds at the Brexit Party’s rallies do not seem especially fearful. Nor do they seem especially enraged. An honest analysis would rather surmise that they seem to be comprised of ordinary people expressing a wholly justifiable concern that for the first time in British democratic history, the vote we cast in 2016 appears not be accepted by the dominant political class.
Worse still, it appears that this political class is intent on stopping that vote coming into effect, claiming – essentially – that although there were indeed two options on the voting slip in 2016, only one of them was actually permissible. There are, among that political class who are arrayed against the public, some who cannot disguise an unmistakable tone of malice, rage and (yes) hatred. When Anna Soubry speaks, one does not get the impression of a stable, non-vitriolic political moderate.
When Alastair Campbell talks over his fellow guests on yet another programme, pretending that he wants a “confirmatory” “People’s vote”, among other means to override the 2016 poll, I am sorry to say that we do not see a sage political figure.
And when Alan Duncan accuses other people of being single-issue and “non-patriotic”, most of us do not see some brilliant member of a patriotic government, but just one more forgettable member of a forgettable government which had a single issue to address and failed to address it.
The majority of the public (and those who voted ‘leave’ are the majority) have been bullied, insulted, ignored and belittled for three long years by not only these few, but by an entire political class that has humiliated itself while intending to humiliate the voters. The voters spoke their truth. The politicians derided them. And now the voters will have their say again.
For the past three years, we have learned that it is no good being silent – for silent majorities can be overridden with ease. Nor is there much point in being noisy by, say, turning up to demonstrations – at that point it is open season on us for our skin colour, age, class and more.
So there is only one option open to us. Which is the same option we peacefully – and truthfully – used when we were granted the opportunity three years ago.
This time we will say it again. Perhaps this time they will be forced to listen.