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The Irresistible Rise of Nige

11/04/2016 14:52

Ah, the work of a year and a port-fuelled FT feature.

Today, Trump's landmine-politics make Nigel Farage look like the friendly local bigot, and Boris backs Brexit.

Say what you will about the dangers of the laughing leftie, but we Brits can still feel, if not clap-on-the-back-proud, at least moderately good that UKIP is consistently unraveled by its idiocy, rather than rewarded for it with the spittle-drenched love of the angry millions.

And yet the onset of Trump-Trauma has revitalized the evergreen British yearning for that down-the-pub-in-the-boardroom-up-the-skirts bigotry of yore; a cultural nostalgia that's long been UKIP's brand of politics - and is, despite our scoffing, hardwired into our nationhood.

So yes: it's happened. We're finally nostalgic for Nige - fifteen months ago, a calamity; today, the political equivalent of a baby-blanket and brandy milk.

Right on queue, here is Henry Mance of the FT with a generous-length Farage feature befitting 'six pints, a bottle of wine and two glasses of port', doing what every Brit loves to do, really, with almost anyone, under the correct conditions*: having a bloody proper lunch.

*an expense account.

And from the moment Nige swans onto the page, it's clear Mance is having a marvellous time. By anyone's reckoning, Nige is journalistic ambrosia: from the opening quips - '"Every pub's a parliament"' - to the port-chugging interlude with a silver ladle and an old boys' rugger club, to his final farewell '"to the bloody girls"', Nige is a writer's gift.

And if Mance is having fun, so, discomfortingly, are we.

Farage's voluptuous, performative anti-PC braying is by this point pure satire - for everyone, presumably, except himself. We are alarmingly au fait, at this advanced stage of political shock therapy, with his brand of malevolently banal bigotry -- that fetid vernacular that segues slickly into reasonable lunchtime largesse -- and his corduroy callousness; his simple, winsome wistfulness for the days of disastrous port-fuelled city trades ('"We'd all go back to work, all crimson. That's just what we did! No one cared. I don't drink port at all now"').

And who can blame us? There is no one - no one - Brits warm to faster than a heavy drinker with a whiff of long lunch - especially our increasingly hard-pressed journalists, for whom lunch, if not pensions, used to be assured.

Only Farage, we should note, can 'jovially plunge' into a pint. There are 14,800 articles featuring 'jovial' and 'Nigel Farage'. Nige has his own vocabulary, these days: he is also plummy, merry, enthusiastic, beaming. Where once commentators - granted, not usually holding forth after excessive consumption - may have noted the casual disregard for workplace equality, or the amphibious stillness behind the eyes as he capitalizes on atrocity, or the half-hearted condemnation of his farcically bigoted MPs, he is now the Father Christmas of British race politics; the chum who does the funnel and, sportingly, the waitress.

Our broadsheet media may mock UKIP's nostalgia politics, but it can't mask its own sorry yearning for a simpler time -- Farage's time: a time of long, long, long lunches, and copy filed with the red wine mouth and lavish laissez-fair of Fleet Street's 1980's.

And it's hard, really, to begrudge them this merry verbal waltz; they should get their kicks while they can. Across the pond, Trump is the journalistic equivalent, verbally and literally, of a bloodied nose; a man who has almost singlehandedly dismantled political reportage through his sheer, dumbfounding incoherence.

Indeed, those early days of Farage Bashing now feel like a golden time, for all of us; peak smug liberalism, unchallenged by serious political muster, before we could possibly forsee the shtick we'd be in today.

Just take this recent piece in The Independent:

'Farage comes from a recognisable strand of British conservatism... infused with the irreverent spirit that plays well in modern media. For all his faults... he is far from a neo-fascist.

Perhaps even [this] prejudiced populist... reflects well on Britain's moderation and reputation for tolerance. He shows that this remains an essentially decent nation despite alarm over immigration, fears over jihadist terrorism, rising job insecurities and concerns for the next generation.'

Relativism is a dangerous thing. This FT spread may do for Nige what 'Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise' did for BoJo. Far from the dramatic revelation of the bewigged blond thug who threatens journos with a beating ('Ah... yes... that did come up'), we were left, as a nation, more charmed than ever by his schoolboy bluster. Soon we'll be beaming indulgently at Farage's casual slurs and putting him on our list of proper blokes to invite over for a jolly good knees up.

So welcome back Nigel Farage: the face of acceptable bigotry and daytime drinking.

It looks like we missed you.

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