THE BLOG

As the Establishment Struggles Through Filth, Tony Blair and Nigel Farage Come Out Grinning

30/12/2014 11:59 GMT | Updated 28/02/2015 10:59 GMT

2014 proved to be an incredibly strange year. Hollywood mischief maker Gary Busey surreally baiting minor celebs in the Big Brother house was nothing compared to ludicrous political shenanigans witnessed in Britain and elsewhere. Annual countdown of shame programmes had no shortage of celebrities to mock for doing ridiculous things, but politicians could easily have had their own shows - if they looked more like Justin Bieber, Harry Styles and Miley Cyrus.

So many examples of wrongdoing and idiocy in public life bubbled to the surface in 2014 that some people were not completely outraged when Tony Blair and Nigel Farage won awards, as though they are paragons of virtue and fountains of wisdom. There were times in 2014 when, if a minister had suggested digging up Jimmy Savile and making him chair of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, we would not have been surprised. I don't remember a year when the disconnect between the views of the public and those expressed by politicians was greater - and I remember Margaret Thatcher pretty well.

Tony Blair, an accused war criminal responsible for conflicts that killed and maimed untold numbers of children, received a Save the Children 'global legacy' award. Apart from anybody else, Save the Children staff were so incensed about war enthusiast and zealot Blair receiving the award that around 200 of the charity's employees signed a letter condemning the decision and calling it "morally reprehensible".

Blair could have only fanned the flames of public anger by saying in his acceptance speech: "From the beginning of humankind there has been brutality, conflict, intrigue, the destructive obsession with a narrow self-interest." He didn't continue by saying: "...so it is with great pleasure to receive this award for continuing this fine tradition of conflict, brutality, destruction and self-interest." If he had said that he may well have also been named King of Comedy. That Channel 4 award hilariously went to Jack Whitehall, as usual.

Save the Children bosses must have known how unpopular the decision to honour Blair would be, as there had been considerable outrage two months earlier when he was named 'philanthropist of the year' in the GQ Men of the Year awards. While it is true that Blair, who reportedly can earn more money for short speeches than many people earn in a decade, does some work for charity, he is also not above advising dictators and tyrants.

Given that Tony Blair seems to be what passes for a respected statesman and pillar of the Establishment, it perhaps doesn't seem so bad that Rupert Murdoch's The Times named Ukip's Nigel Farage Briton of the Year. If the Establishment is rotten to the core and the two party system (I'm not belittling you Lib Dems, you belittled yourself) has failed, then it makes sense to honour a "game-changing politician" who has shaken up the Establishment. The problem though is that former broker and Conservative Farage can hardly be described as anything but a member of the Establishment. He has certainly shaken up the Establishment less than allegations that MPs and other 'VIPs' abused and killed children.

Until recently Ukip was little more than a squabble on the right of the Tory Party, that nobody without a handlebar moustache and love of shooting things took seriously. Years of austerity and lots of photographs clutching pints later and Farage presents himself as a 'man of the people' who could save Britain from a marauding mob of foreigners determined to fix your boiler, build you houses, work on farms and serve you coffee and beer. Whether or not enough people are frightened of having their Stella served by a Belgian or macchiato served by an Italian for Ukip to gain enough seats to have a real influence on parliamentary votes is a moot point.

One thing that is fascinating about Farage receiving the Briton of the Year award is that the paper giving it is owned by an Australian born billionaire who has homes around the world and whose company is at the heart of one of the biggest corporate crime stories Britain has ever seen. But Farage, who has previously fanned the flames of xenophobia by babbling about a 'Romanian crime wave', is of course delighted to receive an award from Murdoch's clan. Farage can seem lost in a mythical golden age, but even he must be aware that his award was as much of a custard pie in the face for David Cameron - who before the Leveson Inquiry and 'hacking trial' was closer to the Murdoch empire - than a Christmas gift for him.

Given how bizarre 2014 was, it's hard to predict what will happen in 2015. But my money is on Katie Hopkins becoming UN Ambassador, Dapper Laughs becoming NATO Special Representative for Women and Rolf Harris playing Glastonbury via a satellite link from his Category C prison, with Max Clifford working as his PR. You might get better odds on the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse making progress before the election and David Cameron actually answering a question from the opposition benches in the House of Commons - before heading off for a new career as a PR for dictators.