I suppose a back handed compliment can be irritating, but at least it is evidence that you are being taken seriously. Certainly that is my take on the recent spate of negative propaganda that has been posted recently at The Spectator and Guido Fawkes
Both of these popular websites are a must read for anyone interested in UK politics and, judging by the comments, are frequently visited by those of a more conservative (small c) disposition, plus a large cross section of UKIP members and/or supporters. It was fascinating, therefore, to see the reaction to a rather odd Spectator Coffee House piece by Sebastian Payne in which he claimed that Tory minister Anna Soubry plus the BBC Question Time audience in Boston had turned on Nigel Farage, labelling him a “scaremonger” over the issue of open access for Romanians and Bulgarians from this coming January.
What was strange about Payne’s article was the fact that many of his readers had seen the same programme and drawn different conclusions. True there had been some cheering for Soubry’s outburst and faux anger, but throughout the programme Farage also won a lot of applause for his points.
The nature of the driver for the Payne piece, however, became a little clearer a day or so later, again on Coffee House. Far from being “spontaneous”, Soubry’s rant appeared to be part of a rather weird “good cop/bad cop” strategy by Conservative HQ whereby UKIP is ignored as beneath notice by the big Conservative beasts (even while they attempt to half heartedly imitate a UKIP agenda) while minor players like Soubry are encouraged to dip a toe in the water of outrage with the well worn xenophobe/hate crime card.
The Spectator is essentially a repository of Westminster Bubble gossip emanating from the lobby and Conservative spin doctors. Very few of the articles from their journalists are the result of in depth research in the pubs, clubs, factories, shops and offices of what we might call Tesco Britain. Has any Spectator writer ever worn out some shoe leather going out to UKIP branches and chatting to the members, particularly the 10,000 newbies who have joined within the last year? I think not.
The Spectator as a conduit for Conservative HQ spin is, of course, old news. But the strange little “subverting UKIP” messages such as this and this coming out of Guido Fawkes and his surrogate Alex Wickham (published by the Spectator but not Conservative spun) is a different kettle of fish. Guido has never been a Conservative HQ “useful idiot” so these little tales must be being fed in from another direction. Fortunately the sources appear so obvious that there is no need to send a telegram to Sherlock Holmes – they seem to come from disgruntled elements either within the party or who have only recently left.
In his piece, Wickham claimed that
The highly secretive selection process for next year’s European elections has seen impressive, big-name Ukip supporters rejected in favour of some frankly unhinged candidates. James Delingpole, the hugely popular journalist, was turned down. As was Jon Gaunt, the well-known former Sun columnist and radio broadcaster.
Gerrymandering indeed….echoes of elections in Beijing? Hardly. As “Rollo” reminisced in the comments section,
Funny, I remember being sent papers with the words of every candidate and being asked to vote under the supervision of some electoral company; the votes were counted and some people won, some lost. I do not recall any type of pressure or even advice on who to vote for from anyone.
Now as one of those 10,000 newbies, the intake of 2013, I have no idea of the nature of the currents and counter currents that swirl and eddy around the older established elements of UKIP. Stuck as I am deep in the ancient Wealden forest of Worth I am not privy to gossip within the upper echelons. But I am old enough and ugly enough to recognise a dirty tricks operation when I see one.
Such tittle tattle can be annoying, especially to those high and low who are working their socks off to embed UKIP firmly into the body politic and away from the fringes of the farther shore. But in another way it is also a factor that ought to embolden our hearts. It means that UKIP’s enemies in the political and media class (and they are still legion) are fearful. The rise of a fourth party completely unconnected with any powerful interest group, led by outsiders from beyond the dinner party circuit of north London and supported electorally by millions of ordinary folk who feel they finally have a voice is making them nervous…
….and so they should be.