Thursday, November 10, 2011

Behr with a sore head

In the Staggers yesterday, cheif leader writer of the Observer and lead political writer at the Staggers, Rapheal Behr writes a sort of political obitury of Nick Clegg. He describes him in glowing referential tones, almost a tragic hagiography, and entirely out of keeping with the New Statesman's cultural heritage,
Cleggism, by contrast, channels the cosmopolitan, polyglot, liberal borderlessness that the European elite see as the marker of civilisation. The Liberal Democrat leader once wanted to represent a new kind of politics but he looks more like an ambassador from some ancien régime, a lonely tribune from the 20th-century European Union: patrician, collegiate, moderate, boring, benign, seeking consensus, with more than a whiff of elitism -
These mostly positive traits are contrasted with the panto-villany of Farage and UKIP,
Many Tories are focusing instead on the threat posed by Ukip in the European Parliament elections in 2014. Cameron's handling of the euro crisis, insufficiently bellicose for grass-roots activists, has provoked a rash of defections to Nigel Farage's anti-EU shires junta. In the 2009 European election, Ukip came second. It could top the poll next time. That doesn't translate into a big general election challenge, because the party's voters dwell mostly in safe Tory seats, but it is another force pulling politics away from EU engagement.

The Lib Dems, proud of their own conversion from protest vehicle to mature party of government, thoroughly despise Ukip and find the thought of equivalence sickening. One normally even-tempered minister recently described Farage's wrecking delegation in the European Parliament to me as "unpatriotic, Neanderthal wankers". The feeling is mutual.

Farage has had enough television and radio exposure to test whether he can win mass affection as a national figure. He can't. That doesn't mean Farageism lacks resonance. The creed is about more than the EU. It expresses a deep neurosis about borders and identity and the corruption of nationhood by a faceless other. The cultural potency of that force is on show in the hysterical response to the scandal around Theresa May's bungled experiment with relaxed passport controls.
It's remarkable, and one can almost smell the fear.Of course Mr Behr is a teeniest bit skewed in his vision of UKIP. this 'Shires-Junta' as he describes it is polling 9% in London and in the Euros back in 2009 it won cities like Hull, and towns like Hartlepool, not the most bucolic of places. My guess, and a charitable one at that is it is ignorance rather than malfeasance on the part of Behr, but you never know.

The glorious dysfunctionality of the article is that he claims that Farage is unable to win affection as a national figure, but admits that it is Farage rather than his pin up Clegg who is winning the arguement. For if Clegg is
"wholly at odds with the spirit of the times",
as he says, and he is counterpointing him with Farage then by default I would guess that it is Farage who is with the zeitgeist.

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