Fear and loathing on the campaign trail

Hunter S Thompson was a genius and a hero of mine. He created an entirely new journalistic form and transformed political reporting. Taken to task by the ‘straight’ political correspondents about his drink- and drug-fuelled reportage of the 1972 US presidential election, he commented that he had produced ‘the least accurate and most truthful’ account of the contest.

Thompson knew that politics was nothing without stories. So far on this campaign trail, the stories have some thick and fast.

You’ll be calling me racist next …

At a public meeting in an unnamed constituency a chap took me to task on gay marriage. ‘If you’re against it, sir’, I said, ‘please don’t vote Labour. I believe passionately in fairness and equality, not discrimination.’ Undeterred, and, I suspect in an advanced state of ‘refreshment’ he continued: ‘You’ll be calling me racist next …’ I asked him to continue. ‘You’ve given this country away to the Muslims …’

‘Which ones in particular?’ I asked
‘The Chinese,’ he replied
‘The Chinese aren’t Muslim,’ I pointed out
‘The ones in our chip shop are …’ he insisted

In its own way, it was magnificent. More on exchanges like this as and when they happen.

Foreigners with Aids

It finally happened. One week after being in the same TV studio at the same time, on the same day and refusing to debate Ed Miliband, David Cameron finally had to debate Miliband and the leaders of other political parties. Yet again, Miliband emerged happy and Cameron frustrated – but the stand out, takeaway point came from Nigel Farage. Whether in a hole, seeking to shore up  the foam-flecked, mouth-frothing, hate-filled former supporters of the British National party who have switched to the United Kingdom Independence party, or simply trying to court controversy, Farage damaged the Ukip brand more than anyone thought possible.

In answering a question on the NHS, Farage invoked the spectre of immigrants with Aids using the NHS. It was a calculated, inflammatory, shameful, deliberate ploy and at a stroke, changed my perception of Ukip from that of a cheerfully asinine Thatcherite party to a pretty revolting assimilation of Enoch Powell.

What thought process went into this statement? What scripting? What does the private Ukip polling say to elicit such a revolting scare? No matter, ‘foreigners with Aids’ is the new ‘rivers of blood’ and Ukip deserves to pay a very heavy price.

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Jamie Reed is restanding to be member of parliament for Copeland. He writes The Last Word column on Progress and tweets @jreedmp

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