These are some of the things Nigel Farage, the yeah-but-no-but former/future/actual leader of Ukip (oh do keep up!) likes:
Nigel likes a good piss-up, media attention (not media scrutiny, mind), bantering with sympathetic TV hostesses on Loose Women (‘Oh Nigel, you are terrible!’), rabble-rousing on Question Time, finger-waving his way through simplistic arguments while glossing over what he can’t explain (‘Yes, Nigel, but in what way would we be better off actually losing access to a market of 450 million people?’) .
He likes bashing ‘Brussels’ and ‘Europe’ as it they were evil real people, not monikers for a set of institutions Britain has helped develop and contribute to.
He likes blaming others, EU citizens working and paying tax in the UK for one thing, for almost everything he can think of, including – rather parodically even for him – for making him late to his own fundraiser .
He positively loves banter, a chance to harangue, joke and provoke – it’s all theatre to him, whether it’s claiming that 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians are heading over here or that the NHS is buckling under the cost of caring for foreign HIV patients. Like a sixth-form debater, he doesn’t seem to think real people are affected by what he says, as if not even Nigel could take Nigel completely seriously.
This is what Nigel does not like: turning up for work at the European parliament, sitting through committee meetings, writing reports and voting, despite being having been paid a handsome salary by EU taxpayers for the past 16 years.
He’s also famously pretty averse to justifying how he spends the expenses and allowances the EU gives him, as if EU taxpayers were an inferior subspecies of taxpayers and didn’t in fact very much include, you know, the British taxpayers of South Thanet.
As for professionalising his party – which, with four million votes at the last election represents a not inconsiderable slice of British society – Nigel will have a go, for a bit, if there’s nothing more pressing to do, but he cannot be expected to be on top of every racist, xenophobic or homophobic thing any of his lot says or does as there are only seven non-drinking hours in a day after all. Heck, he can’t even be bothered to think through his own resignation, making Ukip’s most senior female member – and this is a party not famous for hugging women close, at least for non-mating purposes – a laughing stock into the bargain.
But the real joke, as ever, is on the rest of us, the great unwashed, the simple sods who turn up to do the jobs we are paid to do, who don’t spend our working day parodying our very colleagues on YouTube, and who have to keep a very close tab on our stationery receipts lest Pam from accounts gets cross.
A grown-up nation, served by the most sophisticated media in the world, has let this comedic mix of pub bore and Vicky Pollard dictate the terms of reference in the Europe debate. This must stop now, elastic-band resignation notwithstanding.
Britain deserves a grown-up debate about the advantages and drawbacks of its EU membership, conducted in an atmosphere of dialogue and truth-seeking, not bullying, trolling, scapegoating and intimidation.
The coming referendum must be fought with facts and well-researched, calmly relayed arguments, not with name-calling and fisticuffs like a Friday-night pub brawl.
One thing I’ll say for Nigel Farage: it must be exhausting acting like the nation’s sneering Id all of the time. Yes, he does deserve a holiday. I’d drive him to the airport myself but I don’t have a car – any volunteers?
Paola Buonadonna is media consultant and specialist in European Union affairs. She tweets @Peebi
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