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Everybody, this week, loves Nigel Farage. His new BFFs include such unlikely allies as Kirsty Allstrop and Nick Clegg, along with older stalwarts like the snappily dressed, repugnantly aggressive Britain First movement.
The cause: Nigel’s kids. More accurately, the UKIP leader’s missing kids. On Sunday, after a coalition of gay activists, breastfeeding mothers, HIV activists, Palestinian dancers, drag kings and queens, and disability activists congaed past Nigel Farage’s local pub and asked him to take part in a citizenship test, the UKIP leader fled, branding the activists “scum”.
For protesters it was meeting Farage on his own turf. In May last year Farage was quoted in The Spectator: “Spontaneity is fantastic and exciting and it’s what we do,” he said. “Every pub is a parliament.” Ten months later, a conga line of all those demonized and alienated by UKIP’s bigotry had become an attack on home and hearth. UKIP’s press briefing took hold of the national agenda. Now, a spontaneous pub discussion was a travesty. “My children were so scared,” reported Farage. “That they ran away to hide… they are not yet home.”
What happened? Well, as they say in the movies, no children were harmed in the making of this protest. No kids were seen, certainly none were targeted. Plenty of activists will attest to this and no condemnation has come from the management of the Queen’s Head, Farage’s local. And, so we are left with one of two scenarios: either Farage was so flustered by the cabaret he ditched them to an uncertain fate; or it was a deeply cynical PR move. Either way, and not for the reasons they’ve received so much attention this week, Farage’s missing kids are worth talking about.
Farage does not care about children. If he did, he would be less willing to resort to and defend the language of the school bully, where every difference is a weakness that deserves to be punished. How many British-Asian children have suffered because of his defence of “chinky”? What, then, is going on?
Let’s not mince words: UKIP is a fascist movement. It seeks, through more or less subtle means, to blame financial insecurity on society’s outliers. It dresses social conservatives up as plucky outsiders. And it is lead by the charismatic Nigel Farage.
And like all fascist movements its model is the family, more accurately the dysfunctional family. A family-state which thrives on cognitive dissonance and nonsense, so long as you trust Papa Farage. It is a model of society that is hugely reassuring to men, particularly in an uncertain world. In their family, men have an authority impossible anywhere else in a free market economy.
And perhaps this is why a cabaret of diversity is so threatening to Farage’s family. Staring into the abyss of economic uncertainty and the dizzying dazzling kaleidoscope of diversity, what does Farage see?
For all his charisma – arguably because of it – there’s something disturbingly shallow about Farage or ‘Farage’, the constantly gurning cliché of middle class masculine certainty, who looks so lost without his props of ciggy and pint.
In this context Farage’s inconsistency of policy looks less like opportunism and more like the manifestation of a profound psychological and spiritual trauma. UKIP has no policies because at its centre is a man who does not exist.
And this is why diversity scares him. Farage is a man not so much living a life – he would perhaps not be so keen to poison himself with tobacco and alcohol if he was – but reading a script. A yellow novel of post-war masculinity, three parts Pooter with a dash of Bond. And anything that deviates from that script, any way of living that is different and leads him or anyone else to question if his is the only script, scares him to death.
Without his props of pint and pub, home and family, who is he?
And this also explains the visceral rage unleashed on the organisers by Farage’s supporters. Nobody believes that Farage’s children were at any risk. At worst, they were among friends, in their local village and not far from home. A conga line, to paraphrase Adam Ant, is nothing to be scared of.
What was at risk was Farage’s male identity: as paterfamilias, protector, and leader beyond reproach. Farage, and by proxy his followers, were castrated. Which pisses people off. It also explains why he still looked deflated the next day.
As Farage’s supporters have made clear, Dan Glass must die, not because he has done anyone any real harm, but because he has unmanned Farage, and removed the mask, if only for a moment.