Nigel Farage Recruits Churchill

NIgel FarageWinston's v Sign

The BNP invoked Jesus in this campaign. Now it’s Churchill’s image on UKIP’s election pamphlet

In the war of words, UKIP’s leader David Farage gets under the skin of opponents. David Cameron has accused UKIP of attracting mostly fruit cakes, loonies and closet racists. Farage believes there are nine million voters attracted to the arguments he presents around the single-issue rallying cry of extracting Britain from the European Community

I will not be voting for UKIP in the forthcoming European elections. I have very different views on the measures to improve the economic and social prospects for the UK.

The UKIP campaign

Nigel Farage is an able political performer on radio, with a penchant for the well-polished sound bite. I recently listened to a Radio 5 broadcast [May 10th 2009] in which he came across as coherent, energetic, and persuasive, albeit with a hint of enthusiasm bordering on the manic.

I agree there is a convergence of political views in the UK around social democratic principles. It chimes well with the rejectionist position that has gained ground recently fuelled by the MP’s culture of expenses. Farage has much to work with there. However, standards in political life are not going to be easy to polarise into corrupt Euro-politicians and fine upstanding British ones (as Neill was able to demonstrate in the interview with Farage).

Farage in public action has more than enough qualities to present himself as a visionary leader. He operates the emotional triggers of public discontent skilfully. He has a clear common enemy to attack (The EC), plenty of generalised dissatisfaction with prevailing conditions and leaders, and a simple and emotionally satisfying action for voters to express their discontent, namely to vote for UKIP at the forthcoming election of Euro-MPs

The BBC commented on his appointment as leader of UKIP in 2006

Nigel Farage, who has been elected leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), has one big task he may wish to address immediately. To dispel the notion that, as David Cameron had it, the party is a bunch of “fruit cakes, loonies and closet racists mostly”

Cameron’s concerns are obvious. Farage is a defector from the Conservatives over their drift from Thatcherite European policies

Mr Farage told the BBC:

“We’ve got three social democratic parties in Britain – Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative are virtually indistinguishable from each other on nearly all the main issues… Frankly, you can’t put a cigarette paper between them and that is why there are nine million people who don’t vote now in general elections that did back in 1992.”

The great man theory of leadership

So the one-time acolyte of Margaret Thatcher puts himself forward as the next radical leader with a big idea. The style is that of the great leader. The accusation about the disaffection with politics continues to strike a chord. The mood of cynicism at the moment is in contrast to the heady optimism a few months ago when previously disaffected proportions of the electorate in America were swept up by the words and image of Barack Obama.

But name-calling will be a relatively weak way of undermining the popular appeal of the charismatic leader. David Cameron is ill-advised to reduce the debate to use of terms such as fruit cake or a loonie. Farage is plausible. And he has a plausible line for rejecting any racial motivation imputed to his policies, even if they appeal to voters disaffected by the main parties who may chose to see such implications.

However much leadership theorists write about the decline of great man theories, there is still space for people to reach out to the public in charismatic style. History warns us that the style can be associated with sinners as well as saints, megalomaniacs as well as servants of a higher cause.

The UKIP Campaign Unfolds

Polls suggest UKIP is attracting voters disaffected from all the main parties. Together with the Jury Group (The new no party party) and other options for voters seen as alternatives to the prevailing discredited representatives.

Farage faces better-prepared interviewers with questions about wrong-doings of UKIP figures including himself. He remains unshaken by barbs of Andrew Neill on The Politics Show [June 1st 2009].

UKIP literature drops through my letter box as I watch. The literature is garish and borrows from the Sun school of journalistic directness. The images were those of Winston Churchill and Nigel Farage. For me, it removes any lingering credibility for UKIP which Farage may have introduced by the earlier broadcast I listened to. His lack of discomfiture under fire from Neill reveals the knack of the charismatic leader of brushing aside alternative proposals as utterly without merit. Not so much fruit cake as Flintstone.

Nigel Farage: The Leader we Deserve?

LWD argues that social forces select leaders by processes involving self image and social identity. The greater the crisis the more receptivity towards the leader/saviour. The BNP invoked Jesus in this campaign. Now it’s Churchill’s image glowering out from the UKIP pamphlet. Churchill the politician, I should add, not the cuddly dog in the insurance advert.

The vote in the elections this week will speak of the leaders who have been most in harmony with the needs and fears of the people. To quote another charismatic leader, a wind of change is blowing through the country. UKIP and Farage may well among those who benefit from it.

2 Responses to Nigel Farage Recruits Churchill

  1. peter says:

    On the plane to Madrid this week, my Telegraph-reading neighbour said how ashamed he was that Britain had elected BNP candidates to the European Parliament. UKIP made him feel little better.

    I tried to reassure him:
    1. We have to back democracy and all of its twists.
    2. Talk, talk, talk is the lesson of our recent history (e.g. Northern Ireland).
    3. The real message of the poll is the collapse of the Labour vote and that BNP, UKIP and for that matter the Conservatives & Lib Dems barely harvested the deserters. Nick Griffin, for example, received less votes than the BNP candidate at the previous Euro elections. UKIP prospered to the tune of a 0.3% increase in the share of the vote – hardly compelling, especially given the political context.
    4. The European Parliament needs to be reformed anyway.
    5. Britain is a small country. To be honest, what we say at the polls, especially this poll, doesn’t matter too much anyway. The rise of the BRIC economies is irresistible, the United States has President Barack Obama, the East European economies are in various states of array and disarray but eventually will add power to Europe, where the German economy is still the key piece in the jigsaw.
    6. The very fact that my neighbour was saying this to me – a classical, friendly, white English businessman – told its own story.

    Our little networked nation of many, many vines remains a vivid, good place. I don’t know if Churchill would have foreseen it, but a legacy of WW2 seems to be that we remain committed to principles of integration and collaboration, right across the globe.

  2. Tudor says:

    Thanks Peter for taking the time to expressthis view with its mix of vivid experience and optimism. One of the comforts in times of crisis is the resilience of optimism.

    On of the challenges of leadership is to ‘keep going on’. One of the wider messages is ‘keeping going on’ becomes a message for distributed leadership.

    There is this powerful scene in The Lord of the Rings in which the unheroic Frodo struggles with the duties imposed on him. The even less heroic figure of his companion tells him ‘You must go on, Mr Frodo’.

    Great story. Great message.

    Note to students of leadership: A nice topic for an essay?

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