There’s too much news out there

May 2, 2013

Overwhelmed with newsI’ve been distracted from my customary scan of news sources recently. Now that normal service is being resumed, I have noticed how many leadership stories that are reported every day

This week I would have liked to have followed-up on at least six stories:

The Bangladesh factory tragedy

Hundreds of workers died in a factory building collapse and subsequent fire. The over-simple treatment in the UK focuses on the poor pay and wage conditions of those in the Bangladeshi ‘sweat shops’. [Primark is said to be offering hardship aid to its supplier]. The globalising drive for cheap sources of supply is also being scrutinized. One dilemma to be addressed is the economic benefits of international trade as a country develops.

Krugman and Keynes

Paul Krugman continues to express the neo-Keynesian view that austerity programmes are inadequate for dealing with the exceptional social hardships of a severe recession. He believes the majority of economic commentators are missing the point. Ironically, Keynes was himself frustrated that conventional wisdom of the time seemed unable to appreciate his arguments. Krugman feels pretty much the same, offering this rebuttal of one counter argument. Economies, he says, are not like families. Income and spending are inter-dependent. If we all cut spending our incomes will fall too. He also rejects the idea that this is a leftist spending-spree mentality, but necessary a short-term measure for exceptional economic times.

Alfredo Saenz

Then there was the surprise retirement of Santander chief Alfredo Saenz who is expected to collect a goodbye present of around $100,000,000 rather than cop an investigation into his activities by the Supreme Court .


Back in the UK, local elections this week [Thursday May 4th 2012] are seen as a measure of protest votes away from the traditional political parties. The anti-immigration and (even more anti – European Union) party UKIP is tipped to poll well under the leadership of its somewhat unconventional and ebullient Nigel Farage, who is also standing for Parliament in a by-election.

Larry David and his mother

An article by American humourist Larry David looked at how his mother would have reacted to his being arrested for terrorist offenses. It provoked a storm of protests. When told he had confessed she replied “well he probably didn’t want anyone else to suffer.” The article saves me from going any further with an idea I had for a blog which was going to be entitled “every mother is a potential terrorist”.

Reginald D Hunter

Anti-racist comedian Reginald D Hunter is in trouble for using racist language at a Football Association dinner. Or at least I thought it was humour with a political intent, in the tradition of Lenny Bruce.

Coping with overload

This ‘six for the price of one’ blog post is my attempt to cope with information overload. Hope you liked it. Normal service, as they say, may be resumed shortly…

Nigel Farage attacks Europe’s ‘damp rag’ leadership

February 25, 2010

A right-wing Member of the European Parliament launches a highly-changed attack on the newly appointed President. What was the intention behind the speech? What might be its consequences?

The BBC reported the speech [Feb 26th 2010] as follows:

A British Eurosceptic MEP has unleashed a volley of insults against the President of the European Council. Nigel Farage, who leads UK Independence Party (UKIP) MEPS in the European parliament, said Herman van Rompuy had “the charisma of a damp rag”. He compared the former Belgian prime minister to a “low-grade bank clerk” and said he came from a “non-country”. The attack, which stunned the chamber, came as Mr Von Rompuy made his maiden appearance in parliament in Brussels. “I don’t want to be rude,” Mr Farage began, before launching into a personal attack lasting several minutes. “Who are you? I’d never heard of you, nobody in Europe had ever heard of you,” Mr Farage thundered, as noisy disapproval at his intervention in the chamber rose.

In the absence of further information, the BBC’s description appears to be of a politician who lost control of his emotions. Or maybe, this was a calculated political gesture. If so, we have to ask what particular political game was being played by Mr Farage.

It is hard to see how the speech might influence anyone among the assembled representatives. It starts making sense when Mr Farage’s declared intentions are taken into account. He is there as a declared opponent to the Parliament. Mr Farage argues that the entire European set-up is designed to stifle the independence of member states. The majority of the assembly would take the view that for all its bungling bureaucracy, the EU is attempting to promote a European-wide democratic system through economic and political means. To which Mr Farage argued

“I have no doubt that your intention is to be the quiet assassin of European democracy and of European nation states,” Mr Farage’s party, UKIP, campaigns for the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union. It has 13 representatives in the European parliament. “You seem to have a loathing for the very concept of the existence of nation states,” Mr Farage continued, adding: “Perhaps that’s because you come from Belgium, which is pretty much a non-country.”

What’s Mr Farage up to?

Maybe he hopes to capture more followers through a charismatic leadership style in which he places great store. It is too easy to point to various right-wing dictatorial leaders who favoured such a style. After all, some of the great left-wing demagogues also favoured the style.

It is likely that his intention is focused outside the hall to electorates, and to opinion-brokers of electorates, particularly in the UK.

Does it matter?

Does his speech matter? Or, put another way, will Mr Farage achieve his leadership goals? UKPs natural constituency in the United Kingdom is made up of disaffected Conservatives. The party seems to be attracting more voters than its closest competitor, the BNP as its anti-Europeanism nationalism is presented with less wriggling about its stance on racial equality. But in the run-in to the upcoming national elections, the electoral distaste for the major parties may be, like the economy, showing as bumping along in a trough, but not obviously dipping ever deeper.
Perhaps a more serious challenge for the newly-elected Parliament will be less about Mr Farage, less about high-profile leadership, and more about consensus. There is increasing talk of a hung parliament after a May general election.

Nigel Farage Recruits Churchill

June 2, 2009

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.