UKIP responded to yesterday’s Times’s reporting of Nigel Farage’s EU allowances (£) by releasing a document about some of the paper’s journalists. It claims that “most” of these have family or personal connections to the Conservative Party and that the majority are from “immensely privileged backgrounds”: all but one are described as “privately-educated”.
I particularly admire the “most”. If the point of UKIP’s list is to expose immensely privileged, privately educated people with links to the Conservatives, why include those who don’t qualify? And why the bugbear about private education, since Nigel Farage himself was educated at Dulwich College, which was an independent school the last time I looked? (Weekly boarders: £10,736. Full boarders: £11,296.) Does this automatically make him “immensely privileged” – and if not, why not?
And so on. But to take UKIP’s gambit seriously would be to misunderstand it. The Party’s purpose in releasing its list is to discredit the Times in the eyes of those who might vote for it. For one of the two main political parties to act in this way would be madness. (Imagine if the Conservatives had last week released a list critical of those journalists who were reporting criticisms of Maria Miller.) However, UKIP is not one of the two main parties, so the rule does not apply.
It is more like the party with whose leader Farage recently debated – the Liberal Democrats. All Nick Clegg has to do to achieve his purpose at the next election is to hold the seats he already possesses. How the rest of the electorate votes elsewhere is of secondary interest to him. Similarly, all UKIP has to do is to keep hold of its present poll support. If it wins, say, ten per cent of the vote, it can put Ed Miliband in Downing Street, since it is taking more votes from the Tories than from Labour.
The Miliband/Farage, Molotov/Ribbentrop pact will then have achieved its purpose. Once it is has done so, Farage can set about his real business – namely, to merge the more rational part of UKIP with most of the Conservatives, thus extinguishing his own party. I suspect that the party’s riposte to the Times will succeed. UKIP voters are angry voters. They don’t read the paper. Until or unless other media outlets push the story hard, they won’t take it seriously – and probably wouldn’t even then.
As it happens, the case for Farage’s defence in relation to yesterday’s Times story is strong, and scarcely needs UKIP’s jolly dossier. Daniel Hannan points out that, like other MEPs, Farage is in receipt of “an allowance, not a claim. It is handed over unconditionally, with no requirement for receipts.” Furthermore, it cannot be refused. “When one of my British colleagues found himself with a slight surplus, and asked how to return it, he was told it couldn’t be done.”
“If you simply trouser the cash, no questions asked, as many MEPs do, then you are in effect immune to critical scrutiny. It is only when you publish more information than is required that you invite the kind of complaint that Nigel Farage has now attracted.” This doesn’t mean that the UKIP leader is in the clear with the Electoral Commission, that a senior UKIP official wasn’t silenced when she asked for an audit of the party’s finances, or that a former senior executive didn’t receive “a death threat”.
All these details are in the Times this morning, and the paper’s motive in publishing is shown by its return to the fray. This is very simple: like its rivals, it wants to sell newspapers. Times readers will lap up stories of UKIP chaos – and, since there’s a lot of it about, this story will run and run. Labour-supporting Times executives, such as Philip Collins, formerly Tony Blair’s chief speechwriter, will join happily with Tory ones in pushing it.
This detail is grist to UKP’s mill. Conservatives hand in glove with Labour – there you go! The LibLabCon in action! Creatures of the EUSSR! ZanuLab! The sheeple led to the slaughter house! P.S: I am the author of a Times piece (£) this morning. It’s nothing to do with UKIP. None the less, I am thus exposed as part of the anti-Farage conspiracy, together with my immensely privileged background. David Cameron should be more grateful to ConservativeHome than my experience suggests that he is.