UKIP leader Nigel Farage must now regret his decision to challenge LBC Radio’s James O’Brien to a debate today over the broadcaster’s criticisms of the party . In a dazzling example of gloves-off political interview technique, O’Brien came armed to the teeth with awkward questions that left Farage floundering. We need more of this.
I highly recommend you grab some popcorn and watch the entire interview as O’Brien carefully unpicks the fabric of Farage’s nice-guy, man of the people act. Question by question he exposes Farage’s connections to the far right at home and in the EU, along with matter of corruption, misleading claims and spivvery by Farage personally and his party at large.
O’Brien begins the interview by asking Farage what will be done about UKIP Councillor for Gloucestershire John Lyndon Sullivan’s remarks on social media that:
Farage first attempts to dismiss this as a feature of all parties, and claims that Sullivan doesn’t represent UKIP, stating Sullivan is merely a candidate. Sullivan is in fact an elected official of Gloucester County Council representing UKIP.
O’Brien quickly moves on to the party’s Small Business Spokesman who was recently found to have employed 7 illegal immigrants.
Farage attempts to distance his spokesman from the scandal by stating that this happened at a business that he had stepped down from managing. O’Brien is quick to point out his resignation came just days AFTER the immigrant story broke – catching Farage in another misrepresentation.
Links to the Far Right
O’Brien allows Farage a lengthy whinge about separating the fringe lunatics in his party from the majority of moderates, and his stance on denying former mebers of far-right parties like the BNP membership to the party – then exposes Farage’s own links to the far right.
Farage was pictured in 1997 (image below) with two prominent members of the far right. The first is Tony LeComber, former member of The National Front, and a director of the BNP jailed in 1991 for attacking a Jewish teacher. The second is Mark Deavin, another BNP member who in the same year this picture was taken, wrote the anti-semitic time ‘Who are the Mindbenders?’ intended to expose some sinister Jewish ownership and control of the British press for nefarious purposes.
Farage attempts to distance himself by stating simply that people change and he was disappointed by the changes in these men. He is caught in another misrepresentation when O’Brien points out Farage had lunch with Deavin after he was ditched by UKIP.
Tony LeComber Neo Nazi with Bomb Convictions
Then O’Brien challenges Farage’s membership of the far-right group in the European Parliament which includes The Danish People’s Party, The True Finns, the Dutch SGP and the Lega Nord. Farage chairs the group with Lega Nord’s Franscesco Speroni who said of Norway’s mass murderer Anders Breivik “Breivik’s ideas are in defence of western civilisation.”
Farage immediately closes this down, attributing the comments to a member of Lega Nord that they dismissed from the group. “No he didn’t, one of his members did and we kicked him out of the group” insists Farage. But O’Brien has done his research – Mario Borghezio who praisied Breivik in 2011 was suspended by the right-wing European Parliament group in May 2013 for making racist remarks about a Congolese-born minister of the Italian government.
Farage dismisses his party cosying up to Europe’s fascist parties as necessary political compromise.
Farage and the Media
Next O’Brien challenges Farage’s claims that ‘the political class and their friends in the media’ are out to get UKIP. O’Brien points out that Farage has weekly columns in the Express and the Independent, has appeared BBC Questiontime more than anyone except David Dimbleby, and that Private Eye have reported that Farage’s medical bills are being paid for. We don;t get to find out by whom as Farag cuts him off citing ‘libel’. When asked if he will be suing Private Eye over the accusations if they are untrue, Farage states that he’s too busy running an election campaign, to which O’Brien neatly retorts ‘too busy to know who’s standing on the council in Gloucestershire on your watch’.
Farage is, by this point, clearly seething.
O’Brien moves on to challenge Farage’s role as company secretary for a business that was wound up by the Indland Revenue owing £125,000 in taxes. For which Farage struggles to find a plausible answer.
By 12 minutes in, Farage is pleading for O’Brien to take his focus off his party and onto the issues. No chance.
How many non-English speakers can you fit on a train?
O’Brien challenges Farage about his recent anecdote about how he was made to feel uncomfortable travelling several stops on a commuter train without hearing the English language being spoken. Farage is stuck as to how to explain this without making xenophobic remarks and falls back on the issue of integration and it being wrong that people who relocate to England don;t soeak english. While Farage struggles to answer O’Brien’s simple question “How do you know they can’t speak English?’, the presenter moves on to bring on Farage’s German wife, who could well have been on that train making a call home. Would that make you uncomfortable? O’Brien asks a red-faced Farage.
Farage has also made a big deal about the number of children in UK schools for whom English is a second language. But misrepresents the issue as if this referred to children who don’t speak English. O’Brien points out that this is the case for Farage’s own daughter’s for whom German is their primary language. So is Farage campaigning against children like his own daughters?
After thwarted attempts by Farage’s press officer to close down the interview, a clearly disgruntled and flummoxed Farage is bid farewell by O’Brien.
We Need More of This
This is the kind of journalism that our political class should be facing, day in, day out. All too often, charismatic but morally bankrupt politicians like Farage, Boris Johnson, David Cameron and others are treated with kid gloves by interviewers keen not to lose favour with their respective press offices.
It is not that we wish to see politicians beat up for no reason other than to enjoy some voyeuristic sadism – O’Brien made zero ad hominem attacks and maintained a neutral tone throughout the interview. But such painstaking analysis of what our politicians say and what they do, this is what is missing from the majority of political journalism today – which remains pivoted around personality and personal life. By this I mean, while a politician having an extra-marital affair is considered a scandal, Theresa May giving herself the right to strip people of their UK citizenship is not.
We need more James O’Briens and fewer Nick Robinsons….
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