Nigel ‘the European Union has blood on its hands over Ukraine’ Farage appears to have done it again. An instant poll showed that Farage triumphed in the second television showdown on Europe by 69 per cent to 31 per cent, a higher margin than the one following last week’s LBC pioneering Europe debate.
It seems incredible to me that Farage again praised Vladimir Putin, the man who has, among other things, annexed Crimea, vetoed United Nations action to end the war in Syria, and sent troops into Georgia. It is, of course, deeply worrying that anyone holding views such as those evident during Farage’s appearance should come out on top in any television discussion, let alone one on a subject as important as Britain’s relationship with the European Union.
Having said that, the Europe debate itself is to be welcomed. Whatever else, Farage and the United Kingdom Independence party have put the EU on the agenda. We have never before had such coverage of the EU on mainstream television. Now both the BBC and the LBC leaders’ debate-style format have allowed us to engage with each other’s thoughts on Europe. Although Nick Clegg and Farage lead minor parties, each around 11 per cent in current national opinion polls, pygmies indeed compared to the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, they, together with LBC and the BBC, have raised the nation’s game on Europe.
And it was a real debate with hugely differing ideas and perceptions on the EU with a dialogue which at times became heated. It was good television and fascinating politics. My enduring hope is that Britain will continue its evident interest in the EU with an increased turnout in the elections to the European parliament on 22 May. It is high time this country participated in EU matters in more than a superficial semi-detached fashion.
Even though Farage chooses not to recognise it, the EU is, in fact, a democratic institution. The British people elect members of the European parliament which co-legislates with the council of ministers, made up of the elected governments of all EU countries. We do not, as Farage claims, have a massive number of laws forced on us from Brussels. It is the British prime minister and government together with elected representatives such as me who make this legislation.
This means, of course, that the EU is a political institution, not the out-of-touch bureaucracy of Farage and wider Eurosceptic myth. The EU is currently controlled by the political right. One of Farage’s problems with it is that it is not rightwing enough; cherished EU values – free movement of labour, protection at work and health and safety not to mention gender equality – are all anathema to him. The real reason Ukip wishes to return to little England is that it wants everyone to know their place – working people should put up and shut up, women should stay tucked away in the kitchen and non-British people should never darken our shores.
Neither Farage nor Clegg is your average man on the Clapham omnibus. Despite Farage’s claim, made more than once last night, that he is not a career politician, his life before Ukip as a public school (Dulwich College)-educated stockbroker was hardly ordinary. Likewise Nick Clegg, Westminster School and Cambridge University, followed by a stint in the EU. They may both be pygmies on the national stage, but it would appear that in 21st century Britain that even the pygmies come from privileged backgrounds. While some may see the EU as unrepresentative, the same could definitely be said about these two party leaders.
This was originally published on Progress Online. To see the original please follow the link here.