Laughing At Jack Is Fair.
October 12, 2014
by Martin Odoni
James O’Brien of ‘Leading Britain’s Conversation’ (LBC) Radio is becoming quite the needle in the flesh of the UK Independence Party. A few months ago, many will recall, he gave the party’s loathsome leader, Nigel Farage, an absolutely bruising grilling live on air, and triggered several rather telling xenophobic ‘slips’ from Farage. This week, he presented a phone-in in which he spoke to a UKIP supporter going by the name of ‘Jack’, and exposed rather easily just how little that ‘Jack’ knew about the party he supports with such unquestioning passion.
‘Jack’ phoned in to object to O’Brien’s assertion that UKIP is against immigration. O’Brien pointed out, quite correctly, many of the indicators that show beyond doubt that that is precisely what UKIP is. Rhetoric such as ‘”time to pull up the drawbridge” is not, despite ‘Jack’s’ protestations to the contrary, an appeal for merely controlled immigration, it is an appeal to put an end to immigration; when the drawbridge is up, nothing gets into the castle. (It also says something about the vaguely militaristic, aggressive and paranoid mindset of UKIP that its members talk of Britain as being a castle, as though it is a combat base besieged by evil foreign enemies.)
O’Brien repeatedly asked ‘Jack’, throughout the conversation of nearly four-and-a-half minutes, to explain what UKIP is for as a party, and what its policies are. At no stage did ‘Jack’ give any kind of coherent or reasoned answer, at best resorting to extremely ill-defined labels such as ‘common sense’ (in my experience, when supporters of the right-wing use that term, they usually mean, “Anything that agrees with what I’ve already decided”), or at worst, easily-exposed bluffs such as, “There are too many policies to list”. It got rather laughable as ‘Jack’ repeatedly lapsed into confused and awkward silences as he strained to think of answers to what really should have been very simple, basic questions for anybody putting themselves forward as a spokesperson on behalf of an organisation.
Now, it has been pointed out by a few people on social media that it is perhaps a little one-eyed to mock ‘Jack’ for his abject failure to make a case for UKIP, or even for his own support for them. One counter I have heard or read more than once is, “I doubt if you asked most supporters of any of the three main parties what their policy platform is, that they could give you a better answer than this.”
There is an echo of truth in that. I very much doubt that there are too many die-hard Labour supporters, for instance, who realise just how little their party is removed from the Conservative Party these days – it certainly remains to the left of the Tories, but is no longer left-of-centre. Re-nationalisation, for instance, once a stalwart policy of the Labour tradition, has been completely abandoned ever since Tony Blair took over from the late John Smith in 1994, but how many Labour supporters realise the implications of that?
But even so, I don’t feel in any way sorry for ‘Jack’ that he has been given a bit of a public kicking over social media since, because he really brought the ridicule on himself. If someone had walked up to him in the street, stuck a microphone in his face and asked him what party he supported and what their policies are, then I would have felt sorry for him if he stammered and made a hash of answering. In those circumstances, he would have been ‘ambushed’, so to speak, the questioning would have been entirely unsolicited, and he would have had no chance to prepare himself.
However, this is not the way it went. ‘Jack’ himself telephoned LBC Radio by his own choice. He did so entirely on his own initiative, and with the quite explicit aim – he said it himself – of ‘correcting’ O’Brien on whether UKIP is opposed to immigration. He was therefore putting himself forward as a spokesman for the party, in effect. Apart from having a functioning voicebox, the most important requirement for a spokesperson is to be properly informed about what is to be discussed.
And ‘Jack’ fouled it up. He was simply unaware of the very clear evidence of UKIP’s own rhetoric that it opposes immigration, and was also quite unaware of policies outside of that sphere, when he was asked what they were, and what the party stood for. ‘Jack’ showed no particular recognition even of UKIP’s core, founding policy, which has nothing much to do with immigration – British withdrawal from the European Union. Instead, ‘Jack’ tried to deflect such questions with a declaration of just “I don’t care” about anything except (his perception of) immigration being out-of-control. This is a quite explicit admission on his part that he is an active supporter, and self-appointed advocate, of a party whose policies he is unwilling to make the effort to learn about beyond one narrow area that he is fixated on. To say that while trying to act as a spokesman for the party was comically obtuse.
I fear that ‘Jack’ fits a wider pattern of UKIP-supporter behaviour. He is whiny and paranoid whenever confronted, not with propaganda, but with simple evidential facts about the party’s uglier characteristics, among both its membership and its policies. ‘Jack’ is very loud, and goes out of his way to make sure that everyone hears him, so when he says something stupid, everybody knows about it. He speaks up with impassioned certainty and love in defence of UKIP, while not really knowing anything much about the people running it, or what they aim to do. He almost seems to have a teenage ‘crush’ on UKIP.
I am quite confident that if all of UKIP’s current support-base really did know what the party is about, and what it really stands for i.e. the powers and wealth of rich, privileged people, the demonisation of minorities and alternative lifestyles, victimisation of the poor, the ill, and the disabled, hostility to ‘the other’, idealisation of a very narrow definition of what constitutes a respectable member-of-society, and the re-establishment of a Victorian-style hierarchical social structure across all of the United Kingdom, they would almost all drift away within days. This is because ‘UKIP-ism’, for want of a better name, is simply a more extreme and even more narrow-minded form of Toryism than we get from the Conservative Party itself. It is quite terrifying enough that such an extreme is even possible, let alone that there is now a party that embodies it. UKIP is even funded almost entirely by a rich core of ex-Tories, who have long favoured continuing and cementing the status quo in British politics and society.
It is only because so many people do not really understand how thoroughly right-wing, how extreme, and how anachronistic its outlook is, that UKIP has been able to get such an enlarged groundswell of support over the last five years. Enormous, disproportionate, uncritical over-exposure in the media, especially by the BBC, has given the party the oxygen of publicity, while failing to provide the toxicity of exposing its real nature or aims.
For making such a fool of himself by his own choice, ‘Jack’ deserves to be laughed at. For largely being very similar to him, much of the rest of UKIP’s support should not be laughed at, but regarded with despair. They are an embarrassing and dangerous reflection of how superficial and uninformed political debate has become in this country.