Saturday, 21 September 2013
UKIP and the meanings of words
I got a bit of a shock yesterday when I discovered I am six years older than Nigel Farage. This has not helped my self-esteem. I always thought of Farage as a creature from another age - maybe the 1930s, a sort of Terry-Thomas figure minus a handlebar moustache, a strangely elongated version of Bertie Wooster crossed with Basil Fawlty, practically ageless, but certainly generations older than me. A terrifying thought. that he is actually younger.
Still, you have to hand it to him. His political skills seem to have attracted no less than 150 journalists to the UKIP party conference this week. You have to hand it to him - he has an enviable ability to cut through political verbiage.
Anyone who doubts the Farage phenomenon should watch this clip of his speech to deeply uncomfortable looking German bankers in the European parliament, taking what seems to me to be a genuinely liberal line on the euro crisis. Politics does need people like that.
But what I wanted to say was this. I realise I must be the only person in the world, apart from Farage's colleague Godfrey Bloom, to feel sorry for Godfrey Bloom.
There he is making a deeply unwise comment about women not cleaning behind the fridge in a fringe meeting, and the next thing he knows, he is out on his ear.
And of all the things that Farage might need to apologise for - his brand of populism, his strange other-worldly policies on crime, military spending and immigration (they have to speak "fluent English" apparently) - what really upsets him is that Bloom has not realised that the word 'sluts' has changed in meaning since he was a boy, some centuries ago.
Personally I don't clean behind my fridge. I've never actually been there. It is uncharted territory. It may be a black hole sucking in dark matter for all I know. No doubt Godfrey Bloom would forgive this on the grounds that, as a man, I ought to be outside slaying things.
But what this strange incident tells me is that UKIP has started worrying about political correctness. It has started agonising about the impression it gives beyond its core support. It means they are just like other political parties - and that will blunt Farage's straight-talking. like nothing else
First, you complain about your colleagues understanding of four letter words. The next thing you know, you are dissembling like all your opponents. It is a slippery slope and it is fascinating to see that UKIP are now on it.