Sunday, January 30, 2005

More grief than the enemy

It is not very often that two newspapers from the opposite sides of the political divide come together with virtually identical stories, but such is the grip of fringe party politics on the so-called mainstream that each was able to see in one story a way of advancing its own agenda.

First though, to illustrate the symmetry in reporting, compare the following pieces. In one newspaper we have:

"The trouble is, some are serious and some are nutters. And you get the lot – is this one serious? Or is this another nutter? I mean, I didn't know what I joined. What's been irritating is that I've been defending some of these bloody Right-wing fascist nutters."
And in the second, we read:

"The trouble is, some are serious and some are nutters," he said. "And you get the lot. Is this one serious? Or is this another nutter? I didn't know what I joined. What's been irritating is that I've been defending some of these bloody right-wing fascist nutters."
The first is an extract from a report in the "right-wing" Sunday Telegraph and the second is from the left-of-centre Independent on Sunday. Both trail a BBC broadcast to be shown tomorrow – by an organisation with its own agenda – featuring the one-time star of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), none other than Robert Kilroy Silk.

In the Telegraph, the story is labelled: "'Right-wing fascist nutters' – Kilroy-Silk turns on his former friends in Ukip", while the Independent chooses: "Ukip is party of 'fascist nutters' says Kilroy-Silk" – not a smidgin of difference between them.

To our bemused American readers, who have probably just about grasped the difference between the "right-wing" Conservative Party and Blair's left-right of centre "New" Labour party – and the "anywhere you want us to be" Lib-Dims, the existent of this additional "right-wing" party must be confusing.

And it is going to get even more confusing when Mr Kilroy-Silk – more often referred to as plain "Kilroy" - starts up yet another party. This may be called "Veritas", which the media are quick to remind us is the Latin for "truth". No one has yet announced the formation of the obvious counter-party, "In vino", but I am told that several people are having serious discussions about the appropriate vintage.

As an aside, I suppose we can blame the Americans for Kilroy anyway – since we blame them for just about everything else – as I am reliably informed he first made an appearance in Tunisia in 1943 at the close of the North African campaign, when the graffiti "Kilroy was here" was seen painted on walls in the American-held sector.

Anyhow, now that we've got him, and he has fallen out of love with UKIP, he has launched a bitter attack on his former colleagues, describing some of them as "bloody Right-wing fascist nutters." His outspoken comments, we are told, were made only days after he angrily quit UKIP, describing it as a joke, and announced the formation his new political party.

But what is possibly more interesting is why the left and right wings of the mainstream should be so interested in what is fast becoming a sideshow – not so much the fringe, as the fringe of the fringe.

And here, as always, the explanation is the European Union. With the left-wing now in favour of "Europe" and its "social model", it is anxious to show that opponents of the "project" are all "stark-raving, right-wing, fascist nutters", while the supposed right-of-centre Conservatives, concerned at losing ground to the anti-EU "extremists", are similarly anxious to tarnish the breed.

The problem is, for once, that they are both at least partially right – as in "correct". Kilroy, in the film, explains to the producer why he sometimes stopped the filming of UKIP meetings. "I was embarrassed at their behaviour, their naivety and their immaturity and their stupidity and I didn't want you to see them behaving that way," he says.

We know exactly how he feels and, in many ways, the formal anti-EU parties are now becoming more of a problem than a solution – something which the pro-EU BBC will be quick to capitalise on, taking every opportunity to give them publicity (after years of ignoring them) as a means of showing ordinary people that only "nutters" - and right-wing, fascist ones at that - oppose the project.

It has been considerably helped in this endeavour by UKIP deputy leader, Mike Nattrass, who in tomorrow’s programme, is filmed telling a party rally:

"The Germans are the big losers here but they don't care because to them the [European Union] project is worthwhile. It's like an empire for them, spreading in all directions… into what they called the Sudetenland… It's cheaper for them really to do it this way rather than roll the tanks in."
The cause of Euroscepticism is not best served by this ranting as it presents us with the added difficulty of having to overcome the "loony-fringe" label before we are even able to get the message across.

But then, in politics, it is very often your "own side" that give you more grief than the enemy.

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