Clegg slams Farage over “extreme” and “utterly grotesque” Putin comments

Nigel Farage MEPMost Liberals would have been choking into their Corn Flakes this morning upon reading that Vladimir Putin, who apparently has designs on Finland, is the object of Nigel Farage’s admiration.

I just think it is utterly grotesque that Nigel Farage apparently admires – and that was the question to him, ‘Who do you admire?’ – admires someone, Vladimir Putin, who has been the chief sponsor and protector of one of the most brutal dictators on the face of the planet, President Assad, who has blocked at every single turn in the United Nations any attempt by the international community to work in concert to help the many, many millions of people who have been driven from their homes and have been brutalised, and have been tortured and have been killed.

And to then express his admiration by saying that he thinks that Vladimir Putin has played it all as if it’s a game. This isn’t a game.

This is thousands upon thousands of people being killed and brutalised and murdered and chased from their homes who we are now taking into our country.

Women and children who have been sexually abused, who have been physically abused, and we are thankfully acting in a generous-hearted way to provide them refuge.

And he admires the man who has allowed, more than almost any other world leaders, that to happen?

I just think if your hatred of all things to do with the European Union leads to such a morally perverse conclusion – that you admire the one leader in the world who could have reined in President Assad – it really shows quite how extreme his views have become.

At Scottish Conference this weekend, I was talking to my friend James Oates, who currently lives in Talinn. He was saying that people in the Baltic states are very worried at the prospect of a Russian invasion. James has almost always been right in his assessment of the international situation in the almost three decades I’ve known him so his prediction, in a speech in the EU debate, that we could seriously be on the brink of a major international war was a real “wake up and smell the coffee” moment for many of us. James in fact won the prize for the best speech of Conference.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Apparently the full quotation ( from that article in The Independent) was: ‘As an operator, but not as a human being, I would say Putin.’

    Which seems fair enough, actually. Is it really not possible to admire someone’s political skill, while still despising the despicable ends to which that skill is put?

    Would it be ‘utterly grotesque’, for example, for a general, asked which commander they most admired, to say, ‘Rommel; he was on the wrong side of course, but his grasp of strategy was undoubtedly brilliant’?

    People keep claiming that Farage has ‘sided with’ Putin, but I haven’t read anything he’s said that could accurately be described as him ‘siding with’ Putin. Admiring someone does not mean siding with them: it’s entirely possible to admire one’s bitter enemies (and indeed it’s often a good thing, as you are less likely then to underestimate them).

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Mar '14 - 6:10pm

    I think subtle criticism of Farage is more effective than outrage, otherwise it looks as though we “don’t get it”. I don’t think Farage’s full quote was that bad and personally found the revelation that he is interested in being a radio “shock-jock” worse. Farage would not be a good leader for this country.

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Mar '14 - 6:17pm

    Don’t get me wrong – to pick Putin of all people is revealing and he should be criticised for it, but we need to avoid the tendency of outrage and hypocrisy when it comes to western foreign policy.

  • “… Vladimir Putin, who apparently has designs on Finland …”

    Right. That’s according to someone who used to be his adviser until 9 years ago, but has since gone to the USA and is now saying Putin must be opposed “by all means available”.

    It’s plain irresponsible to give currency to such wild claims without being clear about where they come from.

  • “Is it really not possible to admire someone’s political skill, while still despising the despicable ends to which that skill is put?”

    No, not really – especially when that political skill is widespread suppression.

  • Kay ” Is it really not possible to admire someone’s political skill, while still despising the despicable ends to which that skill is put?”

    Yes of course it is, it’s the sign of an adult intellect to appreciate your opponent’s skill whilst still fighting them with everything you have.

  • Ray Cobbett 31st Mar '14 - 8:50pm

    Having just seen the C4 film about NF it’s perfectly obvious that most people would be far happier having a pint and a laugh in the local with him than any other leader currently on offer. Outrage and priggishness are the real enemies for aspiring libdems.

  • David Blake 31st Mar '14 - 9:46pm

    The C4 programme was in effect an hour long party broadcast for UKIP.

  • Ray Cobbett wrote:

    “Having just seen the C4 film about NF it’s perfectly obvious that most people would be far happier having a pint and a laugh in the local with him than any other leader currently on offer. ”

    Not me. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink. And rather than laugh at right-wing bores, I tend to fall asleep. But there’s no accounting for taste, I guess.

    Now, why do you refer to Mr Farage as “NF”? Is there a subliminal message there? Certainly, that’s what I took you to mean at first glance. Perhaps you’re too young to remember what those two letters once signified.

  • No, not really – especially when that political skill is widespread suppression

    It’s not, though: he does practice widespread suppression, but that’s not what Farage was admiring. The quotation from The Independent goes on: ‘The way he played the whole Syria thing. Brilliant. Not that I approve of him politically. How many journalists in jail now?’

    So the suppression he doesn’t approve of, but he thing the way Putin ran rings around Obama over Syria was brilliant. And it was. The fact it was pure evil doesn’t stop it from being a masterpiece of using diplomacy to achieve your aims while managing to humiliate your enemies for good measure.

  • One might also point out that a Putinised UK would be a state with one party (presumably UKIP) with a permanent majority, with opposition parties (especially liberal parties) ineffective, marginalised, or forbidden from organising; a state based on the choices and whims of a single individual (presumably Mr Farage) with a rubber-stamp parliament; with mock elections with a predetermined result; with the media under government control, and any dissenting voices quashed; with the right to assemble and to protest severely curtailed; a national security state in which freedoms are routinely suspended or removed in the name of countering terrorism; a state in which devolved authorities are simply under the control of puppets responsible directly to the central government; where the police and investigative services can and do interfere with private activity, especially political activity, at will; a state where the most reactionary institutions are given full government support; a state whose ideology is an extreme form of nationalism, and whose foreign policy is arrogant, militaristic, and interventionist. This much from Putin “as an operator” — and one may imagine from Farage as well.

    Of course, one might also point out that past and current governments have already taken the country halfway there, so Mr Farage hasn’t that much to do.

  • Dave G Fawcett 1st Apr '14 - 3:59pm

    Just one small comment and putting this into a British context, as a lifelong Liberal/Liberal Democrat (and I first joined the party in the days of Jo Grimond), I found I had to admire Margaret Thatcher’s political skills as a politician. That does not mean that I agreed with anything she said or did. Quite the reverse in fact. The same applied to my thought s on Tony Blair, although I could support some of his policies.

    In the end, attacking Nick Farage over his admiration for Putin’s political skills will probably be counter-productive.

  • For the last couple of months I’ve had the hugely frustrating experience of watching my UK Facebook friends talk about almost anything but Ukraine and Russia, while here in the Czech Republic we’re worried stiff (with the exception of a fifth column of Putin supporters). I’m glad people are realising the severity of the situation – can you start putting more pressure on Cameron to introduce properly-effective financial-sector sanctions – close off the City to Russian state-owned firms, as Anders Aslund has suggested, even if it causes the City some pain. So much of the solution to this lies in the UK’s hands. Cameron’s initial slowness was utterly shameful – he seems to be talking the talk now, but I’m still concerned that it’s masking a reluctance to see the City hurt at all.

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