When Mr Farage came to Edinburgh – the ugly side of politics

It was misbehaviour all round when the UKIP leader came to Edinburgh on Thursday. He found himself on the receiving end of a noisy protest  organised by, among others, the Radical Independence Campaign. They shouted all sorts of abuse at him, leading to him taking refuge in a pub from which he was rescued by the Police. The Guardian has video of the incident.

He quickly lost any sympathy he might have gained by accusing the BBC’s David Miller of hatred and hanging up on a live radio interview.   This from a man who used the term “fascist scum” to describe the protesters. Needless to say, Miller was being no harder on him than he is on any other politician. Maybe Nigel isn’t at his best first thing in the morning. You can listen to that interview here.

So, we’ve had Farage and the pro-independence fringe make idiots of themselves. It’s not a bad thing that they have, but I’d much rather see the headlines report a better quality, engaging, inclusive  political debate.

The way to deal with Nigel Farage, as David Miller found on Friday, as Ed Davey found on a quiet slot on the BBC News Channel the day after the county elections, is to take his arguments apart politely and calmly. Ed pointed out the consequences of other countries, where many of our citizens now live, sending them back to live here in retaliation for our restriction of  their citizens’ movements.

I might agree entirely with Alex Salmond that:

This is a man who doesn’t like getting challenged because when the obnoxious views of his party are put to him then his bubble deflates very quickly and that is what we saw in his panicky interview this morning.

However, his statement of the bleedin’ obvious skirts round the intimidatory and unpleasant behaviour of some on the fringes of  the pro-independence campaign. They may not be members of the SNP, but Alex Salmond, as a pro independence First Minister, should call them out when they go too far. Willie Rennie thinks so:

We’ve always known that supporters of independence can be very passionate for their cause but the offensive and aggressive behaviour towards Nigel Farage was unacceptable.

Of course I disagree with Nigel Farage on his unpleasant and dishonest agenda but he will be defeated by argument not aggression. It was deeply ironic when these self-proclaimed anti-racist campaigners told an Englishman to get back to his own country. Anti-racists turned racist but were too ignorant to notice. I am sure most people in Scotland will be appalled at this behaviour. These people do not speak for Scotland.

Alex Salmond must speak out against this attack on free speech.

When I had the temerity to suggest on Twitter that UKIP, Farage and the pro indy mob had not shown themselves at their best, my timeline quickly filled up with such bile that, had I not developed a very thick skin over the years, could have sent me whimpering back under the duvet, swearing never to stick my voice into the debate again. There was some particularly unpleasant anti-Scottish abuse from a UKIP supporter that I’ve tweeted to Nigel Farage and asked if he condones it. I won’t be holding my breath waiting for a reply.

The dominance of this story in the media in Scotland at least over the past few days does not encourage people to get involved in the debate. This is something hat Willie and almost everyone else is missing.  We have a crowd of  almost all male students shouting abuse at a middle aged male. We then have lots of other middle aged men commenting on it. Where are women’s voices in this? Of course, given that some UKIP members can’t even cope with the idea that women should dress to suit themselves, they perhaps have furthest to go.

In the context of the Independence referendum, both Yes Scotland and Better Together have active women’s groups but neither have yet exerted enough influence within their respective campaigns. Natalie McGarry wrote about this in the Scotsman earlier this week from the perspective of the Yes campaign. I could echo her concerns from the point of view of the Better Together campaign. Of its five directors, only one is a woman. Most of its communications come from men, and it is as guilty as the other lot of mudslinging by infographic. This kind of thing is sugar rush politics which might give supporters a quick boost but the inevitable crash only leaves them  unfulfilled. I think Better Together will get there, not least because there are enough like-minded women who will make sure of it, but I’d prefer it was sooner rather than later.

I find few non political types discussing the referendum, unless to say it’s boring them. We have to do a lot better than this. I agree with Natalie when she wrote:

When this debate finally moves on from the bombastic phoney war typified by bluster and raised voices, and respects the public’s desire for a more mature, respectful and informed debate; women will undoubtedly become more engaged.

This could apply equally to what passes for political discourse on just about any subject you care to mention, not just the referendum. Debate should inspire and reach out. We have all got to raise our game.

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

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20 Comments

  • I agreed with Alex Salmond too – and that has to be a first.

  • If this kind of incident is repeated — and if polls show English support for Mr Farage’s views and tactics — it’s about the only thing that could boost the Yes vote in the Scottish referendum, which would otherwise have no chance at all.

  • Charles Addison 18th May '13 - 6:48pm

    I’m dissapointed with those on the left and centre who believe we should be nice to the fascists in the nice suits! The tag team blogging by ukip members on scottish papers today is full of hateful comments that betray the BNP elements within their ranks. The idea that Alex Salmond is responsible and should appologise for seperatists outside his party (and they were by the way) is as crazy as saying that Willie Rennie as a unionist leader should appologise for unionists outside his party, such as ukip members.. I for one would never ask him to.

  • paul barker 18th May '13 - 7:03pm

    20 years ago I spent a year in Edinburgh, working at The Demarco Gallery & involved with The Campaign for a Scots Parliament. I must admit I was shocked at the level & ubiquity of Anti-English sentiment, it gave me some faint sense of what it must feel like to be an immigrant. I certainly met Nationalists who could fairly be described as Faschists.
    To be fair to Scots, Faschist – style behaviour is fairly common across British Politics in my experience & as often found on the Statist Left as The Right.

  • Nigel Farage’s style of interview/debate is very well known. English politicians from the main parties know it very well if they’ve been on the news or Question Time with him.

    But as you say, this left wing pro-independence group showed appalling behaviour. They should have let him go by his business instead of instigating a nearly violent ruckus. Not only that, but the extremely reactionary view that Nigel Farage and UKIP are akin to the BNP. For goodness sake, how many times does this have to be discussed? Reasonable criticism of immigration policy doesn’t automatically make someone an insular bigot. Silencing an opinion is the height of bad manners and disregards free speech.

  • Tony Greaves 18th May '13 - 10:06pm

    From an Englilsh viewpoint (and the Farage episode was first item on the TV news last night, and prominent in newspapers today) it’s all about Mr Farage. It seems to me that he fits into a category we see often on the television – the Celebrity Buffoon. He was on the TV again this evening on something different, and shown in the high street somewhere with a pint in his right hand and a burning fag in his left – is this all for real?

    One thing that TV is good at and good for is allowing people to assess the character of people who appear on the screen. If I am right and Mr Farage will come to be seen as a Celebrity Buffoon it may be that he will come to be seen as a good laugh but not a person you would want living next door or haunting your local pub, and not a person you want to be running the country.

    Tony Greaves

  • Farage is always getting photographed with a pint in his hand doing his schtick. What were the odds he’d be barricaded in a pub of all places…

  • Helen Dudden 19th May '13 - 8:28am

    Mr. Farage has been a product of the coalition Government. The unwillingness to listen, and I fear things will get worse, before better.

    I am sorry Nick you have got things very wrong, I too moved to another Party, not UKIP, that is not a serious choice. When I have made comments they were not excepted as positive, but totally the opposite.

    So, as with my ideas on remaining in the EU, there too is a problem element. I think that your remaining time in the coalition will be memorable, I say no more, or again, I will have the added comments of not being positive and going against those I did believe in, for many years.

  • @ Helen Dudden

    “The unwillingness to listen”

    Listen to what exactly? You moved to another party. Which one, exactly?

    You are right about UKIP being a product of the Coalition, though. In restraining the Tories from lurching to the right, which they would have done if in government all on their own, we have opened up a space at the rightward extreme of politics.

    Unfortunately, in hard times, politics polarises to the extremes: at the moment we have extremes to the left (“oh just spend a lot more and it’ll all be OK. We don’t need to make any cuts”) and to the right (“Blame everything on foreigners”). This is one of those polarising moments and being in government we are taking the brunt of it.

  • I have to say, the actions of the extreme Nats are worthy of the worst kind of EDL type mob activity – an irony which seems to have passed them entirely by.

    No sympathy in general with UKIP, but in terms of them being allowed to speak without being harassed and threatened with potential violence, I stand with them.

  • I am an East Anglian born and bred, I have only ever voted Labour or Liberal/LibDem. I regard Farage’s UKIIIP, as well as the Tory Party, as completely ‘off the wall’. As a young man (many years ago) it was my great pleasure to tour around Scotland several times. In recent times my wife and I have been to Edinburgh twice, just to see the sights. It is no longer such a pleasure being English in Scotland. The anit-English graffitti seems the norm, and I experieced an ‘edge’ in encounters with some Scots. I will not be going back. I rarely have cause to visit London, but coincidentally, we have been there twice in the last 18 months. By way of contrast London and its people (a selection of every race on earth) seem at ease with themselves. I found myself talking easily to all kinds of people of different appearance, and I was taken aback by the friendlyness of people generally. London, unlike Edinburgh, seems at ease with itself. I believe that the Scots should go for indenpendence; many of them now have an ‘attitude’ towards the south. Independence is the answer, and I wish them well.

  • Has anyone else noticed that Farage is often pictured holding his pint at the top of the glass and sipping out of it? Proof that he’s a phoney ‘cos that ain’t how you hold a pint!!!!

  • Helen Dudden 19th May '13 - 1:14pm

    @RC, nothing that is extreme I can assure you. If you join a coalition you are part of the Government in power, you mostly will agree with the policy, and of course except that these decisions will go against what you have promised those who supported you through the years. I was a Lib Dem nearly all my voting life and I am in my 60’s, hardly a rebel.

    It is very sad to watch, and as I support the EU and that is actively, again, I watch what you are part of. As I said I have been to two meetings on separate occasions, and on one of those a large section of the Conservatives promised demolition of the association we have.

    Perhaps I am a little old fashioned, I thought it was an agreement, sought after for many years, I too am old enough to remember, I should also dislike to see further problems within Spain and Greece, we should find a solution. I have supported Graham Watson MEP for many years, also I have respect for Sarah Ludford MEP.

    I no longer support local my MP in Bath, I will simply say that I feel he too, supports many of those issues, I believe are far from respectful in their implementation.

    There are ways of doing things, not coming down very hard and causing problems to those concerned.

  • I see Rennie has joined with the many others who misinterpreted the protest against Farage:

    “Of course I disagree with Nigel Farage on his unpleasant and dishonest agenda but he will be defeated by argument not aggression. It was deeply ironic when these self-proclaimed anti-racist campaigners told an Englishman to get back to his own country. Anti-racists turned racist but were too ignorant to notice. I am sure most people in Scotland will be appalled at this behaviour. These people do not speak for Scotland.”

    As Radical Indy point out, many of the protesters were English, as are some of their membership.

    The more believable interpretation of the ‘go back to England’ comment is that it is recognition that the little Englanders in UKIP have nothing to say of relevance in Scotland.

    Pure opportunism from Rennie that successfully reinforces the erroneous impression in the media south of the border that a substantial proportion of Nats are anti-English.

    If this attitude prevails then it will cause serious nastiness in the future, as it is the right wing blogs/newspapers are full of anti-Scottish sentiment in the comments. It will only reinforce this leading to hate and abuse against Scots living in England.

  • Tony Greaves 19th May '13 - 5:38pm

    Farage also always seems to manage to be photographed sipping a full pint. Does he ever sup the lot or is it like Harold Wilson’s pipe – a phoney show put away once the cameras go?

    (Or does he end up worse for wear every night, out of shot?)

    Tony Greaves

  • The TV coverage of the event was unambiguous the people ‘protesting’ were clearly making racist statements, the fact that not one politician has condemned these speaks volumes. Yes, whilst I don’t necessarily agree with Nigel’s viewpoints, he was justified in calling the so called protesters “fascist scum” and to raise a huge question mark over the real motives of those who support Scottish independence.

  • Michael Parsons 21st May '13 - 12:07am

    Hm! I hardly think we Lib-Dems can criticise a leader for drinking! Or come to that, remembering G eorge Brown and Churchill, any other Party can either.
    I believe NF has an honest capacity for the odd pint- and why not?

  • There was no violence or threats of violence. There were no racist statements. What you didn’t see on TV was that the protestors had tried to engage in Mr Farage in dialogue for some time before resorting to heckling him. In any case no conclusions can honestly be drawn about the movement for scottish independence from the actions of 50 students. As an Englishman who has spent a lot of time in Scotland and who currently lives in Edinburgh I have seen little serious anti-english feeling in Scotland. Of course if you conduct yourself in an arrogant or condescending fashion you might meet some hostility but that is true of any foreign country.

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