Farage Wins Again

Jude Wanga

For months, Nigel Farage has been maintaining a solitary watch on the south coast of England, looking out for small boats of migrants arriving on the beaches and filming them with his camera phone.

Despite never having won a Westminster seat, Farage is probably the most effective UK politician of the last two decades. He managed to parlay a collapsing BNP into a more or less respectable Ukip. Naked racism was disguised as pseudo-principled opposition to freedom of movement. After the 2016 referendum vote came in, the motivations of many leavers were made transparent. Muslims, ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups were told in no uncertain terms that they were no longer welcome in the UK. The vote to leave the European Union was – for a worryingly significant proportion of the country – about deporting anyone who wasn’t white.

Farage retreated from view once he had had his big win. The Brexit Party is no longer a meaningful force because it has been co-opted by Boris Johnson and needs little extra-parliamentary presence to exert its worldview. Immigrants who have settled in the UK according to the letter and spirit of the law are being hounded by the Home Office.

Like a predatory investor looking for a disaster to exploit, Farage has been waiting for a catastrophe to feed on. With Covid-19, he has it. The government has failed in its pandemic response, through a mixture of incompetence and malign neglect. More than 40,000 people have died. The seven-day moving average of new daily cases, having declined to 545 in early July, is now approaching 1000 again. Track-and-trace efforts are proving inadequate. The UK is in a worse recesssion that the US, Germany, Italy or France. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, and furlough schemes will be wound up in October. Rishi Sunak talks of ‘tough choices’ with a smile on his lips, as millions of people are staring into the abyss.

Yet the government’s abdication of responsibility means the blame has already been artfully shifted, as more than half of British adults – and three-quarters of Tory voters – tell polling companies that the public, not the government, would be responsible for any second wave. No doubt they’re looking to dodge the blame for the negative consequences of a hard Brexit, too: it should be easy enough to lay the responsibility for economic collapse next year on Covid-19, and we’ve already accepted that will be our fault, not theirs. The deaths of tens of thousands of people somehow give Johnson a free pass for another swing at British society.

Amid the carnage of the coronavirus, no cynical politician would turn down a scapegoat. And Farage, with his established backdoor and public links to the Tory Party, has provided one. The arrival of refugees, in dribs and drabs, has been turned into a national crisis by willing actors. Last Thursday, Farage posted a video on Twitter of a dozen people, half of them children, landing on a beach in a small boat. ‘Shocking invasion on the Kent coast,’ he wrote.

‘As a record number of migrants cross the English Channel by boat in one day,’ Newsnight asked last Friday evening, ‘does the UK have control over its borders?’ On Saturday morning, the BBC filmed twenty people setting out from a beach in Northern France. On Sunday, Priti Patel appointed a ‘Clandestine Channel Threat Commander’ dedicated to ‘making the Channel route unviable for small boat crossings’. On Monday, Farage had a piece in the Telegraph: ‘It’s time to declare an emergency in the channel.’ BBC Breakfast sent a reporter out onto the water, broadcasting live footage of a group of Syrian asylum seekers as they bailed water out of their boat, the Corporation’s vessel cruising alongside.

Seeing the endless images of dinghies full of desperate people, online and in newspapers, people are bound to think to themselves: ‘If it’s getting so much coverage, it must be a problem.’ A poll on Tuesday found that half of us have little or no sympathy for the people coming here by these dangerous means. The same proportion believe the government has no responsibility to protect them.

Farage has won again, and this time everyone in power has been all too happy to help, not even paying lip service to decency. Everyone in need in this country will suffer; everyone in need coming here may suffer even more.

My parents sent me and my sister to the UK when we were just a few years old, sacrificing much of their relationship with us, to save us from the war in Congo, the bloodiest conflict since the Second World War. We were looked after by our uncle, who had to learn the lessons of fatherhood far earlier than he had expected to, and probably far earlier than he was ready for. It wasn’t easy for any of us. The UK wasn’t paradise, but it became home, and I quickly made friends (we are closer now than ever). I grew up in England, and as a child, the state supported me when I needed it, having come from one of the most dangerous places in the world. If I had to make the same journey in 2020, the British government, the British state and half the British people would not wish me to be here. It could have cost me my life, and it will cost others theirs.


  • 15 August 2020 at 4:01am
    Kate Hegarty says:
    Britain takes no responsibility for its colonial history, nor does it acknowledge or consider the immense demonstrated benefits of immigration and multiculturalism. But it is changing, it will change. This is just Farage marking it darkest before the dawn. The dawn will break and the best of the British spirit will prevail.

    • 15 August 2020 at 11:35am
      Ashraf Nehru says: @ Kate Hegarty
      Invoking the Hitchens principle, I can only reply : No it won’t.

    • 15 August 2020 at 3:00pm
      CarpeDiem says: @ Kate Hegarty
      I hope you are saying is true, but might I ask, what are the reasons behind your optimism ?

    • 17 August 2020 at 1:29am
      jrsm says: @ Kate Hegarty
      Speaking from Australia, where this demonising of boat people has been going on and winning elections for decades now (while rich white people are allowed to take cruise ships, get COVID and then vanish unimpeded into the general community) , and shows absolutely no sign of abating, I only wish I could emulate your positive attitude.

    • 17 August 2020 at 8:26pm
      XopherO says: @ Kate Hegarty
      It will not change because this antipathy is all wrapped up in xenophobia that is implicit in all talk of 'the other'. You can make racism talk relatively unacceptable but you will never repress the hostility to the 'other' that lies behind it. I speak from some experience of a half-Jamaican brother and a French wife. You who read this look inside yourselves for those jokes about 'the other' that you think are just 'innocent' humour!

  • 17 August 2020 at 9:55am
    M f Naguib says:
    Appealing to the better nature and the humanitarian sentiments of the Public is not sustainable in the long term. Whereas a constant reminder about the cost benefits may be more effective. Without the regular influx of immigrants the ageing Western populations will soon face major crises. The health and social care sectors will shrink , food production will cost more , and shortage of manpower will hit the catering business and hospitality industries with dire consequences. Even Scientific research relies on importing fresh enthusiastic brains. The Covid19 crisis has amply demonstrated our reliance on immigrants.

    • 17 August 2020 at 5:03pm
      Marmaduke Jinks says: @ M f Naguib
      Absolutely spot-on: demography makes it abundantly clear that the UK needs immigrants.
      But most people would like to know who those immigrants are and what skills they bring.

    • 18 August 2020 at 10:50am
      CarpeDiem says: @ Marmaduke Jinks
      Which places the onus on immigrants to constantly demonstrate that they are the "good" ones, worthy of being admitted and allowed to live in the host countries.

      In an earlier blog post, Somdeep Sen wrote evocatively about what this does to the immigrants' pysche -

      Here's what resonated with me the most from Sen's post:

      "In The Good Immigrant, Nikesh Shukla writes: ‘The constant anxiety we feel as people of colour to justify our space, to show that we have earned our place at the table, continues to hound us.’ The assumption behind this anxiety is that immigrants and people of colour encroach on a space, a place at the table, that they have no right to. The American comedian Hasan Minhaj talks about the ‘dream tax’, the ‘small’ price that immigrants agree to pay to live and prosper in their adopted homeland. Minhaj’s family home was attacked after 9/11. ‘These things happen and these things will continue to happen,’ his father said. ‘That’s the price we pay for being here.’ In 2008 I was attacked by three neo-Nazis in Budapest. ‘Things like this happen,’ my father told me over the phone from India. ‘Just keep to yourself, don’t provoke them and concentrate on your work."

    • 18 August 2020 at 11:46pm
      Marmaduke Jinks says: @ CarpeDiem
      I said nothing about “people of colour”; I was referring to immigrants, regardless of race, ethnicity or any other characteristic.
      But, yes, I think it not unreasonable to sift (to use very simplistic labels) the “good” from the “bad” when deciding which candidates to admit.
      Once they HAVE been admitted, of course, then they must be treated in exactly the same way as any other citizen.
      Any other treatment is unacceptable.

  • 20 August 2020 at 11:26pm
    Graucho says:
    The story goes that Charles Babbage was driven to distraction by street musicians and used to pay them to go away. When word got around they turned up in droves of course. One fears that this logic is relevant to this near insoluble problem. What to do ?


    A) Get tough. Set up processing centres in France to find genuine cases of assylum. If you turn up in the U.K. bypassing these you get sent back, not to France, but to your country of origin.

    B) Open borders.

    C) The current lethal version of Jeux sans frontières where losing contestants drown.

    None of the above are attractive. If anyone has better ideas please put them forward.

    • 23 August 2020 at 6:48pm
      CarpeDiem says: @ Graucho
      D) Solve it at the source. Help stabilize the regions from which the most desperate migrants emerge AND make it a point to not get embroiled in further foreign misadventures.

      Of course, bugger all chances of this happening....

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