The dear old Daily Telegraph does seem to be getting a little nervous over UKIP. It’s not just the DT, of course. The media in general has never really felt comfortable with its emergence as a political force buttressed by substantial electoral appeal. After all, the media pundits and lobby hacks tend to perform their tribal rituals within the confines of Westminster, Notting Hill and Islington, chattering to politicians of the established parties and each other in order to discover who (or what) is “in” or “out”. Throw in the civil service mandarins, the quangocrats and the professional lobbyists and you have the five thousand people who see themselves as our political elite.
They know each other, they share gossip, eat and drink together, sleep with each other and usually manage to ease their children into the same world. It’s not a sealed off world however because they are able to absorb the occasional outsider as long as they come in via the recognisable routes provided by the established political parties or their media surrogates.
Which is why they are so unsettled by UKIP – according to their rulebook the party has always been filed under “farther shores of politics”, useful for a sneer or a snigger, a group of eccentrics who, like flowers in the desert, blossom in the brief moment of an EU election shower then wither and die under the glaring sun of normal politics. But, the by elections and local elections of 2013 and the consistency of subsequent polling data confounded their rulebook. “Flash in the pan”, “protest vote”, “one hit wonder” and all those other stock phrases were beginning to look rather tired.
What also puzzled them was the fact that UKIP, not the media, has driven the political agenda over the last year or so. Would David Cameron have offered a referendum on EU membership without the Eastleigh by election? Would Labour be crying mea culpa over mass immigration from Eastern Europe without the UKIP local election surge? Would the BBC be pretending to look at the negatives of immigration without the strong performance of UKIP in the polls?
No need to e-mail Sherlock Holmes to find the answer to those questions.
So the Telegraph, like the rest of the media, was facing an incomprehensible social dilemma. A whole crowd of uninvited guests, wearing purple and yellow ribbons, have come off the street and joined the party. Nobody knows who they are, they have no metropolitan connections and they have the audacity to say what they think rather than constantly self-monitor their utterings with reference to the BBC code of phrase approval.
What was to be done?
Never fear – the DT had the answer – cue Tim Stanley. Whoops – smacked wrist for that faux pas. It’s Dr Tim Stanley so he must be bright. Oh, and he’s written a book about Pat Buchanan, an obscure right wing American politician, so he got to be really clever. Then his picture makes him look like Benedict Cumberbatch so he’s no fuddy duddy academic with an egg stained tie and smelly socks. He is a bright young thing and so NOW…
That’s why the DT editor called him in and asked him to dream up something incredibly witty that would totally undermine UKIP but would also resonate with those upwardly mobile thirtysomethings who are the DT’s target market – and the good doctor came up with the goods, a short video. (Ed: Worth looking at the reader comments on the article)
It must have sounded incredibly clever at the editorial conference….so, like…cool…like…epic…
Dr Stanley thought he would use the rapier of mockery to cut UKIP down to size – but cleverly disguised as a series of “helpful hints”. That would initially attract the hits because people would think “Hey, that clever academic Dr Tim Stanley wants UKIP to do well.”
It would open with the youthful Doctor, wearing a jacket BUT NO TIE (cool, geddit?) giving his helpful hints interspersed with selective clips and stills, each stage piling on the pressure until the viewer realised that UKIP was a gaggle of circus clowns performing embarrassing pratfalls. Scales would fall from eyes, twitter would go viral and UKIP would collapse.
In fact, the clip is abysmal. Doctor Tim is wooden, the production values are amateurish (my granddaughters upload better stuff onto YouTube with their iphones during their lunch breaks at school) and the references are yesterday’s fish and chip wrappings.
Here’s a piece of advice, Dr Stanley. Why not have a chat with Paul Nuttall, Patrick O’Flynn or Diane James and discover that you can have a rational and reasonable discussion about UKIP even if you agree to disagree. Or get in touch with our HQ and visit a local branch meeting. Come here to read the articles and see how willing we are to jump into a debate and argue back and forth. Ask yourself why, when the membership of all other establishment parties is collapsing, UKIP’s membership has almost doubled over two years and, at 30,000+ is getting closer to the Liberal Democrats?
If you had the chutzpah to do that, Doctor, we would at least have some respect for you even though you might choose to disavow us. But the time has long passed when cheap student union jokes are sufficient to stifle UKIP’s growth.
Leave that to the left wing plants in the BBC Question Time audience or the well paid panellists on “Have I Got News For You”…