Friday, 20 September 2013

Feeling sorry for Farage

The Farage in question
I am not a natural supporter of Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party. The Party's politics put my back up in a big way - it tends to be small minded and altogether too Daily Mailish. Farage himself comes across to me as rather creepy - not at all the 'jolly guy down the pub' image that he puts forward. But after a piece on Channel Four News last night, I feel I have to defend the man.

About the first 15 minutes of usually excellent C4N yesterday was dedicated to what I presume was an exclusive 'scoop' that while Farage was at school (the rather posh, definitely not 'man down the pub', Dulwich College) many of the teachers didn't like him, mostly because of his right wing leanings, and there was a concerted effort to try to prevent him being a prefect because of this. It was even alleged that during a residential trip, he and friends walked through a sleepy village singing 'Hitler Youth songs.'

I'm sorry, but this isn't fair. Firstly the songs business, put forward as the most extreme example. It just doesn't ring true. How many teenagers in the 1980s would know Hitler Youth songs? Farage makes the point that he wouldn't know them, and frankly I agree. And taking the situation as a whole, I think it's both unfair to throw someone's teenage political experimenting at them (how many Labour politicians dabbled with communism as a youth over the years?), and I also agree with Farage's suggestion that much of this was just rebelliousness/a wind up.

The reason I have some sympathy is that when I was a similar age, I was standing on a railway station platform (Levenshulme if you must know) with several other people from my school. It was one of those stations where a lot of fast trains pass through without stopping. At the suggestion of one of our group (not me), when we saw a train coming, we all lined up on the platform and did a Nazi salute to the passing train. Let's be clear here. This did not indicate anything whatsoever about our political leanings. The sole aim was to do something offensive, because that's what teenage boys in a group sometimes do when they egg each other on. We might equally have mooned at them, had we been more daring.

I'm not defending what we did. It was stupid and puerile. But that's the whole point. Young people sometimes do offensive things purely for the sake of it. Farage was at what seems to have been a school with quite a left-leaning attitude, and to take the kind of stance he did would have been a natural act of rebellion. It doesn't indicate anything either way. And it's certainly not worthy of 1/4 of a major news programme.

Image from Wikipedia

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