"Idea for new car-based segment — Farage In A Garage...": Nigel presents Twitch for pub racists
Nigel Farage's new show must be properly policed. It must not, repeat must not, turn into an all-night rave.
This is part three of an accidental Farage trilogy. Here are the first two parts:
1. Nigel Farage's Mirthless Punchline: GB News expects hours of programming from a man with one cheap act...
One of the reasons Alan Partridge is an enduring character is because, while he has his moments of grotesque cruelty and petulance (shutting down Peartree Productions to avoid the indignity of driving a rover or his decades-long bullying of Lynn, for example), the person who suffers most is always him.
Nigel Farage’s new show GB News, the modestly-titled Farage, is replete with segments that could have come straight from Patridge’s dictaphone (“It’s a What the Farage! moment…”, “A Pint with Nigel”, “Time for Barrage Farage!”), but I knew Alan Partridge, sir and Nigel Farage is no Alan Partridge.
Farage is Partridge if he’d never lost his chatshow, Knowing Me! Knowing You!, and instead had drifted into far-right politics; he’s Robert Kilroy-Silk with a more mercenary instinct and even more family members who refuse to speak to him.
Opening with a long and boring monologue from noxious Nige himself, Farage! the Show reached its purest form about midway through when the host welcomed fellow boring bastard, Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the endlessly pompous and self-satisfied 1922 Committee of Tory backbench MPs into his “pub”. It consisted of Farage and Brady sat in front of a video wall projecting the shelves of spirits from a bar far more classy than the flat-roofed monstrosity Farage’s lead-in promised.
“Every pub in this country is a parliament,” Farage said, roughly taking the corpse of satire from behind while he reached for more pork scratchings. It was the kind of empty slogan that he has built his political career on; pubs aren’t parliaments or even democracies — they range from benign dictatorships to autocratic horror shows on the whim of the landlord, who in turn gets picked on by the brewery with increasing frequency.
Farage treats politics as like a pub argument because he, a boorish gobshite in love with the honking tones of his own voice, favours environments in which boorish honking gobshites can dominate the conversation. That he failed to make it into actual parliament on seven occasions — five general elections and two by-election losses — was not mentioned. He can be quite touchy about being cancelled by electorates who simply refused to vote for him; barring him from the country’s biggest collection of pub bores and subsidised booze.
But Farage has long since realised that being an MP would be much less fun and give him far less power than he has in his role as a freelance fuck for hire. It’s appropriate that he has inserted his own surname as the F in WTF as he is a copper-bottomed, industrial-grade fucker. A far-right blackhole of morality and empathy who cloaks his darker instincts with a nicotine-stained shell of bloody bloke! false patriotism and ‘plain speaking’.
Farage is a media creature. He gained his reach through appearance after appearance on Question Time, earned through UKIP’s strong showings in European elections, and like Boris Johnson was invited on to the ersatz satire dog and pony show of Have I Got News For You multiple times. On HIGNFY, Paul Merton and Ian Hislop — the Stadler and Waldorf of British establishment satire — thought they had Farage in the firing line but he just chuckled through it. He can take superhuman levels of embarrassment as long as he gets his attention.
That unquenchable thirst for attention coupled with his extremely man-of-the-people lavish lifestyle is why Farage has signed up to GB News. He has as much relationship to “journalism” as a blue raspberry Slush Puppy has to berries that grow on bushes; Farage has the structure of a news opinion show but it’s entirely fact-free, perfect for anyone on a high-bullshit, low truth diet.
Launching the programme, Farage (the man) said Farage (the show) would be “taking on the stories that no one else will”. He proceeded to talk about immigration — subject of his obsessive mobile phone dispatches from Kent, where he has seemingly appointed himself Misery Finder General — lockdown, and Boris Johnson. Topics that only appear in the rest of the British media a few thousand times a day.
The emptiness of Farage’s claim to be a truthteller, inspired to join GB News by his ironclad belief in it and deep love for Andrew Neil (who battered him for the BBC on several occasions), was revealed in that opening monologue. Referring to the row over Guto Harri ‘taking the knee’ on GB News, he said:
… and yes, there was a part-time presenter who made a political gesture, that wouldn’t have been allowed on any channel in the United Kingdom and he’s gone. They’re the negatives but what about the positives…
Farage, a man who rightly mocked Boris Johnson for claiming that he’d sacked Matt Hancock when the former Health Secretary resigned and who spent a chunk of his first GB News calling on the Prime Minister to ‘man up’, rolled out the company line. He couldn’t even say Guto Harri’s name and implied that the presenter, who was suspended by the channel, was fired.
Harri resigned. And asked in his resignation letter why Nigel Farage announcing his new show by saying “I will not be taking the knee for anyone” did not breach editorial standards while his gesture during a discussion of the racist messages sent to England men’s football team players did.
In The Sunday Times last weekend, Harri wrote:
I overcame my reservations and took the knee live on air last Tuesday, explaining as coherently as I could what I was endorsing and what I wasn’t. Immediately before going on air, I mentioned that I was considering making the gesture. ‘If you do, do it to camera three,’ I was told.
GB News captured the moment and proudly cascaded it through social media… However, what followed was a tsunami of disappointment, resentment and hate. Old friends were amused to see me described as woke and Marxist. By Thursday night, the boss called and I’d been taken off air for the summer.
Briefings to some media suggest all was well with the channel until I offended the lynch mob. Viewing figures were fine until I took the knee. Really? The figures actually dropped pretty swiftly after launch and kept slipping. There is undoubtedly a gap in the market for a channel that reflects the interests and outlook of parts of Britain too often overlooked or patronised by the metropolitan mainstream. But my enforced time on the bench suggests GB News is not the outfit to plug that gap.
Harri, a former advisor to Boris Johnson during his time as London mayor, is far from ‘woke’ or even remotely on the left. He was trying to play GB News’ game by making a gesture that would provoke a reaction but when the reaction came, the channel, obsessed with wailing about ‘cancel culture’, swiftly ‘cancelled’ him for fear of losing the most spittle-flecked portion of its already sparse audience.
If GB News had believed Harri had broken its ‘editorial guidelines’ — which wouldn’t even make a pretty pathetic pamphlet but might just fit scrawled on the back of a beer mat — it would never have clipped the moment and shoved it out with unseemly haste onto Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. It only erased the clip when it realised its handful of hardcore viewers were up-in-arms, disappointed that their favourite new channel for racists, bigots and people who say ‘I just call a spade a spade, me’ was insufficiently reactionary.
That gulf between what GB News’ target audience wants and what the channel full of presenters who are willing to honk away on dog whistles all day but would rather not have to deal with the dogs’ bites actually delivers was illustrated by a moment of Farage (the show) that only tangentially involved Farage (the man).
Farage threw over to the channel’s political reporter and Rolfe from The Sound of Music cosplayer Tom Harwood for his report from the anti-lockdown protest at Downing Street. Within seconds of Harwood beginning to speak, an enraged woman wearing a “say no to the prick” entered the frame, screaming at him that he was “scum” and a “Nazi wanker”, while a man’s voice off-screen accused him of being a “paedo protector”.
Used to the raw, uncut, said-from-the-chest racism and conspiracist thinking of closed Facebook and WhatsApp groups, and stupendously unhinged Signal channels, the protestors saw Harwood — a man in a suit with a decent camera1 — and immediately identified him as a hated journalist.
That’s a category error, of course, since Harwood, though neither a lockdown sceptic nor vehemently against trans rights like some of his colleagues, is a propagandist who will say anything for a paycheque. It’s what he learned during his apprenticeship with drink driving enthusiast and perpetually thirsty animatronic bin bag Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog.
The woman abusing Harwood was the first Farage show’s most striking moment and even it were not so dramatic, it would not have had much competition. The experience of watching an hour of Farage was indistinguishable from being sat at the next table along from a bunch of bloody blokes with many opinions shouting them ever more loudly in between breaks to comment on the waitress’ legs and how their wives don’t understand them anymore.
GB News exists to nod, wink, insinuate and, in the case of Dan Wootton, simply propagate conspiracy theories in the first few minutes of your first show, but it’s too keen on being allowed into the bits of the establishment it enjoys to actually say its true thoughts out loud.
That’s why it’ll never satisfy potential viewers like the woman who harangued Harwood and why it had to attempt to vilify Harri after a stunt that it had initially been delighted with; it wants to whisper its most racist and divisive thoughts while pretending to be about ‘free speech’, while the protestors expect it to scream epithets and start listing the traitors who should be hanged.
Still, if Farage doesn’t drag up the ratings, the next GB News relaunch will probably feature the Say No To The Prick lady presenting the White Power Hour with ropey holograms of Sir Oswald Mosley and Enoch Powell. And the real hardliners still won’t be happy until the channel puts clones of Churchill and Hitler on the sofa to debate the issues of the day: “Now there’s real balance! Though I did think Adolf was a bit woke with all that vegetarian shit…”
This is GB News so that term is relative.