ALTHOUGH there is much meeting of minds at electorate level, the Conservative Party leadership has tended to distance itself from UKIP. The nadir of this awkward relationship was when David Cameron characterised UKIP as ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’ (he also called Eurosceptics in his own party ‘swivel-eyed loons’).
Meanwhile, the Labour Party, also losing votes to UKIP, warned voters against voting for a ‘right-wing’ movement that would cut public services and bash immigrants.
Both of the major parties, however, were forced to take UKIP seriously in the years leading to the EU referendum. With the anti-Brussels party soaring in the polls, and gaining first place in the last European parliament election, increasingly the BBC and other broadcasters included UKIP in their reports, commentaries and debate on the EU. Its ebullient leader Nigel Farage became a household name.
Since the Leave victory in the EU referendum, however, UKIP has scarcely featured on mainstream media channels. I interviewed current leader Gerard Batten MEP on an apparent blind spot in coverage of this dramatic episode in British political history.
Niall McCrae – Despite UKIP doing so much to bring about the EU referendum, it seems to have vanished from the airwaves, television screens and newsprint since the vote for Brexit. What’s going on?
Gerrard Batten – That’s because only UKIP is describing how the UK will ever leave the EU – by a patriotic government and parliament taking control and telling the EU how it will work, not asking them how they will allow it to happen. That is obviously an unwelcome message to our Remainer political and media class. Hence they exclude us from the debate as much as possible. Of course there are some, but very few, genuine Brexit MPs. Unfortunately, they are members of parties that don’t actually want to leave the EU, so they have achieved very little since 1972. UKIP achieved the referendum and now that is being betrayed by the same parties in Parliament.
NM – If UKIP, and you as leader, are being ‘no-platformed’ by the mainstream media, that is bad enough. But what about the responsibilities of the BBC, which is funded by ordinary people through the TV licence. It should be impartial and comprehensive in its political coverage, surely? Who is making the decisions not to invite you on the news?
GB – The BBC is in clear breach of its Charter obligation to provide unbiased an fair news coverage. Over the last few weeks my press officer has received continual rebuffs from the TV channels when trying to get me on BBC, ITV and Sky. I am often invited on to Russia Today, which I do since it is one of the few avenues open to me. RT also has the old fashioned idea of asking a question and allowing the interviewee to answer it, which is an unusual experience if you are used to the MSM’s interrogation techniques. A classic example of BBC bias was my interview on Politics Live with Jo Coburn. I was asked on to talk about Brexit but then was repeatedly attacked regarding Tommy Robinson. I defended myself and haven’t been asked back. This is odd as I lead the only genuine Brexit party.
NM – Question Time seems a particularly egregious example of anti-Brexit bias on the BBC, with typically four Remainers against one Leaver (and only the latter are introduced as such, as though an oddity). Have you been invited on? Why is Caroline Lucas a regular?
GB – I haven’t watched in in years. It’s now unwatchable in my view, the bias is so blatant. I have never been invited on. I’m not sure I would accept if I were. I have a rule, which is not to go on a show I personally cannot stomach watching. The answer to your question is simple: Caroline Lucas belongs to the ideology that is acceptable to the BBC and UKIP views are unacceptable. I did appear once recently on Radio 4’s Any Questions. Again, I was a lone voice among the politically correct.
NM – Nonetheless, it was reassuring to hear a hearty support for Brexit from recent audiences in Derby and Winchester. How could participation on BBC shows by a small party such as UKIP be more fairly apportioned? Currently UKIP is on about 6% in opinion polls, but it has no MPs.
GB – In the last European Election in 2014, which of course uses a proportional voting system, UKIP topped the poll, and it was difficult to exclude us from the media. The MSM is hoping UKIP disappears after we leave the EU (if indeed we do, of course), so they can ignore us altogether. If the UK takes part in the European parliamentary elections in May (which I sincerely hope we don’t) then I expect us to top the poll again. Meanwhile we have to work hard to increase our polling and our vote share. My strategy for that is to bypass the mainstream media and use the services of those who understand social media.
NM – And with a potentially wider reach, thinking of recent UKIP recruits Paul Joseph Watson and Carl Benjamin. Meanwhile, some influential figures such as Lord Adonis accuse the BBC of pro-Brexit bias in its reporting. Is there any justification for this?
GB – You only have to watch the BBC news and current affairs programmes to see the blatant anti-Brexit bias. This is also true of the other channels. Sky News runs a continual daily anti-Brexit propaganda campaign. That is why fewer and fewer people are watching the MSM news programmes – including me. The ‘justification’ on their part, in my view, is that they think they are right, alternative viewpoints are wrong, and they feel justified in using their power to oppose and marginalise them. That is a classic Marxist approach, so I understand.
NM – Indeed, active intolerance of traditional values was a strategy of Herbert Marcuse and Antonio Gramsci, whose Marxism was more cultural than economic. It seems to me that UKIP media coverage was better in the past, when Nigel Farage was in charge. He is a media-friendly character, with his popular LBC show. But was he also more adept at overcoming the demonising of a party that is labelled as xenophobic, or worse?
GB – You can easily forget how much Nigel Farage was attacked in the media in the past. Remember the disgusting photo the Evening Standard printed of him in distress after surviving his plane crash? He has now morphed into a media presenter himself, and some take the view that he has accordingly softened his approach. Anyone who stands up against the politically correct, left-wing, pro-EU, pro-mass immigration consensus is going to be demonised; unfortunately that is where we are now. I don’t see how anyone can stand up and speak the plain truth without incurring it. Their objective is to make people kow-tow to them, and I don’t intend to. Since I won’t be trying for a career in the media I don’t have to worry about it.
NM – Your pro-Brexit rally at the end of 2018 was attended by several thousand. This passed peacefully, while an anti-fascist demonstration turned violent against the police. Owen Jones, who spoke at the latter, boasted of fifteen thousand on his side against two thousand on yours. Jones was widely quoted in the media, meaning that his claim was uncritically reported. What did you make of the numbers?
GB – What happened at the pro-Brexit rally was typical of the media. If they reported it at all they vastly under-reported the numbers, and vastly over-reported the numbers at the left-wing fascist rally you refer to. The media were desperate for trouble to break out, which it did not. They either did not report, or under-reported, the violence that did break out at the left-wing rally. The media are completely biased; that is just a fact of life we have to currently live with. Meanwhile the ‘bald, tattooed thugs’ that Nigel Farage predicted would be there turned out to be decent, ordinary people who wanted to show their support for leaving the EU. Given the negative publicity and threats of potential violence they faced from the left, I was pleased and proud to address them.
NM – How should Brexit protests (for or against) be reported? And why are some political activists described on their own terms, while others are given pejorative labels?
GB – I think you can guess the answer to this: it’s because the so-called ‘mainstream media’ are completely biased. The MSM, especially the BBC, use techniques that Dr Goebbels would marvel at, in terms of how they present issues and use language. However, fewer and fewer people are watching and listening to them; instead getting their news from other sources such as social media. Which is why social media pundits are now under attack as well. Free speech and expression is a threat to the ‘group think’ acceptable to the MSM.
NM – How do you react to UKIP being labelled ‘far right’?
GB – The propaganda lie that UKIP, or me, is ‘far right’ is utterly contemptible. UKIP represents a threat to the political establishment and they will stop at nothing to smear us. It’s unpleasant to be lied about, but what I find particularly disgusting is that Nigel Farage has joined in these attacks, but having known his for twenty-six years I cannot say I am surprised. Nigel has always been about Nigel and he can’t stand the fact that UKIP has survived without him – and especially under my leadership.
NM – Should UKIP be thick-skinned like Donald Trump, and carry on regardless, or should it be more like Farage and try to gain a better image in the media?
GB – Carrying on regardless is what I’ve been doing. Not because I’m imitating President Trump but because I’ve always stood up for what I believe to be right. You can examine what I have written and said for nearly fifteen years as an elected politician and see that I have been consistent. I am now obviously getting more attention since I became UKIP leader. Also, bear in mind that the points of view I espouse are gaining more traction with a large section of the public, and those points of view are a threat to the acceptable ideology of the political and media establishment. They believe we should remain in the EU; they are anti-nation state (at least the British state); they don’t think we should govern ourselves; they believe in mass uncontrolled immigration; and they don’t want to face the threat from fundamentalist and literalist Islamic ideology. Anyone who disagrees is their enemy.
NM – What do you think of the work of Professor Matthew Goodwin, who has published a top-selling book on populism and its causes?
GB – He interviewed me recently for an article in the Daily Telegraph. The idea of an unbiased academic in modern society is a novel thing, so it’s interesting to see one at work. I only agreed to the interview because it was him. I will be interested in what actually gets published. My experience of the press when they interview me, which doesn’t happen often, is that they either take only a small section of a long interview in order to misrepresent me (Evening Standard), or they interview me and don’t print it at all (Sunday Express). I take this as a positive sign that I did quite well – although the readers of these rags don’t see it. The newspapers are there to represent the interests of their proprietors and their political agendas. I stopped buying any newspaper a while ago. I have had a newspaper try to libel me (The Times), when they knew it was libel; and the Daily Mail recently sent a reporter thousands of miles to the Philippines to interrogate my wife’s family members. Any normal person is disgusted by the so-called ‘free press’.
NM – Finally, is your glass half-full or half-empty on the future of Brexit? At the very least, has a beach-head been established by the British public against the federalist project, or will the ordinary people continue to be ignored by their political masters?
GB – I’ve always said that the political and media establishment would betray Brexit. That’s exactly what they have been doing since 24th June 2016. But the war is not over until the final battle.
NM –Thank you, Mr Batten.