Everybody ought to treat a stranger right (and treat Nigel Farage wrong)….

Heavens, I do wish I could stop hating Nigel Farage. It’s a one-sided affair. We’ve been rubbing along like this for ages. Me grumbly swearing at the radio or the television. And Nigel carrying blithely on, unaware of my heartfelt hostility.

I’d like to say it’s nothing personal, but it is. Farage just sends antipathy crawling across my skin. Best not to think about the man at all, but here he is, ranting on the BBC again.

He is on the BBC Today programme, debating immigration with a man from the SNP. I didn’t catch the Scottish man’s name as I was too busy being cross with Farage, who was off on one of his pub-bore rants, tottering on the barstool, pint in his fist, fags on the table. Well, it was radio, so who’s to say, but that’s how he sounded. That’s how he always sounds.

It is one of the more depressing facts of national life that the politics and future of this country have been shaped by a pub bore who has failed so many times to enter politics by the front door.

What got me going was this: Farage was off on one again, blaming all the country’s ills on immigration. “People can’t get on the housing list, they can’t get a doctor’s appointment…” and so vilely, sweepingly on and on.

The obvious riposte to this was given by the Scottish politician (apologies, Google isn’t helping identify him and the programme isn’t on iPlayer yet). This is that many of the doctors and nurses and others working in the NHS are immigrants.

This doesn’t interest people such as Farage, who didn’t get where they are today without scapegoating minorities.

Yet societies need immigration, need ‘otherness’ to add new yeast to old dough, to give culture a lift. Mind you, plenty of people don’t agree; as is their righty-right.

Headlines the other day said that four out of ten people think British culture is undermined by multiculturalism. The first thing to say about that is: turn that figure on its head and you discover that six out of ten people don’t believe that. That already sounds more encouraging.

The survey was conducted by British Future, a independent think-tank that speaks up for equality and diversity. All power to it, then, for publishing a survey that seems, at least in part, to speak against its core beliefs.

Nine out of ten respondents to the survey either strongly agreed or tended to agree that “migrants ought to learn English, pay their taxes and respect democracy”.

Nothing wrong or surprising about that. In a sense it’s about attitude and interpretation.

If you rant and bellow and rave and believe every half-baked anti-immigration urban myth peddled by the likes of Farage, you will say those things in a shouty voice that rattles the windows.

If you say them quietly and gently, they sound more reasonable.

Sadly, right-wing ideologues usually shout the loudest to capitalise on people’s fears about the world – then wheel on the ‘others’ who are ‘to blame’.

Britain is already multicultural, although more so in some parts than others. The different elements need to mix and accept each other, and that embraces getting to know strangers and bridging the differences between us.

And in times of hostility, here to end is the title of an old song resurrected by Ry Cooder on his fine new album – “Everybody Ought To Treat A Stranger Right”.

Just as everybody ought to ignore Nigel Farage for being wrong.

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