HERE goes – nose-holding time again. Let’s jump into that morally stagnant pool shared by Donald Trump and Ukip.
You can take your pick with those two, but today’s cautious paddle will address Trump and Sweden and Ukip v Ukip.
Trump had a strange moment last week – all right, I need to narrow that down a bit; Trump had a Nordic noir turn last week when he declared to his supporters: “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden!”
Among those who didn’t believe it was the population of Sweden, as nobody had any idea what Trump was talking about. My favourite response came in a tweet from the former foreign minister Carl Bildt: “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking. Questions abound.”
They usually do when Trump’s around. The president’s apparent belief that a terror incident had occurred in Sweden the previous night turned out to be a misunderstanding garnered from watching a report on Fox News claiming there had been a surge in gun violence and rape following a record number of asylum applications in 2015.
A fact-check column in the Guardian on Saturday reported that Swedish police later said their words had been taken out of context. Tellingly, the facts did not match the wild accusation – “The data tells us that there was no surge in gun violence or rape in 2015, when Sweden accepted more than 160,000 refugees. The rate of gun deaths stood at 0.32 per 100,000 population, compared with 4.04 in the US – 12 times that of Sweden.”
It is not uncommon for people to mask their own sins by pointing to the failings of others, and that is what Trump does all the time. He is obsessed to the point of total delusion by ‘fake news’ – and yet he spouts fake news to his supporters without a thought.
There was a time when a presidential briefing constituted more than: “Hey, I saw this last night on Fox News. Terrible thing, truly terrible.”
The other telling fact in lay in the final statistic – the rate of gun deaths in America is 12 times that of Sweden. Never mind raising your unusually small hand to point a finger at Sweden – what about all the murder and mayhem in your own backyard?
While Trump and his followers endlessly worry about Muslim terrorists, they seem blind to the fact that the average American is much more likely to be killed by another American than by a terrorist. And that’s a fact – although not one you will hear from Trump.
Ukip appears to be unravelling after last week’s failure to win the Stoke Central byelection, and this morning in the Telegraph the party’s former leader, Nigel Farage, demands that his party’s only MP, Douglas Carswell, should be thrown out for trying to damage Ukip.
You may recall that Farage welcomed Carswell aboard the rocky Ukip dinghy when he jumped ship from the Tories. Ever since then, relations between the two men have frostier than a toxic snowman. Can a snowman be toxic? Oh, I didn’t see why not, especially if it is sporting a tattered purple and yellow scarf.
The latest matter of contention – the full skeleton rather than a mere bone – are claims that the Clacton MP blocked an honour for Farage. There had been moves from with the Ukip cul-de-sac for Farage to be given a peerage, but this clashed with his role as an MEP, so a knighthood was suggested instead. Carswell is said to have responded rather wittily that Farage should be given an OBE “for services to headline writers”.
You would be looking at Nigel Farage for a long time before you mistook him for a delicate flower, but nevertheless he insisted his Ukip colleague was “consumed with jealousy and a desire to hurt me”. He called on the current leader – well, this week’s Ukip leader at any rate – Paul Nuttall to expel Carswell.
What a poisonous bunch of political pygmies. A knighthood for Farage would have been the ultimate proof that the honours system was done for. This country is engaged in a massive experiment cum gamble caused by Farage’s endless barracking and ego-trumpeting, and the time for an honour, if such a dark hour exists, will be when we have some idea if this whole Brexit farrago is going to work.
Yesterday, John Major, the former Tory prime minister, added his scepticism over Brexit, saying he had “watched with growing concern as the British people have been led to expect a future that seems to be unreal and over-optimistic”. He added: Obstacles are brushed aside as of no consequence, whilst opportunities are inflated beyond any reasonable expectation of delivery.”
I was never a member of that man’s fan club, but Major is talking total sense there.