How low can Nigel go…?

PERHAPS there will come a day when we never again utter the words ‘Nigel’ and ‘Farage’. Perhaps there will come a day when that nasty jumble of letters no longer stains the tongue like the bitter leakage from one of those sour sweets.

But don’t count on it any day soon.

On Sunday as we drove towards Manchester, Nigel Farage was in the car with us. Only on the radio, fortunately, otherwise I might have swerved off the M62. As it was I managed to stay in a straight line, but only just.

Now I love BBC Radio Four’s Broadcasting House for its mixture of seriousness and silliness. On this occasion, though, Paddy O’Connell’s interview with the former Ukip leader seemed unnecessary. All it taught us was that Nigel Farage is an egotist with a toxic level of self-regard; and I think we knew that already.

Roll on a day or so, and Farage was back in the news again. You have to admire his persistence, I suppose. Whatever else is in the headlines, whoever else is making the news, nasty Nigel pops back, jumping up and down with his look-at-me turn.

His latest appearance in the news pantomime gives us hope that perhaps one day he will simply burn himself out. Farage got himself into a spat with the widower of Jo Cox, after accusing Brendan Cox of having links to extremists because of his support for the group Hope Not Hate during a radio discussion about the attack on the Berlin Christmas market.

Speaking on LBC Radio on Tuesday, Farage suggested that Mr Cox “would know more about extremists than me” because of his connections to the campaigning charity. Consider for a moment that Hope Not Hate seeks to combat political militancy, especially from far-right groups; and consider, too, what Farage said – Mr Cox “would know more about extremists than me”.

Most of us would conclude that Mr Cox acquired this knowledge because a right-wing nutcase murdered his MP wife. Not Farage, however. He just jumps straight in and attacks Mr Cox for supporting Hope Not Hate, which he said pursued “violent and undemocratic means”. Again, Mr Cox probably knows about that.

Hope Not Hate has threatened to take legal action unless Farage apologies for the “political smear”. Well, good luck to them with that: apologies are not often witnessed rolling from that man’s mouth. Incidentally, perhaps we should co-opt that phrase and think of Nigel Farage as a political smear; we could even give him capital letters and promote this as his name: Mr Political Smear.

The lack of judgement and empathy here was striking, but hardly unexpected. Like many political stories these days, this one began as a Twitter spat. Farage sent a tweet blaming German chancellor Angela Merkel for Monday’s lorry attack in Berlin. “Terrible news from Berlin but no surprise. Events like these will be the Merkel legacy.” Cox tweeted back, accusing Farage of “blaming politicians for the actions of extremists”, adding: “That’s a slippery slope, Nigel.”

Nick Ferrari, the LBC host, pointed out that the obvious point – obvious to anyone other than Farage – that Mr Cox knew the consequences of extremism. Farage replied: “Yes, it’s a terrible thing what happened, with the murder of his wife. But he continues to be active in the political arena and, as I say, given some of the organisations that he supports, I can’t just stand here and say, well, I’m not going to respond.”

Mr Cox responded by tweeting a clip of Taylor Swift singing the line: “Haters gonna hate.”

Tracy Brabin, who replaced Cox as Labour MP for the Batley and Spen constituency, offered her own tweeted response: “Beggars belief. A new low for Farage.”

A new low but almost certainly not the last one.

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