HERE are things I’d rather hear about than Nigel Farage’s bank account.
Almost anything you might care to mention, as it happens. From something nasty on the bottom of my shoe to, well, something nasty on the bottom of my shoe.
The attention given to Farage’s grievance with Coutts seems way over the top. As you may recall, Farage had his account at the posh people’s bank closed, although he was offered another by NatWest, owners of Coutts.
The account was suspended either because Farage had insufficient funds; or because Coutts didn’t fancy having him as a customer any more.
The first of those reasons was reported by the BBC, which later issued a clarification on the matter; the second was indicated by a secret 40-page dossier compiled about Farage, which, among other observations, said he was a “disingenuous grifter” who promoted “xenophobic, chauvinistic and racist views”.
While these remarks about Farage’s character might have been surprising coming from his bank, they chime with how some people may see him. Whatever the case, Farage went into poor-little-me meltdown, causing Coutts to apologise.
But what a full-on furore about this small matter there has been, with dark rumblings about free speech, and the Treasury stepping in, and little Rishi Sunak coming out with another of his prissy quotes, saying it “wouldn’t be right if financial services were being denied to anyone exercising their right to lawful free speech”.
Well, knock me down with a Just Stop Oil placard!
The way this Farage f-rumpus has been turned into a cause celebre by the usual suspect right-wing newspapers is quite something.
It’s almost as if they’ve not noticed that this is one of the most intolerant governments in decades – determined to suppress almost any form of protest, and even to block experts talking to Civil Servants if they are found previously to have been even mildly unflattering about the Tories on social media.
The widescreen exposure given to Farage playing the victim seems designed to drown out matters we might actually want to hear about.
Like Boris Johnson apparently refusing to give his WhatsApp messages to the Covid inquiry (does he have something to hide?).
Or all those millions lost to dubious PPE procurement deals given to friends of the Tories (anyone seen Baroness Michelle Mone lately – it seems ages since we last heard how she’s coping). According to Commons public accounts committee the government spent “£14.9bn of public money over-paying and over-ordering” on Covid-19 medicines and vaccines”. That’s a hell of an amount to blow.
Pull the focus wider, and you may rather wish to hear how decades of free-market capitalism post Thatcher and Reagan has produced a deregulated nightmare in which almost everyone is worse off than they were before.
Or than they would still be if society had remained a little kinder, and less prone to handing over taxpayers’ billions to privatising middlemen who flourish and fatten while delivering poor services on our behalf.
An unfair housing market, rotten pensions and social security, rising poverty, the stumbling NHS – the roots of all these problems can be traced back to the blind neoliberal dogma espoused by Margaret Thatcher (yes, it was a long time ago, but these social cancers bide their time).
Oh, and there’s nothing I’d less like to hear about than Rishi Sunak’s opinions on students being sold “a false dream about going to university”.
Plans to crackdown on so-called Mickey Mouse degrees arise quite often, and usually they are floated to appeal to older Tory voters, while having little to say to young people, especially those who may benefit from enrolling on such a course.
The crude calculus used by Sunak is how much graduates are earning 15 months after leaving university. That’s a random and meaningless measure. Besides, the value of education goes much deeper than what you are earning shortly after university. Isn’t a degree about much more than money?
The so-called poor quality degrees often turn out to be humanities and social sciences, and sometimes at universities than cater to the less privileged.
As the owner of a tatty and not very splendid BA Hons degree in English Literature, what I want to know is why no-one ever mentions philosophy, politics and economics – the politicians’ favourite degree, or subjects such as Business Administration, both of which Sunak himself studied.
It seems to me that humanities graduates do a lot less harm to society than money-grabbing people who rise to the lofty peaks of obscure high finance.
As for Farage, he’s laughing all the way to the bank, as usual, sadly. But at least not all the way to Coutts.