REPORT BY PETER BATT
Apple’s spiritual leader Steve Jobs was renowned for creating a “reality distortion field” in which all human perceptions were ‘malleable’ while in his presence.
On the evidence of UKIP’s ‘public’ meeting in Broadstairs on Thursday 5 February, Nigel Farage is busily altering observable reality in his bid to win the South Thanet seat in the May general election.
All inconvenient history and context were excluded from the hermetically-sealed venue to give UKIP’s home-spun brand of neoliberalism a free ride.
“The other political parties have stopped doing public meetings,” Farage began triumphantly, as if the UKIP-branded bouncers within and outside the Pavilion were a figment of the imagination.
Some people were stopped at the door and the bouncers looked ready to deal with anyone who looked even slightly off-message during the meeting.
Indeed, neither Farage nor the other five panellists plus chairman took questions from the floor. All questions had to be submitted in writing beforehand.
Which was probably a relief to Charlie Lees, council election candidate and the panel’s youngest member who, though aged 18, still resembled a banker with 20 years’ experience of torturing delinquent debtors.
Without fear of heckles or contradiction, the UKIP leader put forward his policy agenda, which included:
• a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.
• ending foreign aid and spending the £12bn on upgrading Britain’s airforce, navy and army “so we can defend our own island and nation”
• “perhaps” launching “a really big, genuine review” of NHS management to secure “better value for money”, adding: “If it means a big shake-up … and putting in some sharp-minded businesspeople to get better bang for the buck, we’ll do it.”
• using £3bn of Britain’s post-exit EU membership fee on the NHS, and keeping the health service “free at the point of delivery”.
• introducing elected health boards to bring “democratic accountability back into who’s running our hospitals”.
• doing “anything and everything … to create the right environment to give Manston [Airport] the chance of commercial success”.
• cutting the public deficit.
Farage was very adept as the engaging man of the people baring positive “common-sense” solutions; as a man who intends to shun the other parties’ political slanging match.
He revelled in the role of unfairly-maligned speaker of the truth. Judging by the applause from the slightly below capacity, mainly late-middle-aged audience, his is a credible challenge.