MPs have cracked the code to lasting popularity – all they have to do is get into bed with the far right

Mark Steel
1 / 2
MPs have cracked the code to lasting popularity – all they have to do is get into bed with the far right

If you’re a singer, or actor or dancer, you may have an ambition to appear regularly on television, but you face so many obstacles it seems hopeless. So here’s a tip that could help. Take a break to set up a far-right party and make some speeches about Europe and Muslims, and you’ll be on every day for nine years.

Tommy Robinson, for example, was prepared to graft like that and now he’s rewarded with regular slots on every news programme. So much so, that you expect to hear: “Now the weather for the northwest, read by Tommy Robinson.” To which he’d likely say: “There’s a right chilly front sweeping through the Lake District, I’m sick of it, decent people are sick of it, we’ve had enough. They say it will be gone by Wednesday at 7am but we can’t trust ’em.”

He’ll almost certainly be on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, while Viktor Orban, leader of the Hungarian fascist party, will be on Saturday Kitchen, saying: “My food hell is cream cheese bagel as it dilute purity of Hungarian race, but my food heaven is marmite sandwich.”

The most encouraging aspect of this boom in far-right punditry is that it’s made it respectable for mainstream politicians to mix with the far right. So Jacob Rees-Mogg has promoted speeches by leaders of the German AfD Party, which wants to close all EU borders and demands migrants without their papers should be shot.

He said it didn’t mean he supported the party, but it was important to show a German view, which makes it completely innocent, in the same way you might read out the speeches of Goebbels because it’s important to show the rules of German grammar.

Next week, perhaps he’ll put one of those videos made by Osama bin Laden on his Facebook page, and say this doesn’t mean he agrees with all jihadi policies, but they do make an important point about the need for women to do all the childcare.

Nigel Farage spoke at an AfD rally, along with one of their leaders, Bjorn Hocke, who has complained that there shouldn’t be a memorial to the Holocaust. I suppose it’s more evidence of the metropolitan elite’s political correctness, that you can’t even have a Holocaust these days without someone wanting to build a statue about it.

And Ukip MEP Stuart Agnew spoke at a meeting of the Springbok Club that campaigns for South Africa to return to apartheid, and a return to “European rule throughout Africa”. Stuart said at the meeting: “We want our countries back” – it’s always nice to find something that unites you with your foreign host.

He explained that he speaks at lots of different events, so it would be unfair to complain because he spoke at this one. That’s just part of being busy I suppose, one day you speak at a Cub Scout fundraiser for a new tent, the next day you’re in front of an apartheid flag with a group demanding a return to white power. It must be lovely to mix with a broad spectrum of the community.

Part of the problem for the media these days, when it comes to allowing people on their programmes, is everyone denies they’re racist. Someone could set up the Extremely Racist Party, and the leader would appear on Newsnight to say: “I haven’t got a racist bone in my body.”

Also, there’s confusion about the idea of “balance”, so a report about climate change has to be balanced with someone who refutes all scientific evidence because they were told to, by a voice that lives in the plughole in their bath.

You expect to hear the newsreader say: “Thanks to our correspondent for that report on the fire at Notre Dame, and now for balance I’m going to talk to Jimmy, an arsonist who loves fires, speaking to us from a secure institution on an island off Anglesey.”

But the most dramatic part of this trend is it seems to work, and the more that characters such as Farage, Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson associate with the far-right, the more popular they become with their angry fans.

So now other Conservatives are trying it. Jeremy Hunt, who supported Remain and claimed to be a more liberal type, said this week: “Many countries in the EU want Europe to be one country, but Britain always wants to be independent.”

He knows this is entirely made up, but to have a chance of becoming leader he has to catch up with the other crazy ones. Because the rule now is you have to be prepared to say something outrageous, in the hope the ordinary person will tell their mates “say what you will about him, he’s prepared to make up a pile of shit, and that’s what we need these days, someone prepared to take the bull by the horns and say huge piles of steaming made-up shit”.

So they’ll all do it as the leadership election comes near. Michael Gove will tell us: “I can tell you what the EU is planning next – they’re going to ban masturbating. That’s right, from April 2020 you’ll have to get a permit from Angela Merkel or you won’t be able to fiddle with yourself and I will not stand by and let the great British people be treated like this.”

And while the stream of imaginative nonsense becomes more surreal, the one time an interviewer became really angry with a guest this week was when Sky’s Adam Boulton said: “You’re a bunch of incompetent middle-class self-indulgent people who want to tell us how to live our lives” – to a 21-year-old climate-change protester.

Exactly. If the protester really wanted to make his point, he should have blamed carbon emissions on refugees and the EU, and he’d be reviewing the papers with Andrew Marr by Sunday.