Not for the first time in his career, Nigel Farage issued something of a false prospectus when he popped up on his debut weekday evening slot. He told us that Farage would be a safe haven for robust but polite debate, and that he was happy to take any amount of criticism from anyone, provided they “keep it clean”. So I was delighted when he took the opportunity to get a live update from GB News political correspondent Tom Harwood on some anti-lockdown protests in Downing Street, ie on the day lockdown is formally lifted (timing is everything in politics). I’ll try to say this like Nigel delivers his lines: It. (Nod). All. (Nod). Went. (Nod). Rather. (Nod). Badly. (Nod). Wrong. (Nod). Chuckle. Smoker’s cackle. Arms akimbo. Exasperated expression. What did they expect from this gang of nutters after a long day in the scorching sun and the pubs open all day? Justin Welby? Chuckle to myself.
Hardly had the young Tom started his report than one of the critically thinking libertarians tore up behind him and proceeded to deliver her own critique of the media: “Scum! Wankers! F**king wankers! Arseholes! Scum! Scum! Scum!” In her black T-shirt and jeans, and with her unkempt barnet, she did actually look and sound quite a bit like that other great disrupter of the established order, Father Jack Hackett from Father Ted.
Nigel looked almost hurt that GB News, of all people, should have been assailed in this way, not perhaps realising that rationality isn’t an essential part of the armoury of people who think Covid is a hoax and vaccines are connected to 5G masts. The televisual point was that the dozy studio director didn’t cut away fast enough from the winner of the 2021 Father Jack lookalike competition before she’d broken the Ofcom code in fourteen places with her string of obscenities. God bless her.
The former leader of UKIP also promised us that his show wouldn’t be a stale echo chamber like you get on the other channels. Dearie me, no. GB News is all fresh and new and radical and… well, at least some folk who don’t agree with Farage and his views. So who did this right-wing figure choose to have on? Why, Hugh Osmond, boss of Punch Taverns and someone who has at least been a Tory donor in the past. He agreed with Nigel that test-and-trace was doing more harm than good (though Nigel looked a tad uncomfortable when Osmond suggested scrapping it altogether).
Farage’s other guest was Sir Graham Brady, Tory MP and chair of the 1922 Committee, who sat in front of a pint of IPA and also agreed with Nigel about all this lockdown business and how dreadful Labour would be. So a bit of an echo, maybe? In fact during poor Tom’s disastrous report from Whitehall, something went, yes, very badly wrong with the sound in true GB News fashion. Maybe someone in the gallery panicked and hit the wrong button but they somehow gave Tom’s voice a literal echo effect to go with the metaphorical one that characterised the whole show.
When Nigel ran out of people to agree with, he just agreed with himself, specifically about migrants in dinghies washing up in Dover (he lasted 25 minutes before he shot that load over us). He then started on about some obscure lark the prime minister of Slovenia was cooking up with – yes, you’ve guessed it – the European Commission. Old habits die hard.
To be fair to Farage, he can string a sentence together, he’s used to a studio, he understands politics and he’s crafty in debate, so he’s better than most of the competition on GBeebies. But it’s rather like when he was the only competent leader of UKIP. I’d like to see him argue properly with the likes of Blair, Starmer, Sturgeon, Ed Davey, but it’s not going to happen. The Farage show is just like the rest of GB News: a football match played with only one team on the pitch or, at best, a boring friendly.
It don’t get me angry, brother; it makes me damn bored.