“Anger Management” is the title of Nick Clegg’s new podcast, and how better to manage one’s anger on the hottest April day since 1948 than to lock yourself in a tiny room with Nigel Farage for a full 47 minutes, and argue to the bitter end about whether there should be a second referendum?
If Mr Clegg’s podcast is intended as some sort of soothing analytical tonic poured generously into the gin of neat righteous anger, if it is meant to go some way to bringing the nation back down from the barricades, well the best bit of practical advice on managing anger would appear to be to not listen to Nick Clegg’s podcast.
Once you’re past the anger-based audio montage introduction, which not so much sashays as giant slaloms between Theresa May bollocking the Police Federation in 2015 and Donald Trump threatening North Korea with nuclear apocalypse, your host begins by shocking you in the most predictable of fashions.
For it turns out that Mr Clegg and his sworn political enemy are in fact one and the same. Private school in London, Clegg points out... lengthy political careers…. leaders of outsiderish rebel parties. In fact, the only difference between them, as Nigel Farage eventually explains, is that he also spent 20 years working in the London commodities markets, developing an aggressive loathing, first for EU directives and latterly for Eastern European migration.
“Rage is the opposite of reason,” Clegg patiently explains, and then spends lengthy periods doing his best to contain his inner apoplexy as Farage serves up his by now much loved tasting menu of disingenuous observations on Britain and the EU. For those who love Farage’s greatest hits on this stuff, they’re all there.
Of how, when he was first a Eurosceptic, in the late 20th century he was merely interested in sovereignty and constitutional affairs. The xenophobia would only come much later, with “open door migration from Eastern Europe” in 2004, an argument that sustains him right up until his very next breath. It’s then that he praises himself for his own bravery in “taking on the [immigration] subject”, which “the Powell speech in 1968 had made almost impossible to criticise”. For any non-political anoraks out there, 1968 happened 36 years before 2004, inconceivable though that might seem.
When he goes on to talk about the “many parts of east London that are now unrecognisable as being British”, it’s important to remember he is speaking only about the waves of immigration that followed the expansion of the EU into Eastern Europe, and any suggestion these are racially motivated comments would be entirely wide of the mark.
That young people don’t want Brexit and they are the ones who will have to live with it is “not a problem”, explains Farage, because “they will change their minds”.
And then, just to quieten things down further, Clegg windmills in with a list of Brexit betrayals that Farge is furious about. “Not out of the ECJ.. .continued payments into the EU budget… European fishing boats in our waters?”
And so the next phase of Anger Management with Nick Clegg pivots into Nigel Farage shouting: “It’s outrageous! It’s outrageous! Can you think of ANY country ANYWHERE in the WORLD that would willingly give away its fishing rights?”
Well, I for one am feeling calmer already.
Still, he’s a persuasive communicator, that can be in no doubt, so if you’re looking for some context in which to place his various claims on Britain’s bright future, his final claim is one to cherish. You have to wait right till the end for Farage, unflinching advocate of Spitfire nationalism, Dunkirk fetishist and unreluctant tank botherer makes a startling argument. “One country lost World War Two,” he says. “And it was us. We were the losers. We were bankrupted. Our imperial possessions started to disappear. We had a massive crisis of confidence as a nation that went all through the fifties, sixties, seventies.”
So there you have it. Brexit was in fact Britain’s revenge on Germany for defeat in the Second World War. According to Nigel Farage, national pride is finally back – and it was Nigel Farage that did it.
How far you want to extend that analogy, in which Britain is sorry old German, and Nigel Farage the charismatic leader that comes along and makes everything alright again, is a matter of personal taste. But it mightn’t take as great a leap of the imagination as you think.