Haiti and the media

Should we criticise efforts to raise money for charity?

My Art of Listening column this week is on the Simon Cowell-produced single for Haiti, "Everybody Hurts". The charity single, especially in Britain, is one of those things that we supposedly love to hate, an attitude summed up by the Guardian's Esther Addley in a piece about the enjoyable awfulness of such things: "You can't knock the sentiment -- so I won't even try."

But this time, there does appear to be a swell of dissent. Much of it is to be expected: Simon Cowell cultivates an abrasive media persona, so the sight of him riding to the rescue of Haiti is bound to wind people up.

The song covered, too, not only comes from a band beloved by rock fans*, but also contains lyrics that are strikingly inappropriate in the context of sending aid to a country whose history contains more hurt than most -- as Peter Hallward's feature in last week's magazine made clear.

It is part of a wider unease at the type of response to the Haiti earthquake encouraged by the mass media; as if the correct behaviour is to donate blindly without questioning the circumstances.

This post by k-punk (otherwise known as the NS contributor Mark Fisher) deplores the "You can't bring history into this" criticism levelled at writers, such as Hallward, who have suggested that Haiti's plight may have political as well as environmental causes.

And Bat, Bean, Beam ("a weblog on memory and technology") makes a striking comparison between news footage of the disaster and the film Avatar : both are spectacles of such intensity that any critical response from the public is deemed unseemly.

The fact remains that there are several million people in desperate need of help. On this note, Bat, Bean, Beam has perhaps the best advice: "Yes, give, and give discriminately."

(*Although not by everyone. The most succinct comment on the single so far comes from Freaky Trigger's Tom Ewing: "I've long loathed 'Everybody Hurts' so take a kind of mean comfort in the fact that now everybody else will too.")

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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