Nigel Farage and dog-whistle racism? What? Photo: Getty
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The dog-whistle racism in Nigel Farage's Independent column is OK because he likes cricket

"Rotherham is worse than a calypso".

This mole, although attempting all week to eject that frankly petrifying lyric, "We can trade with the world again/When Nigel is at Number 10" from its head, has spotted Part 97 of the Ukip calypso story in today's Independent.

In today's paper, Nigel Farage has a column, under the title "Another Voice" (as if he hadn't already made this nation petrified of anything he considers "the other") in which he mocks critics of the Ukip calypso, a song written, merrily sung, defended, than apologetically withdrawn, by Radio 1 DJ Mike Read.

Expressing his disbelief that people feel offended by the song's nasty lyrics and mock-Carribean accent, he wrote:

If you were to play the Ukip Calypso song to me now and say, "Mr Farage. . . knowing what you now know, would you still endorse the track?" I'd say yes. Because it brought a lot of people a smile, and it was released with the best of intentions.

I wonder if, given hindsight, the same people who took the decisions which led to the calamity in Rotherham could say the same thing.

To suggest that people can't be concerned with TWO THINGS at the same time is ridiculous and lazy, but the worst part is that he could have chosen any harrowing news event, perhaps more recent and topical, but opted for Rotherham.

This is dog-whistle politics at its most crass; he chose to bring up a tragic story, which his party shamelessly exploited during its Heywood and Middleton by-election campaign by blaming Labour's "reluctance" to address immigration for child abuse perpetrated by those of predominantly Asian origin.

Pretty low.

The bigger question is why would the Independent run such a piece? It's not just an online rant either; it appears in the paper copy. Here it is:

 

The editor, Amol Rajan, defended his decision to give Farage a column back in 2013. It’s about “diversity of opinion”, he said. And also that it’s fine because the Ukip leader enjoys cricket:

Mr Farage . . . is a cricket nut, and the more of them in our pages the better, frankly.

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty
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Leader: Corbyn’s second act

Left-wing populism is not enough – Labour must provide a real alternative.

Since Jeremy Corbyn first stood for the Labour leadership he has been fortunate in his opponents. His rivals for leader ran lacklustre campaigns in 2015 and failed to inspire members and activists who longed to escape the tortured triangulations of the Ed Miliband era. Later, at the 2017 general election, Mr Corbyn was confronted by a dismal Conservative campaign that invited the electorate’s contempt. Theresa May’s complacency – as well as Mr Corbyn’s dynamic campaign –has helped propel the Labour leader to a position from which he could become prime minister.

With greater power, however, comes greater responsibility. Mr Corbyn’s opponents have for too long preferred to insult him or interrogate his past rather than to scrutinise his policies. They have played the man not the ball. Now, as he is a contender for power rather than merely a serial protester, Mr Corbyn’s programme will be more rigorously assessed, as it should be. Over the months ahead, he faces the political equivalent of the “difficult second album”. 

Labour’s most electorally successful – and expensive – election policy was its pledge to abolish university tuition fees. Young voters were not only attracted by this promise but also by Mr Corbyn’s vow, in an interview with the free music paper NME, to “deal with” the issue of graduate debt. The Labour leader has since been accused of a betrayal after clarifying that the phrase “to deal with” did not amount to a “commitment” to wipe out student debt. In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, he explained that he had been “unaware of the size of it [graduate debt] at the time”. (The cost of clearing all outstanding student debt is estimated at £100bn.)

In fairness to Mr Corbyn, Labour’s manifesto said nothing on the subject of existing student debt (perhaps it should have) and his language in the NME interview was ambiguous. “I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that [graduate debt], ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off,” he said. There is no comparison with the Liberal Democrats, who explicitly vowed not to raise tuition fees before trebling them to £9,000 after entering coalition with the Conservatives in 2010. Yet the confusion demonstrates why Mr Corbyn must be more precise in his policy formulations. In a hyperactive media age, a single stray sentence will be seized upon.

At the general election, Labour also thrived by attracting the support of many of those who voted to remain in the European Union (enjoying a 28-point lead over the Conservatives among this group). Here, again, ambiguity served a purpose. Mr Corbyn has since been charged with a second betrayal by opposing continued UK membership of the single market. On this, there should be no surprise. Mr Corbyn is an ardent Eurosceptic: he voted against the single market’s creation in 1986 and, from the back benches, he continually opposed further European integration.

However, his position on the single market puts him into conflict with prominent Labour politicians, such as Chuka Umunna and the Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, as well as the party membership (66 per cent of whom support single market membership) and, increasingly, public opinion. As the economic costs of Brexit become clearer (the UK is now the slowest-growing G7 country), voters are less willing to support a disruptive exit. Nor should they. 

The worse that Britain fares in the Brexit negotiations (the early signs are not promising), the greater the desire for an alternative will be. As a reinvigorated opposition, it falls to the Labour Party to provide it. Left-wing populism is not enough. 

The glory game

In an ideal world, the role of sport should be to entertain, inspire and uplift. Seldom does a sporting contest achieve all three. But the women’s cricket World Cup final, on 23 July at Lord’s, did just that. In a thrilling match, England overcame India by nine runs to lift the trophy. Few of the 26,500 spectators present will forget the match. For this may well have been the moment that women’s cricket (which has for so long existed in the shadow of the men’s game) finally broke through.

England have twice before hosted women’s World Cups. In 1973 matches were played at small club grounds. Twenty years later, when England won the final at Lord’s, the ground was nearly empty, the players wore skirts and women were banned from the members’ pavilion. This time, the players were professionals, every ticket was sold, and the match was shown live around the world. At the end, girls and boys pressed against the advertising hoardings in an attempt to get their heroes’ autographs. Heather Knight, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Tammy Beaumont, and the rest of the team: women, role models, world champions. 

This article first appeared in the 27 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Summer double issue