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"the other") in which he mocks critics of the Ukip calypso, a song written, merrily sung, defended, than apologetically withdrawn, by Radio 1 DJ Mike Read.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 Images
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.