Nigel Farage still doesn't know UKIP's policies - but don't expect it to damage him

It is precisely the UKIP leader's flippancy and his lack of formality that voters find endearing.

Nigel Farage was treated to a classic dismantling by Andrew Neil on The Daily Politics today. Asked if UKIP was against replacing Trident, he replied: "I'm not sure where you got that from", to which Neil deadpanned: "from your website". Questioned on whether he still wanted a "compulsory dress code for taxi drivers", he answered: "do we? News to me". Asked whether it was still party policy to require trains to be "repainted in traditional colours", he responded: "I've never read that, I've no idea what you're talking about." Challenged on how the party could possibly afford its pledge to cut taxes by £90bn and increase spending by £30bn, he mused: "let's see". 

The Tories, who are stepping up their rebuttal of UKIP, have pounced on the clip as evidence that Farage is "simply not credible". But even if we ignore his vow to relaunch all UKIP policy after the European elections ("none of it stands today"), it is doubtful that such incidents damage him. It is precisely Farage's flippancy and his lack of formality ("when it comes to websites, I'm not the expert") that voters find endearing. All that the public, who pay far less attention to policy than most imagine, need to know is that UKIP stands against the Westminster establishment, against immigration, against "human rights", against overseas aid and against the EU. With no expectation that it will hold any significant power after 2015, voters have little interest in its stance on fiscal policy or defence. 

If Farage wants UKIP to eventually become something bigger than a protest party, he will not be able to afford such gaffes. But for now, they merely add to his lustre. 

Nigel Farage speaks at a fringe event at the Conservative conference in Manchester last year. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Grandpa was ill and wasn’t keen on climbing the volcano – but we forced him up all the same

I squinted. Apart from a gleam of turquoise, the view was of one big cloud. Slowly the words started to form in my head. Just. Like. Scotland.

At first, Grandpa was sceptical about the volcano. “I used to be into that kind of thing,” he said, “but not now.” He did not mention that he was 88.

The guidebook to Indonesia – which he disdained – described how, once you got to the crater, the mist would rise to reveal a shimmering lake. His fellow travellers, my sister and I, often joked about our family’s tendency to declare everything to be “just like Scotland”. This was a living, breathing volcano. It would be nothing like Scotland.

But as Grandpa reminisced about his childhood in the Dutch East Indies, he began to warm to the idea. We set off at 7am and drove past villages with muddled terracotta roofs and rice paddies spread across the valleys like glimmering tables. We talked excitedly about our adventure. Then it began to rain. “Perhaps it will blow over,” I said to my sister, as the view from the windows turned into smears.

Our driver stopped at a car park. With remarkable efficiency, he opened the doors for us and drove away. The rain was like gunfire.

To get to the crater, we had to climb into an open-sided minibus where we sat shivering in our wet summer clothes. Grandpa coughed. It was a nasty cough, which seemed to be getting worse; we had been trying to persuade him to go to a pharmacy for days. Instead, we had persuaded him up a cold and wet mountain.

Five minutes passed, and the minibus didn’t budge. Then another bedraggled family squeezed in. I thought of all the would-be volcano tourists curled up in their hotels.

“Look,” I said to the attendant. “My grandfather is not well. Can we please start?”

He shook his head. “Not till all seats are full.” We exchanged a glance with the other family and paid for the empty seats. The driver set off immediately.

The minibus charged up a road through the jungle, bouncing from puddle to puddle. Grandpa pulled out his iPhone and took a selfie.

The summit was even colder, wetter, rainier and more unpleasant. We paid a small fortune to borrow an umbrella and splashed towards the lake. My sister stopped by a fence.

“Where is it?” I said.

“I think . . . this is it,” she replied.

I squinted. Apart from a gleam of turquoise, the view was of one big cloud. Slowly the words started to form in my head. Just. Like. Scotland.

I thought remorsefully of the guidebook, how I’d put my sightseeing greed before my grandfather’s health. Then I noticed the sign: “Danger! Do not approach the sulphur if you have breathing problems.”

Grandpa, still coughing, was holding the umbrella. He beckoned me to join him. I didn’t know it then, but when we made it back to the car, he would be the first to warm up and spend the journey back telling us stories of surviving the war.

But at that moment, in the dreich rain, he gave me some advice I won’t forget.

“If anyone tells you to go and see a volcano,” he said, “you can tell them to fuck off.” 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution