Posts Tagged ‘Classics’

Bullying, Starvation and Death in 19th Century Public and Boarding Schools

September 26, 2019

There’s a strong mood in the Labour party for the abolition of the public schools. Unlike in America, where the public schools are the state schools, the term over this side of the Atlantic mean the network of extremely expensive private schools educating the children of the aristocracy and the upper middle classes. It’s from them and their ethos that elite derive some of their power and sense of entitlement through the social solidarity and networks these schools provide. Private Eye in its review of a book on Eton in the 1980s commented acidly on a statement by one former Eton schoolboy, now an Anglican bishop, that looking at the numbers of other old Etonians now in leading positions in the government, civil service and society, he felt the whole world was Eton. Another said that if he found out a man hadn’t been to Eton, he wasn’t sure why, but for some reason he thought less of him.

But it wasn’t always like this. Before Matthew Arnold turned up at Rugby in the 1840s, the Public Schools had a very poor reputation. They were notorious for a very narrow curriculum that concentrated almost exclusively on the classics, vicious bullying and vain attempts to keep order among their charges through sadistic flogging. As well as immorality.

I found these passages, describing the abysmally low standards in them in Andrina Stiles, Religion, Society and Reform 1800 1914 (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1995).

Some of the endowed schools had begun to take boarders quite early on. Rugby for instance, which had originally been founded in the sixteenth century as a free grammar school for local boys, evolved in this way into the 19th century public school. Conditions before 1840 in public schools left much to be desired. A narrow classical curriculum, poor housing and food, harsh discipline and a low moral tone characterised life there. Violence and bullying were common. By the middle of the century the situation was improving and public school values were changing, for several reasons. One of these was the arrival of Thomas Arnold at Rugby in 1829.

(p. 74).

Nevertheless there was still disquiet about the narrow curriculum of the public schools a generation later in 1861:

No Latin or Greek may make Mast Jack a dull boy, but Latin and Greek without anything else go far towards making him a very dullard. Parents are beginning to feel this and to ask whether a skinful of classical knowledge with a little birching thrown in for nothing is worth the two hundred a year the pay for a boy at Eton.

A Royal Commission under Lord Clarendon was appointed to examine the revenues, management and curriculum in the nine chief public schools. Its report in 1864 was more favourable than might have been expected. It agreed though that there was still an undue emphasis on the classics and added that the schools ‘are in different degrees too indulgent to idleness, or struggle ineffectually with it, and consequently send out a large proportion of men of idle habits and empty uncultivated minds’. A number of reforms were suggested and some of these, mostly organisational ones, were incorporated in the Public Schools Act of 1868. The effects were limited for the schools were not made subject to government inspection and each remained virtually independent. As for broadening the curriculum, little was done.

(p. 75).

But if standards in the public schools were low, those in the middle class private schools were potentially lethal.

Many parents wishing to protect their boys from the dangers of the public school, or not able to afford the fees to send them there, turned to private boarding schools. These varied widely in competence, were often quite small, and had a more liberal curriculum than the public or grammar schools. The pupils were usually better supervised and better housed than in the public schools, though this was not always the case and some private schools were very badly run, with a high death rate among the pupils from disease, malnutrition and general neglect.

(p. 76).

With this history, it’s amazing that the private sector still has the social cachet to demand respect, and old Etonians like David Cameron and Boris Johnson hold them up for emulation from the state sector. One of those two charmers declared that they’d like every school to be like Eton. This was in a speech promising further privatisation of state education. Well, every school probably could become like Eton, if it had the amount of money spent on it Eton has from the fees it charges elite parents. But as its the state sector, they get nowhere near the funding and resources they need and deserve. If we really want to create a strong state education system that provides a good schooling for everyone, then the myth of private school excellence has to be disproven and their privileged place removed even if the schools themselves aren’t abolished.

 

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Tory Chairman Lies about Abuse from Labour Party

January 16, 2018

Another day, another lie from the Tories. The Tory chairman, Brandon Lewis, was in the papers yesterday because of comments he made on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. Lewis claimed that Tories were afraid to go on the internet because of abuse from the Labour party and Momentum members. Apparently, he mentioned Esther McVile as a victim of this abuse, claiming that John McConnell had made a speech demanding that she be lynched. He then claimed that he was making all the Tories sign a document pledging them not abuse their political opponents, and challenged Jeremy Corbyn to do the same.

This story was then taken up by a number of right-wing papers and magazines, including the Tory rag, the Spectator, and here in the West Country, the Western Daily Press. But the truth wasn’t quite like Lewis claimed. Mike’s written a long piece tearing apart Lewis’ comments to show how false and nasty they are. First of all, the comments made by McConnell were made three years ago, so they’re hardly contemporary. Secondly, he was quoting other people. Ah, replied the Speccie, but he was doing so approvingly. Whether he was or wasn’t clearly depends on a matter of perception, I feel. As for making Tories sign a pledge of good conduct, you can ask a number of questions about this. Like it clearly didn’t apply to Toby Young, when he wrote pieces advocating eugenics, commenting on women’s breasts, saying he had his d*ck up the a**e of one woman, and talking about masturbating over pictures of starving Africans. All of which qualify Young as a truly loathsome human being. But nevertheless, Tweezer wanted him as part of the universities regulatory board. Possibly because he is vociferously against everything modern educationalists stand for, like diversity, anti-racism and anti-sexism. They’re the values most student union bodies very strongly support, and which hardline Tories sneer at as ‘political correctness’ and moan that they are stifling free speech. And Young was almost certainly put in because he’s another Tory who wants to privatise education. Witness his leadership of the ‘free school’ movement.

And most odiously, as Mike points out, Lewis tried to portray McVile as a victim.

McVile isn’t, not by any stretch of the imagination. She’s a very rich woman, who has made a very good living by killing the disabled. She and her husband run a production company, which I believe may have been responsible for the Benefit Street series of programmes on Channel 4. Under her aegis, tens of thousands of disabled people have been unfairly declared ‘fit for work’, and been left to starve to death after having their benefits cut off. Mike has covered these deaths, as have Stilloaks, DPAC, Johnny Void and many, many others. Some of those, who have taken their lives left suicide notes behind stating that it was the removal of their benefits that were driving them to this extremity.

But still the Tories deny it.

McVile presided over this system, for which, as a government minister, she was very handsomely paid compared to the rest of us, and definitely far more than the poor souls, who are forced to rely on state benefits. She carried on with her task of murdering the poor gleefully and without remorse. She’s an evil woman.

Now I don’t believe that there is any abuse from Labour or Momentum. I’ve heard that song before, when the Blairite women were all complaining that they were suffering misogynist abuse from Corbyn’s supporters. They weren’t, and an extensive checking of various posts showed it. But it has set the narrative for the Thatcherite right to tell lies about Corbyn and the Labour left. Whether it is true or not is immaterial. The Tories lie like Goebbels, and Lewis’ comments are yet another smear campaign.

There’s also more than a touch of hypocrisy about the claims, too. Quite apart from the vile comments and writing of Toby Young, you only have to look at Twitter to see frothingly abusive comments from outraged Tories, or look at the comments they leave on left-wing vlogs and videos on YouTube.

If the Tories are scared to go on social media, I can think of a couple of reasons why, which have nothing to do with abuse. Firstly, the Tory front bench are solidly public school boys and girls, who all went to Oxbridge. The ancient Romans didn’t have information technology. The closest they got was the Antikythera Mechanism, a kind of geared computer, which showed the position of the planets. It’s a masterpiece of ancient engineering. However, public school classics are all about generals, emperors and Roman politicians, not the work of the rude mechanics and craftsmen. Aristotle in his politics firmly demanded that these should not be allowed a voice in the political life of his perfect state. That was to be reserved for leisured gentlemen, who should have a forum of their own so that they didn’t mix with the trades- and craftspeople, who actually made things and supplied services.

And one of the complaints I’ve seen of the Oxbridge educated upper classes is that they still have this snobbery towards science. Boris Johnson is possibly the most notable of those public schoolboys and girls advocating the classics, which were used in previous centuries as part of the education system to show the young of the upper classes how to govern. Despite Harold Wilson’s comments in the 1960s about Britain embracing the ‘white heat’ of technology, science and engineering were very much the province of the oiks in secondary moderns, and definitely looked down upon.

And I also think that the real some Tories may be avoiding going on social media, is that they’re all too aware that people know they’re lying, and will correct them. Go see some of Mike’s articles for comments left on social media by very well informed commenters, tearing into Tweezer’s and Jeremy Hunt’s lies over housing and the state of the NHS, for example.

And I also think that if people are making extreme remarks about how vile Esther McVey is on social media, some of them at least have a right. Lewis can afford to act shocked. He’s another, very middle class professional on a very tidy income. He is not poor and desperate, as McVey’s victims are. He can therefore afford to be complacent about their very real fear and despair. He is part of the Tory machine working towards their impoverishment and starvation, and so he has a vested interest in playing down the horrific reality behind their comments. If you go in for an interview at the Job Centre, you will be humiliated by clerks trying to get you off their books as quickly as possible. This will leave you fuming with rage, but there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Especially as they will sanction you without a moment’s hesitation for the most trivial of reasons. This system has been created and is overseen by the Tories, including Esther McVile. She therefore deserves to be an object of anger, hate and loathing by people, who are genuine victims. What Lewis hates and fears is the amount of hatred there is for her, and the fact that it’s expressed, as the Tories demand absolute deference from the rest of us. Remember how the Daily Mail went berserk with rage when Thatcher died, because people in the north had the audacity to celebrate and burn her in effigy?

There must be no clue how much the Tories and the leaders are hated, in any media, ever. And so he demands that people, who have every right to loath McVile, stop talking about how repulsive and murderous the Wicked Witch of the Wirral, responsible for the genocide of the disabled, really is.

And so he falsely accuses Labour of abuse, while defending a woman who is directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of disabled people.

She’s a disgrace. So is he. Get them out.

Jodi Magness on the Archaeology of Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine

December 17, 2017

One of the other books in the winter edition of the Oxbow Bargain Book Catalogue for Winter 2017 is Jodi Magness’ Archaeology of the Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine. The blurb for this says

Archaeological evidence is frequently cited by scholars as proof that Palestine declined after the Muslim conquest and especially after the rise of the Abbasids in the mid-eighth century. Instead, Magness argues that the archaeological evidence supports the idea that Palestine and Syria experienced a tremendous growth in population and prosperity between the mid-sixth and mid-seventh centuries.

Eisenbrauns, 2003, 9781575060705, Hardback, was £49.99, now £14.95.

Magness is an Israeli archaeologist, who has written some brilliant, very accessible, popular books on the archaeology of the Holy Land. I recognise that my own religious views mean that I have a bias towards Biblical archaeology and the Ancient Near East, as opposed to the later, Muslim periods. However, western concerns with these periods have meant that precious later evidence of Muslim culture and towns have been destroyed as archaeologists have dug through them to get to ancient Egypt, for example. The British archaeologist John Romer was particular critical about this in one edition of his series on the history of archaeology for Channel 4, broadcast in the 1990s, Great Excavations. In one sequence, he sifted through the sand around one excavated ancient Egyptian monument, picking out pieces of Islamic period pottery, and sadly remarked, ‘There was a whole town here once.’ And explained that it had been either destroyed, or at least its remains had, by archaeologists determined to get at what was underneath from antiquity.

Which of course, may partly explain – but does not justify – the Islamist rage against pre-Islamic Egypt and its monuments. Like the pyramids, which they’d love to destroy.

Magness’ conclusions don’t really surprise me. There’s an argument about the demographic and economic conditions of the late Roman Empire at the time of the Muslim conquests. Part of the reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire was economic stagnation, as I’ve pointed out before to combat the rubbish spouted by right-wing politicos and classicists like Boris Johnson. During the late Byzantine Empire, towns shrank, and many disappeared completely as they were abandoned. Those that survived tended to consist of a castle or fortification and a church around which was a much smaller settlement.

The nascent Islamic Empire put the region in touch with an expanding state that grew to cover the Near East and spread into parts of India. It gave merchants the opportunity to establish trade networks across a vast area. Furthermore, even when the Byzantines and Muslim emperors were still at work, Christians in the early caliphate were not prevented from contact with their spiritual superiors and coreligionists in Byzantium. Also, the official Byzantine ‘Melkite’ church, as it was known in Egypt, had persecuted the various ‘Jacobite’ or ‘Nestorian’ sects, which they considered heretical, often with horrific tortures. The result was that when the Muslims conquered the region, the persecuted masses opened the gates to them and welcomed them as liberators.

At the moment, however, Netanyahu, the Likudniks and the other members of the Israeli religious right in his coalition seem to be determined to erase any history of Palestine, that challenges its exclusive Jewish character. There are any number of books and articles by western historians attacking this and comparing it with militant nationalist movements elsewhere. Such as by Philip Rahtz, a very respected British archaeologist from my part of the West Country in his book, Invitation to Archaeology. This is not anti-Semitic, and Rahtz himself has always been anti- or at least, non-racist. He describes in the above book how shocked he was when an apparently liberal Australian student he was teaching was deeply surprised by his interest in the archaeology of Aboriginal Australians. ‘But they’re just apes!’ she exclaimed.

Netanyahu and his thugs are determined to close mosques and churches, or at least keep them very tightly controlled, just as the illegal settlers they support seize Palestinian land and homes in the Occupied Territories. So I really don’t know how long a genuinely open archaeological investigation of the Islamic period will last.

Boris Criticised by Own Party for Cynical Decision to Join ‘Out’ Campaign

February 23, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political also has a very interesting piece about Boris Johnson’s decision to join the ‘Out’ campaign. Mike points out that until a couple of weeks ago, BoJo appeared to be in favour of Britain remaining in Europe. He was certainly in favour of Turkey joining it. Now apparently he’s decided to put all that behind him. Mike writes

Soon after Boris Johnson declared that he would campaign for the UK to leave the European Union, we were all reminded that he had campaigned for Turkey to become a member, so he was already guilty of double-standards (why want them in, and us out?) but more was to follow.

We have since learned that Mr Johnson has been hoping an ‘Out’ vote might lead to further renegotiation with the other EU countries, leading to a settlement for the UK that would make him happier.

(Or – as most of us surmised – he thought joining the ‘Out’ brigade might endear him to Tory backbenchers, or at least enough of them to ease him into Number 10 after Cameron slings his hook.)

This has earned Britain’s own tousle-haired buffoon (I wonder – are he and Donald Trump clones from the same genetic laboratory?) a swift rejoinder from Dave Cameron, who has told him that it’s going to be a straight case of Britain either being in Europe or leaving. There is no plan for renegotiation.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/22/tory-infighting-leads-to-a-very-public-takedown-for-boris-johnson/.

This debacle shows BoJo for what he is: a demagogue. If he genuinely wishes that a vote to leave Europe would result in a second referendum, and further negotiations to revise the conditions of Britain’s membership so that we remain in, then he’s simply supporting the ‘Out’ campaign as a kind of political utilitarianism. He’s really in favour of membership, and always has been, but he hopes he can use it to frighten the EU into granting concessions. It’s a dangerous game to play. The danger is that by that time, the EU could be so sick and tired of us, that they can’t be bothered to indulge us, and will just simply say, ‘Well, be like that. Go away then!’

And I think Mike’s right. This is all about trying to enhance BoJo’s standing within the party, as the ‘man of the people’, and the populist candidate against Cameron. It really does look like he’s angling for backbench Tory support. In a Classical simile that Boris should appreciate, he’s rather like the Greek philosopher Carneades. Carneades went on an embassy to Rome. There he decided to give a talk on ‘virtue’. In the morning he argued for it, and in the afternoon, he argued against it. It was part of the attitude of the Sceptic school that knowledge could never be absolute and information was always provisional. And Carneades was also a bit of a wiseacre, who liked to show off how clever he was by arguing contradictory positions. Boris is basically doing the same thing here. It’s nasty, and shows that one thing Boris is not and will never be, is a statesman of the mould of Solon or Pericles.

British Constitutional Theory and Blair and Cameron’s Surveillance State

November 2, 2015

Over the past few decades we’ve seen the powers of the secret state expand massively, and there are ever-increasing demands for increased powers of surveillance and data-gathering. A few days ago the government intended to pass a bill stipulating that the internet companies should keep browsing histories for a year, just in case the police or security agencies were interested. The power to look at these was to be granted by ministers, rather than judges. Cameron, however, backed down at the last minute, faced with what looks like another rebellion in the Lords.

If this is really what happened, then the Lords are right. And Cameron should know it, if he has any idea of British constitutional theory, or even a grounding in the Classics.

Which given the fact that he didn’t know what Magna Carta was, wouldn’t surprise me.

Since the Middle Ages there has been a long line of British political theorists firmly opposed to the expansion of the powers of the state to spy, prosecute and control. In the Middle Ages the percentage of criminal cases, which resulted in a conviction was low – about five per cent. Nevertheless, medieval English political theorists during the Fifteenth century considered that this was an acceptable price to pay for protecting the citizen from oppression and malicious prosecution by a tyrannical state. They compared the turbulent state of contemporary England with France. France was more peaceful, but this, they believed, had been purchased at the price of a despotic, absolute state.

This attitude continued into the 18th century. Blackstone, one of the greatest British constitutional theorists and historians, declared that it was better that ten thieves and criminals should escape, than one good man should be hanged.

And as someone, who no doubt has studied the Classics as part of their expensive education at Eton, Cameron should know very well the attitude of the Roman historians to the corrupt and brutal Roman Emperors, who ruled by fear, and had networks of spies and informers. Like Nero or Caligula.

This does not mean that there isn’t a very strong authoritarian strain in British politics. Britain became extremely authoritarian during the French Revolution, when all manner of legislation was passed against radical groups, popular assemblies and trade unions.

But this is counterbalanced by a political tradition firmly opposed to despotism, and which also stands opposed to the massive expansion of the surveillance state, which is increasingly demanding information on each of its citizens.

This is only a few sketchy thoughts on the issue at the moment. But it is an extremely worrying issue, which I intend to pursue further.

As for my own thoughts on crime and terrorism – I want criminals and terrorists to be caught and properly punished from their crimes in a court of law. I want the police to have sufficient powers to be able to do this. But I don’t want them to have more power than needed, at the expense of the liberty of ordinary people. This latter is what Cameron’s proposed reforms undermine.

And one other saying is important here: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Cameron Brings Back Ancient Greek Metic System for Migrant Workers

June 22, 2015

I caught on the news this morning that Cameron has just announced legislation limiting the length of time foreign citizens can stay in the UK to six years. Except, of course, for those earning over £35,000, who aren’t bound by such restrictions. Once again, it shows their xenophobia and their hatred of the poor. The rich can stay for as long as they like, never mind the social cleansing they bring with them as working class districts are gentrified and their original occupants pushed out, both traditional British and those of more settled migrant communities.

Worse, the legislation has been backdated to 2011, which means that hardworking migrants, who’ve been over here for four or five years already, are suddenly faced with the problem of having to prepare to leave the UK. This is even when many of them may have already effectively settled down, got married, had children and put money down for property here.

A friend of mine told me how one of his relatives organised protests against similar legislation when it was brought in under John Major. The government then wanted to do exactly what Cameron and co are trying to do now, and the effects on the NHS were exactly as feared by some of the spokespeople for the nurses now. Various representatives for the nurses were shown on the news, voicing their fears that this would devastate the number of nurses actually working in the Health Service. This is precisely what threatened to happen way back in the 1990s. A number of the nurses at the hospital, where my friend’s relative worked, were foreign nationals. These women and men had worked hard, and put down roots in the UK through marriage and purchasing their own homes. They were then faced with being forcibly uprooted from their jobs, families and homes. And so his relative took part in organising a series of protests on their behalf.

Cameron’s new regulations limiting the amount of time poor migrant workers can spend in the UK is basically just a revival of the metic system from ancient Greece. The metics were foreign citizens resident in the ancient Greek city states, usually merchants and traders. They were allowed to remain in the cities for six years. On the seventh year, they had to return to their countries of origin. And so with the modern metics Cameron has effectively created with this legislation. And as with most of the Tories’ policies, it’s very likely a product of their public school education. The education of the aristocracy has always been based solidly on the Classics, to the point where there was a joke about it in the satirical BBC comedies, Yes, Minister, and Yes, Prime Minister. At one point the new prime minister, Jim Hacker, formerly the Minister for Administrative Affairs, is faced with a severe financial crisis. Looking around to find anyone in the government or upper levels of the Civil Service, who might have the necessary expertise to solve the crisis, Hacker is aghast to find that none of them are economists. In exasperation he asks Sir Humphrey if, surely, the head of the Treasury studied economics at Uni. Certainly not, replies Sir Humphrey indignantly, he studied Classics. Cameron, Osborne and the rest of the Toffs now running the country into the ground may have studied more relevant subjects at Uni, but behind this there is the shadow of the British public school education system and its emphasis on the Classics.

Its also pretty much of a piece with the other bits of legislation Cameron and his cronies have introduced. They’ve effectively reintroduced the debt slavery that Solon attempted to legislate against, and with the massive expansion of workfare are effectively reducing the poor and the young to Helots. These were state slaves at the very bottom of Spartan society. And on one day each year, it was legal for the Spartan elite to rob, beat and kill them if they so wished, just to teach them their place. It hasn’t got that bad yet, but you have to wonder if it will, given Cameron and co’s membership of the Bullingdon Club, who I think got their kicks smashing up bars.

Of course, Cameron and his cronies admire ancient Greece as the source of western culture, and the inventors of democracy. But the democracy the ancient Greeks pioneered was very limited. Only citizens, which meant property owners, who did not have to work or run businesses, but lived off their rents, had the vote. This is the concept of democracy that Aristotle celebrates and promotes in his Politics, where he recommends that such citizens have their own, separate forum to that of the rest of the populace, so they don’t have to mix with slaves, artisans, traders and similar riff-raff. And as Cameron has followed the Americans in trying to restrict the franchise to rich property-owners under the guise of rooting out electoral fraud, we can probably look forward to that coming back as well.

Nigel Farage: Poundland Enoch Powell or Britain’s Own Mad Vlad Zhirinovsky?

December 12, 2014

Brand on Farage as ‘Poundland Powell’

Russell Brand was in the Independent and on MSN news today. The paper and the internet news service were reporting the spat between him and the Kippers’ Fuehrer on Question Time last night. The revolutionary, author and film star had called Farage a ‘Poundland Enoch Powell’. The Duce of the anti-EU right had responded by declaring that Brand had a messiah-complex.

It’s not hard to see Brand’s point, and the comparison’s a good one. Powell and Farage are both right-wing, anti-immigration politicians, and from a certain point of view Farage is definitely rather more downmarket than the man whose former schoolfellows used to call ‘Scowly Powelly’. Powell after all was something of an academic, who taught classics at one of the Australian universities. He was also multilingual and could speak Urdu. Farage, by contrast tries to promote himself as something of a man of the people, an ordinary bloke, who likes a beer in a pub and smokes.

Powell and Farage also have in common the fact that they both deny that they are actually racist. Farage likes to boast that UKIP is a non-racist, non-sectarian party and that it has a ban on taking members from the extreme right – the National Front, BNP, and Britain First, for example, while targeting the allegedly non-racist supporters of these parties. Despite the deeply violent, venomous imagery of Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech, it’s been claimed that Powell himself actually wasn’t personally racist and despised the Nazi stormtroopers, who were attracted to him after his infamous speech. Farage has learned from Powell’s mistakes, and how the former Conservative cabinet minister became virtually a political pariah because of his vile rhetoric. Farage promises instead to tackle immigration and get Britain out of the EU, all the while reassuring voters that his is not a racist party. It isn’t officially, at least in its public pronouncements, but as recent events have shown, it has had more than its share of racists in it.

Beer, Cigarettes, and Class Image in Politics

Brand also attacked Farage for his blokey, beer and ciggies image. This accounts for part of the Fuehrer’s electoral charm, as it gives him an apparent connection to the working and lower middle classes that the mainstream parties don’t have. Cameron and Clegg are toffs, who it would be far easier to imagine enjoying a sherry or extremely expensive fine wine than a pint of Best in a boozer. The same could be said of the Islington New Labour set around Tony Blair. A few years ago when Blair was in power, there was a story that Peter Mandelson had gone to a fish and chip shop in his Hartlepool constituency. Although strongly denied at the time, it was claimed that Mandelson had asked if the mushy peas northern chippies serve were avocado dip.

Brand’s right-wing opponents, like Peter Hitchens, have claimed that Brand’s working class image is false, pointing to the fact that he is very highly educated from a middle class home. Farage’s own image as a ordinary bloke is also untrue, as the man himself is public school, millionaire financier. I doubt very much that beer, the tipple of the working man and woman since time immemorial, is also Farage’s favourite beverage as he appears to claim.

Farage and the Mad Russian Fascist, Vladimir Zhirinovsky

In this respect Farage seems to me less like Enoch Powell, and more like Vladimir ‘Mad Vlad’ Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Russian far right in the 1990s. Both are extreme Right-wing populists, who deliberately try to present themselves as somehow standing up for the ordinary, working class people of their countries. Zhirinovsky racism was far more overt than that of Farage’s party. He was the leader of the venomously anti-Semitic Liberal Democratic party, which emerged amongst the economic chaos of Yeltsin’s mass privatisation of the Russian economy after the collapse of Communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Zhirinovsky’s part was ultra-nationalistic, racist and profoundly anti-democratic. The BBC in the 1990s filmed him on the Russian campaign trail, sailing along the Volga in a ship making speeches to disaffected Russian voters and plotting his next moves against his political rivals.

The picture that emerged was of a shrewd, cynical politico, who made contemptuous jokes about his own country and had no qualms about smearing and spreading lies about other politicians if it would serve his purpose. Unlike many Russians, he didn’t drink or smoke, but deliberately cultivated an image to appeal to the average Russian worker, who like their British counterparts, liked their booze and ciggies. As the ship sailed along, its speakers blared out Mad Vlad’s campaign song, whose lyrics the Beeb translated as

Zhirinovsky’s a proper Russian bloke,
Even though he doesn’t drink or smoke
.

They then went on to describe how Zhirinovsky, if he met the singer, would embrace him, before giving him a drink and cigarette. You can see the parallel with Farage, and the way he tries to appeal to the British working class with his pint and ciggie image.

As for spreading lies about his rivals, Zhirinovsky was shown cooking up a slander he was going to put about the mayor of St. Peterburg, Nemtsov. Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union have a reputation among Western businessmen as ‘the wild East’ for its violent lawlessness and political corruption. In the 1990s there were a series of assassinations of prominent businessmen, journalists and dissident politicians. Zhirinovsky decided that his party would claim that Nemtsov had murdered one of his opponents, and dumped the body in the Neva. Although slanderous, the allegation was all too credible given the massive political violence at the time. As he and his cronies cooked up this rumour, Zhirinovsky nodded his head and declared it to be ‘good information’, although the Beeb translated the latter word as ‘propaganda’.

Farage doesn’t lie about his opponents like Zhirinovsky, but he is very careful to lie or conceal his party’s true intentions. A string of leading Kippers, including Bob Nuttall, their deputy chairman, have made it very clear that they despise the NHS, and wish to repeal the statutory benefits and laws protecting workers and employees, such as paid holidays and maternity leave for women. When pressed on these statements, and the extremely right-wing policies put forward in their manifesto, Farage’s response is to deny that they are actually party policy. He has disavowed the 2010 election manifesto, describing it as drivel, and somewhat speciously claiming that he had no part in its formulation. The indications are there, however, that these are the party’s true policies behind the more liberal face the Kippers present to the voting public.

As for his supposed patriotism, Zhirinovsky was shown telling jokes about how terrible his country was. One of them was about two World War II British airmen, who get lost, fly off course, and crash in Russia. Coming across a kolkhoznik – collective farmer – they ask the astonished peasant where they are. ‘Up the a***’ the farmer replies. ‘That’s it’, declares one of the airmen, ‘we’re in Russia’.

Farage has similarly shown a double standard on the issue of immigration and the EU bureaucracy. The Kipper MEPs don’t vote, but are nevertheless eager to collect their salary for turning up at the European parliament. Farage has made it clear that he doesn’t want immigrants, because, according to him, they take British jobs. Not only is that factually incorrect, but Farage has personally broken this stance. His wife is German, and is employed as his secretary.

Unlike Zhirinovsky, and the parties of the Nazi right, Farage has always claimed to be democratic, and the Kippers have claimed that their party advocates the establishment of direct democracy in Britain, like that of Switzerland. Zhirinovsky, on the other hand, would have dissolved the fledgling Russian democracy if he’d won. ‘Vote for me’, he was filmed telling his audience, ‘if I win, you will never have to vote for me again’. The danger with Farage is if he ever gets into power, then for many it will be too late to vote him out once his policies of greater privatisation, benefit cuts and destruction of workers’ and women’s rights takes effect.

Farage is wilier, shrewder, and far more subtle than Powell or Zhirinovsky. He is, however, like them a right-wing populist, and particularly like Zhirinovsky in adopting a pose of enjoying working class tastes in order to gain votes and advance an anti-working class agenda.