Saturday, 14 March 2015

Shameless And Cynical?

The fine line between which areas are appropriate or not with which to criticise a politician is sometimes difficult to ascertain. For example are the family members of politicians off limits to criticism? It could be considered that politician family's privacy should largely be respected. Michael Portillo put this point rather forcefully earlier this week to Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine over her vindictive criticism of Ed "two kitchens" Miliband.

But in contrast what happens when said "happy family" is used as electioneering material such as by Cecil Parkinson and Chris Huhne only then for us to later find out what a sham it all was? Does criticism then become justified?

Very obviously the bereavements suffered by both Gordon Brown and David Cameron over the loss of a child should be completely off limits. Yet while both men would understandably at times wish to be open about such a loss, there is always the difficulty of determining if such openness is being done for political reasons.

And this brings me onto Farage. I always remember that leading up to the 2010 election, Farage gave an interview to Camilla Long of the Sunday Times. What stuck in my mind was not that clearly the article in question had an agenda to undermine Farage but that it did so by openingly mocking the fact that he reportedly had testicular cancer in his youth.

In terms of the depths that the media can sometimes plummet to we can compare this to the media treatment of the great Victorian statesman, Gladstone. He was at times vitriolically disliked - Queen Victoria famously commented that "[Gladstone] speaks to me as if I were a public meeting". Yet despite the remorseless abuse from such satirical publications as Punch rarely, if ever, was Gladstone's disability mocked - that he lost fingers on one hand due to a shooting accident.

Interestingly where Farage is concerned we move on five years from 2010, where we see today in the Telegraph it has extracts from Farage's new book, where very 'candidly' he talks about his health:
Mr Farage, now 50, says the plane crash, combined with the effects of another car accident in his twenties, “has left me with a body 20 years older”.
It's worth noting that the car accident in question was the consequence of being too drunk and walking out in front of a moving vehicle. However:
The National Health Service “almost killed me”, Nigel Farage says today as he reveals that his body is now so frail that he could be registered disabled.
It is indeed curious that while UKIP still haven't publicly put forward any coherent polices in the lead up to a general election, despite a promise to have a manifesto published by their Spring Conference in Margate, Farage has managed to have another 'leader's book' published - essentially an updated version of 'Fighting Bull'. Maybe it's a coincidence but it conveniently ensures that the spotlight is largely on him running up to an election.

So we have to consider that with 'timing' being everything in politics whether the release of his new book, titled 'Purple Revolution' is candid or simply just shameless and cynical. A line seems to have been crossed over whether Farage and his health difficulties are now being exploited as an attempt at electoral gain. The title alone suggests an attempt to own the rise of UKIP and the eurosceptic movement.

It's also interesting that Farage has agreed to have the book be serialised for money in the Telegraph - a paper which is usually hostile to UKIP and nominally a Conservative supporting paper.

With this in mind it is indeed interesting that Farage has a great to say about his poor health, including revealing that his body is now so frail that he could be registered disabled. This rather contradicts his message at UKIP's Spring Conference at Margate recently:
There has been a lot of speculation about where have I been, why have not been on the television all the time. This has been led to my opponents to spread some speculation about my health that I am seriously ill and that is why I have not been seen.

I hate to disappoint my opponents but can I make it clear that rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.” 
So not only is the timing curious but someone it appears is making things up as he goes along. Farage then continues:
An MRI scan followed at the private London Bridge Hospital, and I was referred to Mr Bhupal Chitnavis, a top-dollar consultant neurosurgeon. He said he was shocked by the damage to my neck and that, if I wanted, he would sign me off as being partially disabled for the rest of my life. I certainly did not want one of those blue badges — it would be conceding defeat — but it was a shocking moment.
Now there's no doubt Farage suffered injuries as a result of the plane crash:
Where the issue lies is his casual link deployed between being a Blue Badge holder and being registered partially or fully disabled.

Leaving aside the sentiment that apparently being a blue badge holder means conceding defeat - no doubt that 2.58 million blue badge holders would contest otherwise and would probably take offense at the term "those blue badges", being registered disabled is different and is a misleading term.

Under the Equality Act it has such a varied broad definition, that it could apply to anything, including those perceived to be disabled and those associated with a disabled person (e.g. a parent or partner). The principle of the Equality Act is that discrimination on grounds of disability happens in all sorts of ways to all sorts of people.

The real test in our view of being genuinely disabled is whether you qualify for a Blue Badge and or DLA/PIP benefits. Here the criteria is far more strict; as an example if you have a permanent or substantial disability which means you can’t walk or find walking very difficult you are still required to take further assessments before a blue badge is issued.

As is obvious by the above photograph with Farage walking away from a plane crash and his current twitter status - "back on the campaign trail" - he would have absolutely no chance of being eligible for a blue badge.

We only conclude then that what we have is a rather shameless and cynical appeal for the sympathy vote.

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