On Thursday, during a debate about Brexit in the European Parliament, Nigel Farage got up and dusted off a routine with which we’ve all become painfully familiar.
“You’re not looking for solutions”, shouted the man who knows nothing but the politics of protest. “We are not dealing with people acting in good faith”, said perhaps the biggest con man of them all. To top it all off, just one day after Leave.EU’s xenophobic tweet in which Angela Merkel was called a “kraut”, Farage exclaimed, proudly, that, “we will never accept a German chancellor attempting to annex part of our nation.”
Familiar as we are with this sort of rhetoric, I could not sit back and watch him spew lie after lie, slogan after slogan, insulting our closest allies while doing so. So, in my own speech that immediately followed his, requested simply that he account for the lies, the inaccuracies and the empty promises that were made during the 2016 referendum. To explain to the public that he had misled them, and that the Brexit fantasy that he had promised simply does not exist. His response? As predictable as ever.
I was a “patronising, stuck up snob”, and how dare I claim that the people were misled? I’ll be honest, I initially took it as a compliment. Anytime you elicit such a strong reaction from someone like him – and this was a incredibly, some might say disproportionally, strong reaction, you must be doing something right. But the comment reveals a level of hypocrisy that has sadly become commonplace amongst the likes of Farage, and one that has distorted public debate.
My background is very ordinary. I grew up in Dogsthorpe, Peterborough. It would be wrong to say it was a deprived area, it was great, but Dogsthorpe is far from posh. For school, after attending Newark Hill Primary, I went to Peterborough County School for Girls, a state grammar which closed soon after I left in 1979. In its place there is now sheltered housing.
After school, I make no secret about the fact that I attended Cambridge University. In fact, I was one of the first students from our school for 25 years to go to Cambridge, and it happened because Fitzwilliam college was, that year, one of the first all-male Cambridge colleges to admit female undergraduates. The college has a fantastic tradition of championing children from areas of society often underrepresented at the university, and it was this tradition, along with my own hard work and my school’s support, that enabled me to go there. I now campaign to extend opportunities in education because I want others to enjoy the choices that good schooling in Peterborough gave me.
Since those days, I have been a science journalist and produced television documentaries, aiming to use TV as a way to make the sciences more accessible for people of all ages. IN a bit of a twist, my most recent show is Magic Hands, a children’s programme that animates songs and poetry and presents it in British Sign Language (BSL). Our third series, my last before becoming an MEP, aired this year and I couldn’t be more proud of the steps we’ve taken to engage the deaf community and spread awareness of BSL among the hearing community.
By contrast with all this, Farage attended Dulwich College, a prestigious independent boarding school in London that charges as much as £14,782 per pupil, per term. He would then, as we know, bypass university, and head straight for the City where he became a commodities trader. I don’t hold any of this against him, it’s a free country, but it’s not exactly Che Guevara, is it, Nigel?
What is worrying is some if Farage’s financial activities. It was only this summer that EU Integrity Watch revealed that he received £450,000 in the year following the referendum from Arron Banks. This money allegedly helped Farage rent a Chelsea home, to the tune of £13,000 per month, as well pay for a Land Rover Discovery and a personal driver.
So, when it comes to being called stuck up and labelled a snob by a man whose life has been characterised by privilege and affluence, I’m afraid I cannot hold back. What is unfolding before is not a Brexit for the people, rather one for the elite, engineered by the elite. It’s not the family struggling to pay its electricity bills, or the disabled OAP at the mercy of NHS waiting times, who will benefit. It is people like Farage, Rees-Mogg and their cronies, with investments safely stashed away in the tax havens of the Cayman Islands, or even in the USA, that will reap the rewards of a plunging pound and a No-Deal Brexit Britain in which regulations, protections and public services are all slashed.
Yesterday I spoke with unapologetic honesty. Yes, we were lied to, and yes, that means that we didn’t know what we were voting for. These are the facts. There will be no £350m per week for the NHS, we will not sign the “easiest trade deal in human history” with the EU and we are not facing an unprecedented era of economic prosperity. That the public was led to believe these lies is a tragedy. That Farage continues to peddle them is a disgrace.
The future we face, if Farage, Johnson and his gang of would-be Brexit martyrs have their way, is we now know without a doubt to be stark: medicine shortages, a plummeting pound, likely civil unrest and the break-up of the United Kingdom. I don’t remember seeing any of these things on the side of a bus. Do you?
No doubt Farage feels he has the right to stand up and label me patronising and stuck up because I dare to hold and voice my opinions, despite my ordinary background. He may even feel justified in doing so. But on the accusation of snobbery, Farage – Old Alleynian, former City trader and friend of billionaire presidents – has no right, no grounds and frankly no shame.
How dare I, Mr Farage? How dare you.