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Farage and Extinction Rebellion: two politics of protest, only one has a future

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Watching Nigel Farage, leader of the new Brexit party, saunter the few minutes from a Wetherspoons pub to Clacton pier on Wednesday, surrounded by media and supporters, I recalled Michael Rosen’s poem explaining that fascism does not arrive “in fancy dress”: “Fascism arrives as your friend. / It will restore your honour, / make you feel proud, / protect your house, / give you a job, / clean up the neighbourhood, / remind you of how great you once were …”

The point here is not to insult – though those it describes will, of course, be insulted. It is to offer the closest, most accurate description of the social base, rhetorical impulses and political orientation of those attending and addressing the Brexit party event. They are the same people you will see at a Le Pen, Salvini or a Trump rally: older, rural, exurban and provincial (they were white, too, though since this was Clacton, that is hardly an indicator). The collection of pinstripes, tattoos, Barbour jackets and tracksuits marks a crude illustration of the class alliances at play. Rich and poor, brought together by a chronic grievance.

They call him Nigel, and he arrived as a friend.

You can smell the nostalgia on them. You are never too far from mention of the forthcoming anniversary of D-day, the wonders of the Commonwealth or the golden era of British fishing. “We’re a proud nation,” one woman told me. “We’re a fighting nation. We will not be humiliated.”

Whatever else they are, they are not racist. This point is declarative, not discursive – a statement made in response to a question that has not been asked and a point that has not been made. They insist on their own decency and persecution. “Britain’s over, manners are over,” one man told Farage. “If I say I don’t like foreigners coming over here and taking all the jobs, I’ll be arrested,” he said, before not being arrested.


© The Guardian