Farage buddies up with Lee Anderson for ‘red wall’ take on Bad Boys: Ride or Die | Marina Hyde

In the car park of Morrisons, Ashfield’s parliamentary candidate Lee Anderson is making Reform leader Nigel Farage sign a giant placard reading “SIGN HERE IF YOU WANT YOUR COUNTRY BACK”. Only then will Nigel be allowed to wang on about the adjacent statues commemorating the bodyline Ashes series. At least, I think those are the rules of whichever arcane election campaign game we’re playing today. Either way, a bronze Donald Bradman is facing local boy Harold Larwood outside the supermarket and, now Nigel has signed the card, he explains that Bradman “was the best of all time in any sport”. Possible. Then again, he was never going to say Ali.

To Kirkby in Ashfield, anyway. By the time he got here – the yard-arm, obviously – Farage had pulled out of his scheduled BBC leaders’ interview for Tuesday night (possibly related to Hitler; more on him later) and had two objects thrown at him by some utter idiot in Barnsley who is unlikely to open the bowling for England any time soon. No doubt he’ll throw some objects at himself once he works out that he’s probably given Nigel a poll boost.

Farage was in Kirkby to buddy up with Tory defector Lee Anderson, who was Reform’s only MP before the election was called, in a sort of “red wall” take on Bad Boys: Ride or Die. “You’re walking alongside another man who’s been called box office,” a local journalist informed Farage, who will now have to push Anderson down a staircase for stealing 15 seconds of his limelight. There’s only room for one star in this show.

“Let’s go for a pint, Nigel,” said Lee. We went to the local Spoons where the first customer who clapped eyes on Farage and his entourage – the enfarage, if you will – threw her hands up in the air and went: “I’m out. I’m not dealing with this.” Many others were more receptive to the infestation of hacks and Faragistes. “You’re in the capital of common sense now,” said one. This is axiomatic. It is a fact of both psychic and political geography that whenever you are with Lee or Nigel, you are in “the real world”. The “real world” is a place which can encompass both this pub and the central London GB News studios where two of the most committed self-dramatists in British politics earn six-figure salaries. (Anderson is also a dramatist of other people: last election the journalist Michael Crick caught him staging a fake doorstep chat with a “swing voter” who turned out to be one of his mates.)

Anyway: Hitler. An old law holds that the longer any UK election goes on, the probability that Hitler will be mentioned in it approaches one. Call it Livingstone’s Law. I regret to inform you it is now zero days since this election’s last accidental mention of Hitler. The mentioner in question is a candidate for Reform, who was yesterday discovered to have previously posted that “Britain would be in a far better state today had we taken Hitler up on his offer of neutrality but oh no Britain’s warped mindset values weird notions of international morality rather than looking after its own people”. Impressive, in many ways, that you can read that last sentence and still find the words “is a candidate for Reform” the most eye-catching thing about it. At last – a would-be politician who misunderstands his base even more than D-day deserter Rishi Sunak!

Reform described the discovery of the Hitler comments as “offence archaeology”, a way of putting it which conjures the image of the dust being carefully brushed off mid-Mesolithic utterances. Alas, some of the remarks date all the way back to 2022, so would be unlikely to get a bye into the Natural History Museum and are arguably better classified as contemporary art. “In Britain specifically we need to exorcise the cult of Churchill,” says Reform candidate.

The cult of Nigel remains, however, with Farage relishing the role of Johnny Big Shoes this election. In some forthcoming polls, Reform will inevitably overtake the Tories, who are under heavy threat from Labour and Reform. I was trying to think of someone else who unwisely ended up fighting a war on two fronts but drew a blank. Perhaps a politician could help.

That said, help from politicians has arguably been in short supply in recent years. For all Lee’s giant placards and bellowed rhetoric, it’s possible that the lesson to be drawn from about 2015 to the present day is that simply shouting “I want my country back” doesn’t amount to a plan – and consistently leads to unsatisfactory outcomes, most particularly for those deemed to have “got their country back” in the wake of any given vote.

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A full eight years after the UK got its country back after voting to leave the EU, satisfaction levels do not seem especially high. If voters in Ashfield do want their country back from the party which Lee was deputy chair of until about 10 minutes ago, who will they entrust with returning it to them? Labour (who Lee was a councillor for until 2018)? Reform (Lee again)? The unusually strong independent? It’s unclear at this stage of the race. Perhaps Dominic Cummings’s notional new party will be promising to retrieve the country for them again in 2029. Even so, it would be nice if someone – anyone – actually tried to make these people’s lives better, instead of spending year after year shouting call-and-response banalities at them and thinking that somehow counts.

The Guardian

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