Monday, March 3, 2014


Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, speaking at his party’s conference, describes a journey on a rush hour train out of Charing Cross: ‘It was a stopper, going out, and we stopped at London Bridge, New Cross, Hither Green. It was not until we got past Grove Park that I could hear English being audibly spoken in the carriage. Does that make me feel slightly awkward? Yes, it does.’

Note the self-conscious anachronism of ‘stopper’, evoking the public school ‘rugger’ and ‘footer’. Note the implication of admirable English modesty in the face of noisy, bragging foreigners in ‘audibly spoken’ (how else can any language be spoken?). Note the very English passive aggressive understatement of ‘slightly awkward’ for ‘extremely angry’. Note the pretence at disinterested inquiry in the self-interviewing. Note, above all, the sense of growing relief, almost of escape from danger, the further he gets out of multicultural London, the nearer he gets to the monocultural Home Counties.

Farage’s fellow travellers who allegedly weren’t speaking English, audibly or otherwise, would have been part of the 37% of Londoners who were born overseas. It’s very likely that they were young; may well have been highly qualified; almost certainly in work, probably not well paid, but still paying tax and national insurance. They will thus have been supporting the elderly who make up the majority demographic of UKIP’s members, and whose pensions account for 47% of the welfare budget, fifteen times what goes on unemployment benefit. If Farage had felt so ‘awkward’ he’d been taken ill on the train and had been admitted to hospital, he could not have failed to notice that the people caring for him would overwhelmingly have come from that 37%; far more likely to be working in the NHS and supporting it with their taxes than filling its beds. Their children would of course attend local schools, but would thereby be giving jobs to teachers, dinner ladies, caretakers, even, if the school is bulging at the seams and needs expanding, builders. And, given that their parents must have had a considerable degree of energy and enterprise to leave their native countries and to start afresh in a sometimes unwelcoming and alien city, there’s a strong chance that those children will be highly motivated and ambitious students, brought up to make something of themselves, who will set their native English classmates a good example. In fact, the only thing Farage should feel ‘awkward’ about is the way in which London’s opportunities have robbed other countries of their brightest and best. 

After the terrorist attacks of July, 7th, 2005, posters went up around the city with this slogan: 7 million Londoners, 1 London. Exactly. Our diversity is what we have in common, what keeps us strong.  Take the train into London, not out of it, and rejoice at its enriching Babel.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Julian; I love the way you take his statement apart, very funny. People should be able to travel both in and out of London without having to feel "awkward" depending which side of Grove Park they find themselves in. Get a season ticket, and enjoy the whole journey!