Wednesday 15 February 2017

Lies, Damned Lies, and Paul Nuttall

Where to you start with a politician like Paul Nuttall? Like a foul dinner that keeps repeating, his every action belches falsehood upon fib upon lie. Saying you played professionally for Tranmere Rovers and having a PhD when you didn't and don't is good knockabout for politics anoraks, but it's serious when your habitual lying extends to the seminal tragedy of modern football. Claiming you were there, that "you are a survivor" when everyone is saying you weren't, and saying you lost "close personal friends" only to row back reveals a slimy opportunist who has to turn to a dictionary every time integrity is mentioned.

Having finally seen Nuttall up close at Monday's by-election hustings at Staffordshire University, I found nothing that challenged my earlier assessment of him. For example, after saying he wouldn't have a problem waterboarding a 10 year old he immediately disassembled and denied saying it, just as my moggy gives me one of those looks after finding her piss again on the kitchen floor. If only someone had recorded it. He cannot help but lie. If he'd had Ready Brek that morning he'd say he had Weetabix.

I understand why Paul Nuttall lies, and that's because he's a nothing man, an empty vessel that eats, walks around, and draws breath. All that there is a desire to be important, a hunger to be noticed, and that's difficult if there's nothing about you worth noticing. Consider UKIP's leading figures for a moment. Douglas Carswell is the intellectual. Neil Hamilton the sleaze. Suzanne Evans the Tory. And Nigel Farage the cigarette swilling, pint smoking demagogue. Each have definable and discernible qualities, however much you may dislike them. But Nuttall, what of he? He's alright in the media, he's bald, he's a scouser, and that's about it. There is no presence to the man, something that was clearly evident at Monday's hustings where Labour's Gareth Snell and the Conservatives' Jack Brereton both affected more weight on the stage.

If you are a politician without qualities, you can do one of two things. You can drift into obscurity and quietly draw a salary, much like the rest of UKIP's anonymous cohort of MEPs, or make stuff up to give your character a bit of, well, character. In this by-election, we've seen Nuttall indulge Nigel Farage cosplay with his tweed outfit and flat cap look. Where the bloody hell he got the idea from that this is an appropriate look for Stoke is beyond me. He has also been taking a leaf out of Tristram's book, too. Readers may recall that the dearly departed was hailed as a breath of fresh air, as a national figure with all the London connections that would help the Potteries. And give Tristram his due, he helped put the city on the national media's radar and a number of interesting and important initiatives were born of these links. Nuttall has latched on to this and now parades around telling everyone who will listen that he's a "national figure" too. And because he's a big cheese, everything is going to be fine. Really Paul, if you have to go round convincing folks you're a Very Big Deal ...

What I find interesting is this is more than a Paul Nuttall issue, the cynical lies he tells is a property of hard right populist and fascist leaders generally. Nick Griffin and his coterie were pathological liars. Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen of Facebook fash, Britain First, are compulsive liars. Marine Le Pen, just like dear old papa, lies, lies, and lies. And the Grand Poobah himself, Donald Trump, lies as easily as he breathes. What we're dealing with here is not just the individual flaws of a deeply average and, actually, quite dim man but a sociological phenomenon common to a family of politics. As with everything else, Nuttall doesn't stand out among his peers. He's utterly typical and indistinguishable from them. The banality of evil, indeed.

Image Credit


Phil said...

I'm morbidly fascinated by Nuttall's fallback position re Hillsborough - OK, so he didn't lose any close personal friends, but the 96 did include people I knew through football and things like that. At the age of twelve? How many sixteen-, seventeen-, eighteen-year-olds does the average twelve-year-old know? But if we look at a more believable age range, the numbers get small - only eleven victims were under 16 on the day, and only one was younger than 14. Which of those eleven kids did the young Nuttall "know through football and things like that"?

Boffy said...

Unfortunately, in the era of Big Brother reality TV show, celebrity politics, which the two big parties themselves fostered over the last 30 years, and that was culminated in the idea of turning Parliamentary democracy into a Presidential democracy, with "Leadership debates" and so on, none of it matters.

For the foreseeable future, all election contests fought in the glare of the national media will be about ephemera and show, not about facts and politics. When Channel 4 News did some vox pops in Hanly last week, lots of people talked about needing a Donald Trump in Britain, and even Donald Trump's US being in control of Britain.

It should have become clear by now after Trump, after Brexit, after the success of UKIP and other parties in limited poll elections, that large numbers of people vote today on the basis of bigotry, not on the basis of a rational assessment of facts,a nd many of the structures that in the past enabled a discussion and framing of ideas to distinguish facts from alternative facts have been undermined, or have simply been dismantled, partly because of changes in the workplace, of communities, etc, but also because celebrity "professional", career politicians in the mainstream parties wanted to discourage actual political involvement, which might have made them accountable.

It was what lay behind the idea of Labour politicians on the right, who sought to introduce "primaries", thinking that going straight to the uninvolved "mass" would save them from their own rank and file. I'm sure as a sociologist, you recognise these aspects of a mass society, and the use of plebiscites is also another aspect of such mass societies on their way to authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

In the case of the UK LP, it backfired, as the collapse of the political centre led to the election of Corbyn, and the same has happened in France with the election of Hamon. It nearly happened in the US with Bernie Sanders except the Democrats party machine was corrupt enough to prevent it. Trump is another manifestation, of that process but from the Right, just as Fillon was in France.

But, in a mass society, where politics has been commodified, do not expect elections to be determined by politics, ideas and facts, any more than people's choices of soap powder are determined by facts. That is the reality of the post-truth society that the old mainstream parties, politicians, and media have created.

Real politics today turns not on elections, but on day to day work by the activists of political parties within their communities and workplaces. Only when the fundamental basis of the polity has been changed once more, will elections actually mean anything. In fact, its what I was concerned about in all of the activity about supporting Corbyn two years ago, rather than the need to build that fundamental social and political base. Its also the error that Momentum has fallen into, when it had the opportunity to have done much more.

Anonymous said...

Nutall along comes across as genuinely thick too and not very politically savvy.

All he had to do on the waterboarding question is to say what possibly useful Intelligence would a 10 year old have anyway and dodged it. That fact that he gave an answer shows political naivety.

The fact that this idiot, like Trump, is a threat shows how politics has moved to the Right.

Mick Hall said...

The banality of evil, indeed.

Phil, That last sentence stopped me dead, I have considered these people popinjays until now, then the words of Hannah Arendt in your blog made me think given real power we know where this can lead.

Robert said...

Let's hope Nuttall gets hammered in Stoke and this proves to be the beginning of the end for the poisonous purple party.

keith said...

But Nuttall, what of he? He's alright in the media, he's bald, he's a scouser, and that's about it.

I think he did have a role. That was to be the leader of Ukip's undermining of Labour support among the working class. That was how he described his own political vision. And that was how he was perceived, if not championed, in parts of the media, including among the anti-Corbyn obsessives at the Guardian.

Hopefully, he's finished and the Stoke by-election will deliver a big blow to Ukip's fortunes. But everything we know about Nuttall, the media knew months ago. That they were prepared to foist him on Stoke shows how contemptuous they are of the working class.

Gary Elsby said...

As far as leaflet wars go:
1.Lib Dem (by a mile-leaflets, letters, newspaper, personal plea)

1.Labour/Ukip (Nutall was on the doors here)

Candidates wishing to ruin Jeremy:
1.Ukip/Lib Dem/Labour/Green in no particular order.

A lad knocked on my door and was totally gobsmacked that there was no written record of the Labour vote in Stoke Central.
I asked who was to blame for that?
I burst out laughing.

Phil said...

Always happy to provide you with a laugh, Gary. But Labour does keep track of where its vote is, and has done since the standing start in 2010 just after you were secretary :)

Gary Elsby said...

....and hopefully Phil, your 'track record' of Labour voters will return a Labour MP.

..after all, we did it like falling off a log for 50 years.
easy peezy lemon squeezy.

Gary Elsby said...

As a matter of interest Phil, have you heard of the Redman system?
I used this in a General Election once and very much to the contrast of everyone around me that was quietly reserved about its value.
In my view, we got out the maximum possible vote within the time-scale allowed.
I rate it highly.
For the record also, for 25 years (on my watch) we inside the Labour party knew every household, every voter and every intentional voter to any of the respective parties on offer.

The myth is that we did nothing by the new class of Phil's era.
We actually knew 100%,not 99% Phil and we collected all that information every year for at least 25 years I know of and that is why we returned Labour victories year on year.

MikeB said...

Aaaaand thank you so much Tony Blair for intervening at this point, and providing Nutall with just the opportunity he wanted to speak "for the nation" in opposition to the old paternalists. What a $%^&

Lidl_Janus said...

Given that he started off with "I was at Hillsborough" and moved onto "friends of mine died at Hillsborough", I'm slightly disappointed that Nuttall didn't escalate things to the logical conclusion, "I died at Hillsborough" - although this claim might've been a trickier sell.

MikeB - for better or worse (probably both), I don't think Blair's particularly associated with the Labour Party in 2017, and in any case he had nothing but criticism for them. Not sure what UKIP's attack point is there.

MikeB said...

Lidl_Janus - as Phil reported earlier, Nutall has been trying to divert attention from his all round unsuitability, but particularly his lack of local credibility, by posing as a "national figure". My worry is that Blair's intervention also displaces the local debate and allows the leader of UKIP to appear on the news as a defender of the "national will" again.

Since his resemblance to Eddie Hitler was pointed out, mind, I can't see Nutall as anything else but Ade Edmonson doing a parody of a Scouser.

Gary Elsby said...

Lovely questions from the Tory party phone 'survey'.
1. Will you be voting on Thursday? YES.
2. will BREXIT have any bearing on how you vote. NO.

Been bombarded today SATURDAY with all forms of campaigning.
Newspapers from the Tories and Libs.
Leaflets from UKIP, Tories and Liberals
Personal letters from Tories (anti Flello and Smeeth).
Exceptional multi leaflet from Tories (best I've ever seen anywhere).
Door stepped by Labour and UKIP(ex Labour councillors/ current South of London).