Mis-Communicator of the Week: Nigel Farage
6th May 2014
In January I made Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, my Communicator of the Week for the way he handled the accusations that his party are racist. Since then these accusations of racism (as well as homophobia and bigotry) have continued and the level of scrutiny of his party has grown. Meanwhile UKIP’s poll ratings remain high and they are on course to win the European Elections.
It was with this backdrop that a by-election was announced for the Newark seat in the UK Parliament. Immediately speculation grew that Nigel Farage was going to stand and aim to take the, previously safe, seat off the Conservative Party.
This speculation grew further via political blogs and social media – notably Twitter – while the UKIP leadership did nothing to dampen expectations or set the record straight. Indeed arguably they did the opposite and fanned the flames of speculation, with Farage himself briefing BBC reporter Norman Smith, stating if he stood and won in Newark, David Cameron would have to resign.
Conversations like this would normally be understood by political reporters to be off the record or as background but Smith Tweeted that and other thoughts therefore clearly having the green-light from UKIP to do so.
The next morning the UKIP bluster began to wear a little thin as the BBC led all of their bulletins with news that Farage would decide on whether to stand “based on overnight polling advice”. Hardly Farage looking or sounding different from other politicians, which has been their calling card for so long. Instead this showed their calculating professionalism which has been so well hidden for so long.
Then, just after 8am, Farage went live on TV to say he had decided not to stand. His reasoning was sound and his words strong, particularly by saying he would have looked an “opportunist” if he had stood once again – aimed at positioning Farage as a different kind of politician. That said his decision led to negative headlines and accusations that he was a bottler, a coward and frit.
There is always the argument that all publicity is good publicity but this episode showed UKIP to be calculating and Farage not to be the chirpy man-next-to-you-at-the-bar type that he has worked so hard to perpetuate. By not getting hold of the story sooner and actually stoking the speculation UKIP lost control of the message in a way they rarely have. For these reasons Nigel Farage is my Mis-Communicator of the Week.
Communicator of the Week is written by Ed Staite.