Much of the Scottish media today is full of (mostly right-wing) commentators bleating piteously about the dreadful carnage in Edinburgh yesterday in which, um, a couple of dozen scruffy student types shouted at a silly man for a bit. Here, for example, is the usually-sane Alex Massie wringing his hands about the horror of it all in the Spectator:
“The hounding of Farage is a reminder that Scotland – or at least Scottish politics – is not quite as generous, open-minded and tolerant a place as it likes to fancy itself. There is, it seems, a narrow spectrum of views deemed acceptable or legitimate. Anyone who falls outside that range can be ignored or, better still, suppressed.”
Suppressed? Are we talking about the same Nigel Farage?
THAT Nigel Farage, up there?
A colleague of Massie’s – on both the Scotsman and a right-wing Scottish blog staffed by some pretty senior professional journalists – put it even more melodramatically, in a piece so hysterical and ridiculous we can’t bring ourselves to dignify it with a link:
“Yesterday, in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, just up the road from the cradle of the nation’s democracy, the leader of a mainstream British party was hounded, abused and bullied by nationalist protestors who might as well have been wearing brown shirts.”
While UKIP is certainly growing in England, “mainstream” seems a bit of a stretch at this point for a party with precisely 0 MPs out of 650 in Westminster, 0 MSPs out of 130 in Scotland, and 0 AMs out of 60 in the Welsh Assembly. But it’s the idea that Farage is being somehow silenced that defies all reason.
Here’s the coverage the minor incident got on the BBC website alone this morning:
If we were to start listing all the other newspaper articles and blogs on the subject, we’d be here all day. For a man without a single Parliamentarian anywhere on the British mainland, Farage must be the most over-exposed politician in the country by a galactic distance. The notion that he’s being “suppressed” is somewhere on a par with complaining that Dara O’Briain is being kept off the TV.
(We love Dara O’Briain, by the way.)
Yesterday’s micro-scuffle ensured another bountiful airtime and column-inch jackpot for the UKIP leader. Who gains and loses from that is a vaguely interesting matter for debate. But if there’s one thing that can’t possibly be in the slightest doubt, it’s that Nigel Farage does not suffer from a freedom-of-speech deficit.
His opinions are broadcast to the British public a thousand times more often than those of the tiny handful of people who opposed him yesterday – indeed, had the protest taken place in England, most of them would probably be in jail at the moment, bruised and bleeding, for causing the poor man distress and alarm.
In Scotland at least, it seems freedom to speak still includes freedom to protest too. Some people would do well to remember that.