Many see UKIP as the party breaking down barriers and reshaping the British political landscape. Others view them as hate preaching extreme right wingers. Love them or loath them it has certainly been the biggest year in the parties short history. At the centre of this year’s success is the party’s leader Nigel Farage who by The Times newspaper has been named ‘Briton of the year’…a very controversial decision indeed.
Nigel Farage started this year as the leader of a party with no members of Parliament and 13 MEP’s from the 2009 European elections. Approaching the end of 2014 the former commodity broker is at the head of the party with the highest number of British representatives in the European Parliament and now two MPs with Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell. To say these achievements warrant Farage being branded ‘Briton of the year’ has certainly been met with resistance and some anger. One comment on the Times website written to the paper’s editor read ‘the behaviours and attitudes of both he (Nigel Farage) and the party he leads are often ill-informed and unpleasant.’ The nature in which UKIP have taken the political scene by storm has gained it a mass of critics but the pictures of the party’s leader drinking pints in traditional English pubs has struck a chord with many voters.
Farage has managed to start to put the fear into Labour and the Conservatives; the problem is the manner in which UKIP policies are shaping and with Farage at the head of these decisions it’s hard to come to terms with him being called ‘Briton of the year’. For example, Farage prioritised lower economic growth and a poorer Britain over an increase in migrants in the UK saying “The social side of this matters more than pure market economics.” Earlier this month he appeared to condone a UKIP candidate use of the word ‘chinky’ to describe a Chinese person saying on the radio station LBC “If you and your mates were going out for a Chinese, what would you call it?” UKIP MP Mark Reckless suggested a policy of deporting EU migrants currently in the country and the party’s energy spokesperson Roger Helmer told the Independent the concept of climate change is ‘open to question.’ At the head of every controversial moment, every crazy policy and any racist or sexist comment a UKIP member has conducted, there is Nigel Farage; The Times Briton of the year. He’s had a big year but there are certainly others that fit the bill of such a title.
In the news today is that a Nurse now back on British shores has been infected with the ebola virus. She is one of many Britons who have risked their life to give aid to those who most need it in Western Africa. UKIP want to scrap international aid a hateful policy but some Brits see the importance in helping those who need it especially when a disease like this spreads so fast through a region. If Nigel Farage has won because he has managed to shake up politics then surely Russell Brand should have been considered. Granted he sparks the same anger in some people as Farage does but at least Brand’s political objective is to highlight social inequality and his work on British drug culture has done untold good. Some Brits this year lost their lives at the hands of ISIS as they went to the Middle East as part of an aid venture for those affected by war including Alan Henning. Then there is the certainly the best candidate for Briton of the year: Stephen Sutton. A remarkable 19 year old that captured the hearts of millions and in the process raised £5 million for charity. He received an MBE from the Queen and unbroken spirit in the face of a horrible disease inspired many suffering in the same way. Sadly Stephen died in May but his legacy will continue to live on.
The Times did name Farage winner ‘for good or ill’ and perhaps naming him attracted more attention. Such a prestige’s title, however, should surely be given to those whose interests are in spreading good not hate. UKIP also became Britain’s “most disliked party” in 2014, with young voters particularly worrying about “racist tendencies in the party.” The shame with British politics at the moment is that the young demographic may dislike Farage and UKIP yet have the lowest voter turnout of any other age group.