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Nigel Farage versus the Daily Mail

03 Jul 2024 4 minute read
Reform UK leader Nigel Farage in Merthyr Tydfil. Photo Ben Birchall/PA Wire

John Jewell, Director of Undergraduate Studies, School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University

While we might expect a Labour leader to feud with the rightwing Daily Mail during an election campaign, it is a somewhat surprising turn of events for Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK.

Farage’s return to frontline politics has been far from quiet, reaching new decibels with his comments to the BBC suggesting that the west provoked Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The comments themselves provoked rebuke from Keir Starmer, Rishi Sunak and a number of other top Conservatives, as well as former prime minister Boris Johnson.

Feud

Now, Farage is embroiled in an unprecedented feud with the Daily Mail. The Mail on Sunday’s front page printed the headline: “Zelensky: Farage is infected with ‘virus of Putin’”. Farage has threatened legal action, accusing the Mail of “dishonesty” and a breach of the editors code because the quote did not specifically include Farage’s name, and did not come directly from Zelensky. The Mail’s reporting attributes the full quote – “The virus of Putinism, unfortunately, infects people” – to a source from Zelensky’s office.

In a five minute 28 second rebuttal video, Farage accused the Mail of colluding with the Kremlin to “protect the dying Conservative party”:

‘[The Mail] are doing this to protect their friends, the dying Conservative party … somehow the owner of the Mail, Lord Rothermere, thinks that’s my fault. It’s not. They have destroyed themselves with five years of betrayal and broken promises.’

He even likened his situation to a hugely controversial forged document published in the Daily Mail four days before the 1924 general election. The Zinoviev letter, now believed to have been fabricated by anti–Communist Russian activists, claimed that Labour‘s relationship with Russia would lead to a communist revolution in Britain. It was a significant part of the red scare and was used to discredit the first Labour government.

Dishonest

Farage said: “It is the most disgraceful and dishonest political and journalistic act of the entire 20th century, and now the Daily Mail 100 years on are trying to do the same again. They’re trying to stop Reform UK breaking through in big numbers into the British parliament.”

However, despite its polling gains, Reform has somewhat less of a chance of being the ruling party than Labour in 1924. It should also be noted that whether or not the Zelensky quote was misused or exaggerated, the broader assertion that Farage’s original comments buy into a well-established Kremlin line on the war in Ukraine is a lot harder to refute.

Farage and the Mail were previously close ideological bedfellows (a petition of 50,000 signatures once referred to former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre as the “Nigel Farage of Newspapers”). But the two are now at loggerheads, sabres rattling.

Ambition

The Mail on Sunday ominously said in an editorial: “A man who wants to be prime minister can no longer just say anything he feels like saying. From the moment he lets that ambition be known, he is judged by far more severe and intrusive standards than before.”

Recent history shows that anyone with ambitions to be prime minister is certainly judged severely by the Mail group (unless they are a Conservative). In 2015, Ed Miliband, who was then Labour leader, was routinely referred to in its pages as “Red Ed”, son of the “man who hated Britain”.

Miliband was pilloried relentlessly by the daily edition of the newspaper as being completely ineffectual and dangerous. Jeremy Corbyn, the scourge of the right, was also ridiculed and delegitimised by the Mail, including a remarkable June 2017 edition that dedicated 13 pages (including the front) to describing Corbyn and allies as “apologists for terror”.

Farage is clearly showing he is unwilling to sit back and take the criticism. At a rally on June 24, he called former prime minister (and now Mail columnist) Boris Johnson, “morally repugnant” and accused him of “pretending to be a Conservative”.

This article was was first published on The Conversation
The Conversation


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Anthony Marchment
Anthony Marchment
12 days ago

Is it just me, bur NF appears to be seeking more attention than he deserves at this critical stage in the political future of our country.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
12 days ago

Good work. Keep using those initials NF. It’s accurate, can never get you into legal hot water and tells the absolute truth of the identity of Reform UK.

Les Cargot
Les Cargot
11 days ago

Well he ain’t getting it from the BBC until it apologises.

Adrian Bamford
Adrian Bamford
10 days ago

I’m sure it must be infuriating for you that so many people have had enough of the uniparty mundanity and would rather take a chance on change. Democracy’s a bitch innit?

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
12 days ago

I’ve often made reference to Starmer fighting the Tories in their cess pit and post election, will shower off, put on a fresh suit and get on with being PM. That was due to be on Friday. Now, he can get in a couple of quiet days ahead of Friday leaving a three way scrap between Tories, Reform and the Daily Fail to rage on deep in the sump of the swamp. Magic! P.S. I’m not voting Labour and my new battles with the incoming UK government start next week. In the meantime, let’s just enjoy the dispatch of the… Read more »

S Duggan
S Duggan
12 days ago

I’m not fan of either Farage or the Daily Mail but Farage only has himself to blame. He still thinks he can say anything and it will just wash over people as it did with Brexit. But many people have now become wise to his BS. Recent televised debates have seen him ripped apart, ridiculed and laughed at by the public. The Mail is worried about Reform’s 15% but it’s so thinly spread out across the country, due to the FPTP system, Reform will be lucky to get more than a couple of MPs.

Oswald Muesli (Sir)
Oswald Muesli (Sir)
11 days ago

I’m torn between siding with the Daily Mail and NF.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
11 days ago

We’re only making plans for Nigel.
Remember the XTC song.

Oswald Muesli(Sir)
Oswald Muesli(Sir)
11 days ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

Ok count me in, but only if they bring tears to his eyes.

Meg
Meg
11 days ago

The most painful of all poxes on both their stinking houses.
Let their hate towards other be returned to them three times over

Erisian
Erisian
10 days ago

The far Right. Always reaching for the victim card – I guess his time sucking up to Trump and the GOP has taught him well.

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