Nigel Farage's Coutts bank account: This is no business of the government
While the country comes to a standstill and Europe swelters, our government is most concerned about whether Nigel Farage has a bank account. It's pitiful
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Hardly any trains are running today.
The NHS is beset with strikes, with consultants walking out after junior doctors’ five-day downing of tools last week.
Southern Europe is dangerously hot for humans.
War in Ukraine still rages.
And while inflation has eased, it is still far outstripping the pay rises most of us received this year, so in effect we’re becoming poorer by the day.
And yet what are we talking about, with government ministers tweeting and civil servants briefing on the subject?
Whether Nigel Farage should be allowed a posh bank account. God give me strength.
Farage, love him or loathe him, is undoubtedly one of the most skilled political operators in the country, although one who is best suited to nuisance-causing from the opposition rather than governance. His ability to predict and shape the public’s - and the media’s - topics of conversation is unfailing, whether you like what he says or not. And his talent for making the most of events for self-publicity (remember the 2010 election plane crash?) is unparalleled.
He has managed to manoeuvre himself into a position, where despite only holding the positions of honorary president of Reform UK and presenting a GB News show, if he talks the government jumps. So a day after raising the issue of being delisted by Coutts again, lo and behold the front page of today’s edition of The Times reports that “ministers are considering making free speech protections a conditions of permits” for banks.
The tail - again - wags the dog. We find our government, the people who we elect to make the world a better place, pandering to a man whose raison d’etre is to stoke the culture wars at every juncture. And, luckily for them, we know Suella Braverman and her ilk love a bit of “us versus them” culture warring themselves, much to the detriment of the country.
And so when Mr Farage says “Well done, the Government. I think this is one of the swiftest interventions I’ve seen by government for many, many years" this should not be a cause for celebration, but of disappointment of what it tells us about the priorities of those in Westminster.
Don’t be fooled by what’s spouted in faux outrage. This government does not care hugely for free speech. Its Policing Act brought in powers that saw journalists arrested for simply covering protests, and gave police powers to stop and search passers-by at demonstrations. Just as under Boris Johnson, the government is driven by populism - hang the principles, what do we think will serve us best today as we try to cling to power? Yesterday we demonise desperate children arriving in small boats, today we excoriate banks, tomorrow we will find a new enemy.
We should be better than this.
Nigel Farage should be able to find someone else to give him a current account without making it everyone else’s business.
And our political leaders should have a crack at what will improve our children’s lives, not what plays well with the right-wing press.