This week, viewers of BBC2’s Meet The Ukippers saw Nigel Farage claim it’s all the fault of “tabloid newspapers” that people think UKIP is a racist party. Such a claim is disingenuous at best because it ignores the racism within UKIP which is clearly the source of that perception. It also belittles a cosy symbiosis between UKIP and the tabloids from which Farage has benefited far more than he has suffered. A number of tabloids have worked pretty hard to stir up exactly the kind of xenophobia UKIP have been capitalising upon.
Farage’s unconvincing dismay about his treatment by UK tabloids is also a little ungrateful when you consider Richard Desmond, owner of two of those tabloids, the Express and the Daily Star, has reportedly backed UKIP to the tune of £300,000. Desmond also seems to have given Farage the unwavering support of the Daily Express including his own column in the paper – ‘Farage on Friday’.
In October 2014, Desmond appointed UKIP peer Lord Stevens to be deputy chairman of Express newspapers. That followed a move the other way the previous year by the Express‘s political editor Patrick O’Flynn. At the time, Farage pointed out O’Flynn had “done a lot to support the UKIP cause” while writing for the Express. And if some of this week’s coverage is anything to go by, the paper has certainly kept up the good work to such an extent that it may well have rebranded itself as a UKIP newsletter by the time May rolls around:
It really wouldn’t take much to complete the Express’s transformation.
The Express was certainly fawning all over Farage on Saturday following his “barnstorming” speech to the party faithful at their spring conference in Margate. Saturday’s front page set the tone, declaring “UKIP will have a famous victory in the general election”.
“In a barnstorming conference speech, the UKIP leader set his sights on “lots of seats”,” wrote the Express, giddy with excitement and repeating unsubstantiated claims and promises from Farage unquestioningly. The paper also reported this week on a poll (funded by UKIP donor Alan Bown) which gives Farage “a stunning” and “formidable” 11-point lead in South Thanet.
Pass the bucket.
One UKIP story which the Express has not reported is a piece of research from ComRes which suggested the number of voters who do believe UKIP is racist has increased, up to 44 per cent, while 47 per cent believe it is not a credible political party. Both figures are up over 10 per cent year-on-year.
But that’s all the fault of the tabloids, of course.
A shared target market
This close relationship between UKIP and the Express makes a lot of sense. Not only do they share the same prejudices and politics but they are united by an over-reliance on the same narrow audience – right wing pensioners. According to YouGov, the profiles of their target market are very similar indeed:
For more Election Watch pieces, see:
Election Watch: Clowns and a hybrid car crash
Election Watch: Byker gang targets Miliband
Election Watch: Tory balls and a little pink bus
Election Watch: It’s going to be a long election