Sebastian Payne

The fruitcakes are back as Ukip declares ‘war with the BBC’

The fruitcakes are back as Ukip declares ‘war with the BBC’
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Ukip is becoming a two-faced party. One side is made up of credible political challengers, while the other side comprises LibLabCon conspiracy theorists. Since the last election, the party has made progress by promoting this serious side, while sidelining the fruitcakes. But over the last few days, the more loony side of the party has reappeared, thanks to the party making the BBC a campaign issue. While out campaigning in Aylesbury yesterday, Nigel Farage said he had no complaints about the other broadcasters — just the Beeb:

‘We have this bizarre state of affairs where we have BBC, an organisation which we are all charged £145 a year to have the benefit of seeing, aren't regulated by Ofcom and made their own minds up and frankly produce the News at Ten every night as if there are just two choices in England. I think they have been biased and last night's report about South Thanet frankly was outrageous

Then Ukip took the bizarre decision to report Camilla Long to the police over a joke she made on Have I Got News For You about spending more time in South Thanet than Farage. Although it was clearly a joke, Ukip claimed it was a breach of Section 106 of the Representation of People Act. Kent police declined to take the complaint any further but this hasn’t stopped Ukip. A party source told the Daily Mail this morning:

'We will no longer be collaborating with the BBC between now and the election unless their coverage of Ukip changes drastically. We have said we are at war with the BBC and we mean it.'

Ukip want to have it both ways: attacking the state broadcaster while demanding more airtime. In the spin room of last night’s Question Time special, I witnessed an exchange between an aide to Paul Nuttall, Ukip’s deputy leader, and a BBC producer. The aide was harassing the BBC for not giving him enough airtime — despite the fact Ukip weren’t involved in last night’s event. The aide was adamant that Nuttall should appear again, after Paddy Ashdown, Lucy Powell and George Osborne had done their turns. But what was the point? Nuttall wasn’t able to spin for Ukip's appearance, as they weren’t featured on the Question Time special. Nor had he seen Nigel Farage’s separate Q&A. Eventually, Nuttall got his airtime and bemoaned the fact Ukip weren't involved.

Now Ukip has been given ‘major party’ status from Ofcom, they have the right to fight for more TV coverage. But it’s odd that the party has decided to turn down opportunities to promote their message as an act of defiance. Just a few years ago, Ukip was struggling to be heard with the odd slot on Russia Today. Now, they are everywhere. But will this vendetta against the BBC appeal to the party's core 20 per cent strategy, or will they see it as a bit pointless?

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