Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party pretends to stand for the traditional values of old England: Parliamentary sovereignty, patriotism and decency. However little the uninitiated thought of Farage, they would expect his candidates to condemn the IRA murdering children in Warrington and to take a strong line against child pornography. Not so. Or rather, not always.
Claire Fox (top of the list of Brexit Party candidates for the North West), James Heartfield (one of the party's candidates in Yorkshire and the Humber) and Alka Sehgal Cuthbert (a candidate in London) are all former members of the Revolutionary Communist Party and its successor organisations. The RCP's defence of the IRA when it was blowing up children and Living Marxism's (the RCP's journal's) promotion of the cover up of war crimes by Serb death squads during the Bosnian conflict, are now widely known. (Although as I said in the Observer, the BBC’s failure to cross-examine Fox about them when it put her on the Moral Maze, of all programmes, dozens of times tells you all need to know about its moral standards.)
People say the RCP has changed since the 1990s, which is why former revolutionary communists can ally with Farage’s British nationalists. But the RCP, whether it reinvented itself as Living Marxism, the Institute of Ideas or Spiked, remained an organisation whose cadres work for each other and walk the party line. They may get their money from the Koch Brothers these days, but the conformist outlook and hectoring tone remain the same.
Like Boris Johnson, Owen Jones, Seumas Milne and Michael Gove they are ‘journalicians’, to coin a phrase, who make a career by breaking down the barriers between the media and politics. In the case of the artists formerly known as the RCP, they know that editors will always commission ‘contrarians’ who provide extreme opinions to order, and eventually a politician will find those opinions to be of service.
Nor is it clear that their views have changed. Colin Parry, whose 12-year-old son Tim, was murdered in the 1993 IRA bombing of Warrington said this week:
I give some credit to @Fox_Claire for having the gumption to call me today but the fact that she repeatedly refused to disavow her comments supporting the IRA bombing which took Tim’s and Johnathan’s young lives proves she hasn’t changed her original views
— Colin Parry OBE (@ColinParryPeace) May 1, 2019
Fox's comments about child pornography come from an ultra-libertarian position, which I suspect plays well with a key market on the US right. But rather than speculate on motive, allow me to lay out the evidence. Farage says he’s all for freedom of speech, and there’s no point in having freedom unless you use it. His bombastic performance on the Andrew Marr show suggests he is not as keen on political accountability. But journalists who aren’t politicians still believe candidates for office must be confronted with their past statements
James Heartfield opined in Spiked on the treatment of child abuse in the 1980s. He had several good points: there were gross injustices at the time and the tales of an establishment paedophile ring in Westminster were false. But this is the RCP and not the Liberal Democrats. Crime must always be the result of a moral panic or a politically correct witch-hunt, and he concluded with a denunciation of fears of child abuse as a fantasy:
‘What these fantasies can never do is understand the real motivations that have led to an unremitting child-abuse panic, because they are simply attempts to share in it.’
No one who has experienced child abuse or spoken to those who have been abused believes that all fears of paedophilia are a ‘panic.’ It is predictable but still worth noting that Heartfield offers no evidence to justify his assertion. But then evidence is a buzzkill when the far left and far right embrace. Its absence certainly does not seem to bother Nigel Farage.
Child pornography rather than child rape concerns Heartfield’s comrade and fellow Brexit Party candidate Alka Sehgal Cuthbert. She deplored the willingness of children’s charities to include it their definition of child abuse: ‘Children...looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.’
‘In what world is enticing a child into prostitution or anal intercourse in any sense equivalent to kissing or looking at pornographic images?’ she cried in exasperation. I think we can agree that child pornography isn’t as bad as child rape. I think we can also agree that the production of child pornography often involves child rape, so there are many occasions when this is a distinction without a difference.
Does this mean child pornography should not be banned? Indeed it does not, says Claire Fox. In a podcast interview, the Daily Telegraph's Christopher Hope asked: ‘You don’t think jihadi videos should be banned but you do think child pornography should be banned from the internet?
Fox: 'I think child pornography itself is illegal and therefore it wouldn’t exist, yeah.'
Hope: 'But the videos...'
Fox: 'I do not want to give the state and the authorities the right to ban things on the internet. No ifs.'
Presented with her comments by Robert Peston last week, Nigel Farage said: ‘She’s a well-respected commentator, a clear thinker.’
Such are the candidates for the patriotic and decent Brexit party. Three points are worth noting.
Right-wingers condemn Jeremy Corbyn for good reasons. But if they don’t condemn the Brexit Party for the same reasons, they are the most awful hypocrites.
Second, I would advise all the Brexit Party supporters who go on about Muslim grooming gangs to direct a portion of their anger closer to home.
Finally, what does the presence of these people tell us about Farage? That he hasn’t condemned Fox and friends makes it look as if he has a monomaniacal inability to admit he has made a mistake, which is never a good sign in anyone but an ominous failing in a politician.
The Brexit Party is the Farage Party. It has no manifesto, no grass roots or network of regional and national committees. He appears to have absolute power. And although he has never defended the IRA – and doesn't say that child pornography should not be banned – he uses that power to protect and promote those that do. Small wonder he explodes when confronted with hard questions.