Politicians and journalists are fond of pugilistic and bellicose metaphors. ‘Batlles’ are ‘hard-fought’, elections have ‘campaigns’ and transport around them is by ‘battle-bus’.
Last week UKIP MEP Stephen Woolf was rushed to hospital in a serious conditions after being on the receiving end of actual, real-life violence. No-one should be subject to a violent assault of the kind that Stephen Woolf MEP suffered.
It doesn’t matter that it was at the hands of one of his erstwhile colleagues. It wouldn’t have been any better or worse if he had been punched by one of his political adversaries.
It has been a week in which ‘alpha male’ behaviour has been a theme. Donald Trump’s lewd, violent, sexist comments caught on a live mic were followed up by his own actions in the second presidential debate. In it, in amongst the general threats to incarcerate his opponent – as sure a sign as any that he couldn’t ever out-debate Clinton – he stalked around behind her, a looming, malevolent presence.
Incredibly, the link between these two events was Nigel Farage. Having spoken at a Trump rally earlier in the US election campaign, he went out to bat for Trump after the release of the damning footage. He claimed that the incident was merely and example of “alpha male boasting. It’s the kind of thing…that men do.” While that’s is true on it’s own terms – men clearly do do this kind of thing – Farage is accepting and condoning Trump’s right to do behave in that way.
Politically this matters because Trump is the archetype of a ‘strong man’ demagogue. In the face of growing uncertainty, his answer is simple and plain: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
I have written before on this blog asking what would become of UKIP now their self-defined, singular political aim had been achieved. If there were any uncertainty about the question there is less now. UKIP’s fate appears to be a nihilistic decent into literal in-fighting, having graduated from the small-minded internecine sniping of their leadership election.