Hypocrite Nigel Farage rudest man in Europe
Neil Clark: Brussels will be glad to see the back of Nigel Farage if he can beat Bercow in the general election
The British have sent many loud-mouthed yobs to Europe over the years - rampaging football hooligans, drunken stag party revellers - but Nigel Farage, leader of the UKIP MEPs, takes the crown after his performance yesterday.
Already known in Brussels for his brash and abrasive style, Farage launched a scathing personal attack on the new President of the EU Council, Herman van Rompuy, in the European Parliament, one which left MEPs reeling in shock at its sheer nastiness.
"Who are you? I'd never heard of you, nobody in Europe had ever heard of you," Farage proclaimed. He said van Rompuy had the "charisma of a damp rag" and compared him to a "low-grade bank clerk". For good measure he also insulted the EU President's homeland, saying Belgium was "pretty much a non-country".
Farage's attack (see video above) on the modest and mild-mannered van Rompuy and his equally inoffensive country will only confirm what many in Europe think about the British: that we are a country of arrogant, bullying xenophobes.
Farage, a former commodity broker, represents the worst kind of Brit abroad, a blazered, braying, over-confident public schoolboy, convinced of his own - and his country's - superiority over others.
There is undoubtedly a strong 'Eurosceptic' case to be made against the undemocratic EU and its institutions, but it does not involve making vicious personal attacks on the President of the EU Council, or making derogatory remarks about the country he comes from.
Farage's attacks on van Rompuy as well as being offensive are also contradictory. Last year, when the Belgian's appointment, and that of the Baroness Ashton as the EU's High Representative was announced, Farage lambasted the pair as "two political pygmies", lamenting that "in terms of a global voice, the European Union will now be much derided by the rest of the world".
But Farage and his party have consistently opposed the idea of the EU playing a global role. Did they really want someone like Tony Blair to be the EU President, instead of van Rompuy?
The UKIP stance on the EU also reeks of hypocrisy. The party ferociously attacks the EU and its institutions at every opportunity, yet its 13 MEPs are quite happy to draw their €91,980 salaries from Brussels - and their generous expenses. Last year Farage boasted that he had received around £2m in non-salary expenses and allowances from Brussels since becoming an MEP in 1999.
But the days of attacking the EU, while riding on its gravy train, may be coming to an end. Farage is standing against Speaker of the House John Bercow in Buckingham at the upcoming general election. If elected, which is looking increasingly plausible, he will be forced to relinquish his MEP's position due to the dual mandate rule.
By standing against Bercow, Farage is once again causing controversy: it is a convention that the Commons Speaker is returned unopposed. But Farage's chances of becoming his party's first ever MP appear bright: Bercow, nominally a Conservative, is unpopular with Conservative-inclined voters - and with leader David Cameron - due to his close relationship with New Labour. UKIP also did well in the area in last year's European and local elections.
Furthermore, Bercow's campaign could be derailed after a complaint was made over possible impropriety regarding a 'Friends of Speaker Bercow' fund-raising letter.
It could well be that on the morning after the general election, Farage will be celebrating an historic success. And it's a good bet that the champagne corks will be popping in Brussels too, as Herman van Rompuy and his fellow Belgians celebrate the departure from their "non-country" of the rudest man in Europe. ·
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