The Times' Briton of the Year - A wholly wrong choice
I'm truly shocked at The Time's choice of Nigel Farage as Briton of the Year this morning.
The choice of the leader of UKIP sends out a wholly wrong message. True, he has been on the top of his game politically, Farage has been almost ubiquitous across the British media.
Love him or loath him, he has been an inescapable presence.
But so were other people. Wouldn't it have been so much better for The Times to chose a Briton whose contribution was positive. Up-lifting. Inspiring.
Wouldn't it have been so much better if The Times had chosen the late Stephen Sutton.
Whatever you think of Farage and his party's message, you can not get away from the fact that he, and they, have played their hand extraordinarily well during 2014. Taking advantage of every opportunity. Jumping on each and every populist band wagon. Playing the public, and the media, extraordinarily well.
Times' columnists have been defending the decision to choose Farage in a number of ways. Tim Montgomerie for example tweeted earlier today that the choice was in no way an endorsement. Rather it was about the impact Farage had made. His, put simply, had been the greatest impact.
That might well be the case.
But that impact has been wholly negative. The reasons why Farage and UKIP have performed so well in the media circus our politics has increasingly become, are exactly those as to why he should be denied the title.
UKIP under their leader have indeed taken advantage. They've taken advantage of the fear felt by a section of the public about those who are different. Those who come from other places. Those who seem unfamiliar.
They have jumped on populist bandwagons. They oppose High Speed Rail. They want to stop immigration. They propose an end to policies that support green energy production. UKIP are against much yet positively propose little.
Farage has played the public. He's persuaded them he's a 'man of the people'. He has propagated a persona that results in him being the political leader most Britons would 'like to spend some time in the pub with'. He's presented himself and his party as an uprising of the silent masses. And when the media or his opponents highlight the prejudiced, sometimes even abhorrent, views of his supporters he's successfully persuaded many that he and they are victims of the machinations of an elite. Unfairly and incorrectly maligning the 'ordinary bloke' for speaking his mind.
Yes, Nigel Farage's year has been an exceptional one. Yes, he has been successful in placing his views and his party's agenda at the centre of the national debate. Yes, he has placed all of this at the forefront of our media narrative.
Yet all of this has been negative. The language has been that of exclusion. The narrative has been one that propagates fear.
How very different was Stephen Sutton.
Diagnosed with terminal cancer, the teenager undertook an incredible, inspiring campaign to firstly highlight the terrible, debilitating toll taken by his disease. And then to encourage donations to the Teenage Cancer Trust in the hope that others need not suffer in the way he did himself.
Stephen Sutton took his own personal tragedy and turned it into an amazingly positive campaign of hope.
He enlisted support from the media, celebrities, even politicians, to promote his cause and encourage further support.
In many ways there are parallels between Nigel Farage's achievements and Stephen Sutton's. Stephen took advantage of every opportunity, understanding that it may be his last. He created his own populist bandwagon. He played the media and the public for his own purpose.
That purpose was a wholly positive one. It captured the spirit of our nation. It bound so many together. It was impressive. Inspiring. Up-lifting.
That's why Stephen Sutton should be The Times' Briton of the year.
That's why I've donated to his cause this evening.
If you would like to do so too, you can do so here.