Milkshakes Don’t Bring Farage To The Yard

As a campaign bus adorning the colours of the newly formed Brexit Party pulled into Wakefield on Monday, the face of the party and Mr. Brexit himself, Nigel Farage, told reporters that he would be staying on board the bus fearing that if he alighted he ‘would be mobbed within 30 seconds’. With the Brexit Party topping opinion polls ahead of the European elections on the 23rd May, one might reasonably assume Farage was wary of being swamped by celebratory masses, cheering his Messianic return to British politics.

The reality, however, is much different — and much funnier.
​Farage’s decision to stay bus-bound in Wakefield was prompted by his earlier dousing in a banana and salted caramel milkshake by a member of the public. The 32-year old man who threw the drink at Farage nonetheless. the latter was campaigning in Newcastle was subsequently arrested on suspicion of common assault and criminal damage. The man stated: ‘I was quite looking forward to [the milkshake], but I think it went on a better purpose’.

​The incident on Monday is the latest in a string of lactose-based attacks on far-right politicians in the UK. Last week, footage emerged of Tommy Robinson suffering the same milky fate. Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) has gained a reputation for his uncompromising anti-Islamic views and is standing as an independent candidate in the North-West of England in the upcoming elections. Meanwhile, UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin, who is under investigation for remarks he made about raping Labour MP Jess Phillips, has reportedly suffered the milkshake treatment four times during his campaign. 

​The incident involving Farage has prompted a debate over the direction of political debate. There are many who believe that milkshaking sets a dangerous precedent, stifling political discussion whilst facilitating an increase in more violent methods. In his response to being doused, Farage tweeted that such acts were making campaigning ‘impossible’, acting as an obstacle to ‘civilised democracy’.

​Given these remarks, it is odd therefore that Farage made the Trumpian move of banning Channel 4 from Brexit Party press conferences over the weekend following questioning on Channel 4 News over his expenses and financial relationship to Leave.EU financier, Arron Banks. What is more, despite his apparent desire to participate in a ‘civilised democracy’, Farage was filmed in May 2017 claiming that if Brexit was not delivered he would have to ‘don khaki and pick up a rifle’ — one can only assume to pick off milkshakers, the real enemies of democracy. 

​In addition, the emergence of milkshaking as a political tool comes amid the publication of a nationwide survey showing that 71% of people from ethnic minorities had reported facing discrimination — a figure up from 58% in 2016 prior to the referendum. The overtly racist, not to mention generally hurtful and sexist rhetoric of figures like Robinson, Benjamin and, more implicitly but equally as damagingly, Farage has a causal relationship to the increase in racial hatred. The political legitimacy that has unduly being conferred onto such figures following the referendum has emboldened a constituency of British citizens to willingly incite racism and help normalise it in the process.

​The next time Farage thinks of bemoaning the ‘impossibility’ of political campaigning as a result of lactose-based drinks, he should reflect on how the politics he propounds facilitate a certain impossibility for almost three-quarters of ethnic minorities in Britain: going through life without abuse because of the colour of their skin.

​In response to the incident, a Downing Street spokesperson affirmed that the Prime Minister ‘has been clear that politicians should be able to go about their work and campaign without harassment, intimidation, or abuse’. Similarly, former Labour prime minister Tony Blair argued that milkshaking is ‘horrible and ridiculous and people shouldn’t do it’. Such remarks are reflective of a mindset that offers protection to politicians with abhorrent views on the basis of the very fact that they are politicians.

​Whilst the milkshakes may not (yet) have committed racial or atrocities on a mass scale, it is worth remembering that Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Moseley etc. were all at one point regarded as politicians. These comparisons may seem absurd but the real absurdity is the level of protection that figures like Farage receive from establishment figures. History has shown us that the far-right cannot be trusted nor can their prejudice merely be outdebated or appeased — their politics must be challenged and their views squeezed to the very margins of public debate. The status of ‘politician’ should not provide a form of insulation against attempts to expose and condemn intolerable views.

​The rise of the far-right is real and it has to be checked. Milkshake is not an ideal instrument to this end, nor is it sustainable, but it has proved a useful symbol nonetheless. It takes the recent white nationalist symbol of milk and makes it look ridiculous. It publicly humiliates those who represent a politics which is premised on and sustained by the active subjugation and humiliation of those who are more vulnerable.

Anyway, what kind of snowflake gets upset by a bit of milkshake thrown at them?

Image Credit: Sky News