Not the Conservatives, not Labour, not the Liberal Democrats; but Al Murray, under the guise of his satirically xenophobic ‘Pub Landlord’ character, poses the greatest challenge to UKIP and Nigel Farage in the coming months.
Murray’s ‘Pub Landlord’ character has cemented his position as one of the top comedians in the country, as recognised by The Observer in 2003 as one of the top 50 funniest British comedy acts. He has recently announced his intentions to run for MP of the constituency Thanet South as leader of the newly formed FUKP (Free United Kingdom Party), coincidentally running against UKIP’s own leader, Nigel Farage. I use the term ‘coincidentally’ facetiously here; there is nothing coincidental about why Murray is running in direct opposition with Farage. Al Murray is, despite his act, a highly intelligent, Oxford educated man, who appears to have put together one of the more elaborate smear campaigns in recent memory.
Murray is nullifying UKIP’s political agenda to nothing more than a comedic stunt
The ‘Pub Landlord’ character that he has created has overt, direct connotations with the wider public perception of what the stereotypical UKIP supporter is: a white, brash, blue collar Brit, and proud to be as such. Whilst this evidently is not representative of the entirety of UKIP’s popular support, Murray’s character definitely flaunts the publically perceived irrationalities of the UK Independence Party and its support, which is exactly the purpose of the campaign. Murray is nullifying UKIP’s political agenda to nothing more than a comedic stunt, undermining not only Mr Farage’s MP candidacy but also UKIP’s claim to be a serious party, a semblance they so dearly crave.
This subversion of Farage’s party begins with the ‘Pub Landlord’ striving to link the FUKP to UKIP in parodical fashion. For example, FUKP’s symbol is simply UKIP’s pound emblem flipped upside down to resemble an F, and coupled with this, one could infer that a phonetic pronunciation of FUKP is somewhat expletive towards UKIP (F UKIP). With a clear connection in place, Murray’s ridiculous and hilarious policies such as “1p pints and 1p glasses of wine (for the ladies)” or lowering immigration by making Britain a more miserable place and further “bricking up the channel tunnel” by “getting some Poles to do it” all reflect poorly on Farage’s party simply by the power of association; The Telegraph website has exemplified this with a quiz titled: ‘Who said it: Nigel Farage or Al Murray?’ The quiz provides unnamed quotes and asks the reader to guess whether Farage or Murray said it, demonstrating clear public opinion that both the parody party and the actual party have similarities, enough to cause confusion amongst readers. Obviously, this accentuates UKIP and Farage’s undermining due to Murray’s satirical campaign.
For ghosts of the past to be dragged back into the forefront of people’s minds by the ‘Pub Landlord’ will only be of detriment to their political campaign
In doing this quiz, the Telegraph recirculated some of the more calamitous quotes that Farage has expressed, presenting another issue that FUKP presents to UKIP. Such ridicule, specifically on immigration, further condemns UKIP by drawing our minds back to their many political follies, ranging from the racist jokes from comedian Paul Eastwood performed at their spring conference, to candidate William Henwood tweeting that Lenny Henry should “emigrate to a black country”. Looking at Farage himself, Murray’s comments casts our minds back to the “you know the difference” quote on LBC radio regarding the difference between Romanians and Germans as neighbours, along with his comments about working mothers being worth less than their male counterparts, or perhaps that his lateness to a UKIP fundraiser was due to poor immigration control on the M4. UKIP’s ability to overcome these drawbacks, perhaps even taking them in their stride, is admirable, yet for ghosts of the past to be dragged back into the forefront of people’s minds by the ‘Pub Landlord’ will only be of detriment to their political campaign.
Such detriment is already visible. Farage’s campaign is now being afforded increased scrutiny thanks to Murray and FUKP, a recent example being a photo Farage claims was of himself in dialogue with in excess of 500 Thanet South residents. Yet reports, including images taken at the event, seem to show around only 100 people present. Murray is driving UKIP back towards the image they have desperately tried to separate themselves from; a fringe party which is only in the news for outlandish claims and cheap political stunts.
An unnecessary headache for UKIP
Whilst Murray is not going to win the constituency, his campaign is gaining traction Bookmakers Betfair and Paddy Power have him as 66/1 and 50/1 on to win the seat respectively, whilst Ladbrokes believe he is odds on to outpoll the Liberal Democrats. Nevertheless, the comedian represents an unnecessary headache for UKIP. There is growing support for what is increasingly appearing to be a smear campaign, making Al Murray and FUKP an ever-growing stumbling block for UKIP, who are still trying to breach the ‘Pub Landlord’ stereotype associated with its supporters. However, this battle doesn’t seem destined to end any time soon. Comedy is a vehicle that the masses can bandwagon onto, and it’s a vehicle which is really picking up speed.