UKIP's reward for rudeness

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Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party MEP, broke all the rules of etiquette in the European Parliament yesterday with a personal attack on the new EU President, Herman van Rumpoy, telling him he had "the charisma of a damp rag, and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk".

This morning his speech was the basis of not one, but two items on the Today programme. 

At 6.50, James Naughtie ran a clip from the speech, sniggered, and then interviewed Farage (below). You could have thought this was a different man: Farage was calm, poised and informative as he expounded his view of European politics. 

"You're putting this very rationally," commented Naughtie, as he turned the interview to the question of Farage's explosive speech, "do you think there was any point in doing it that way. I mean, what have you gained?" 

"Well, I think if I've managed to get on your programme and elsewhere ..."

(Nervous laugh from Naughtie.)

"... a proper debate going, so that people can understand this Lisbon treaty was forced through ... then hopefully, hopefully, it was worthwhile."

Indeed, it was obvious that, had Farage made his speech in the same tone he used this morning, the chances of an invitation from the Today programme would have been close to zero. It wasn't a comfortable place for Naughtie to find himself. 

At 8.30, the programme took a second bite at the subject.

Johnny Diamond reported on the impact of what he called Farage's "staggeringly rude" speech about van Rumpoy (below) with some amusing detail about how "damp rag" was translated into the various official languages, and why, during simultaneous translation, "the Greeks always laugh last". 

Diamond threw in his own Farage-style swipe at foreigners with an off-the-cuff remark that Dutch was "recognised as one of the ugliest languages in the European Union". 

Indeed, this was more a celebration of the eccentric Briton than a piece about how our European partners had been offended. "Nigel Farage is fabulous at coming up with these rather stinging sound-bites," said Diamond, approvingly, but he went on to place the whole thing into its political context - Europeans' suspicions that Farage is trying to get himself expelled from the parliament in a bid for political martyrdom. 

Surely the second item was the right response to Farage's speech - a light piece about rudeness, rather than the first, which let Farage make his political points on the back of an entertaining outburst? 

However you look at it, UKIP's media people must have noticed that you get results by letting Farage go over the top.

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