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I don't like Nigel Farage's opinions but his family should not be targets

By Jane Graham

Published 03/04/2015

Easy target: Ukip’s Nigel Farage has many critics
Easy target: Ukip’s Nigel Farage has many critics

One of my favourite images from the General Election so far is of a red-faced, panting Nigel Farage running across a field, briefly turning his head to shout 'Scum!' at the marauding pack of breastfeeding mums chasing him, circling their maternity bras above their heads like lassoes. Of course, this didn't really happen - well, not quite like that.

But the recent story of Farage being set upon by aggrieved nursing mothers while he was enjoying his Sunday lunch in a local pub did spark a delightful set of imaginative scenarios in one's brain.

This isn't to suggest I call for more melodrama in the election run-up.

Amusing myself with visions of undignified Farages may be one of my many undistinguished pleasures, but in fact I wasn't comfortable with what happened to him and his family that day.

Though I do understand why the media loves these stories; they positively sizzle among the usual pre-election platitudes, repetition of slogans, and 'You started it', 'No you started it' tit-for -tat. (I use both 't' words with due diligence.)

The trouble is, the level of debate is low right now because few of the electorate are geared up for a serious consideration of the party policies.

Vox pops of the man and woman in the street unsurprisingly reveal that many of us don't have a clue where the parties stand on hiring NHS nurses, support for carers, immigration law, zero-hour contracts and austerity-to-investment ratios. Some folk say they have busy lives and don't have time to investigate such things.

Some believe their vague notions - Tory/Unionist DUP, Labour/Nationalist Sinn Fein, wet Alliance - are enough to be getting on with.

And some, like little Joey Essex, are just chuffed to have discovered that the Liberal Democrats have two 'r's in their name (sad news for moggy lovers). What people do respond to, however, are jokes about party leaders' kitchens, gossip about their fractured sibling relationships, and tales of hijacked family lunches.

Much as it pains me - like a stake through my heart if you must know - to defend Nigel Farage (and he did call his protestors scum, not a nice word), the idea that an MP's family are 'up for grabs' is an unfair and dangerous one.

If it's true he was set upon by protestors with such ferocity that his frightened children ran off to hide, that's a huge mis-step for those aiming to claim the high moral ground in the argument against his party.

It's as rotten and ineffective as asking Ed Miliband how he and his brother David are getting on, and Jeremy Paxman's suggestion to Ed that his brother would be a better leader.

Yes, it's intriguing tittle tattle, but in the long run, it makes for a lower class of politician.

If we argue that MPs choose to 'put themselves out there', and thus should accept that their family will become media targets, what we're really saying is; if you care about your spouse and children, don't become an MP.

The flipside of which is, of course, that we only hand life-affecting power to those who don't mind offering their kids as sacrificial lambs.

In short, we can only be governed by cold-blooded, self-absorbed, megalomaniacal mercenaries.

Most sensible people understand that Parliament needs more women.

They're generally less adversarial, less ego-driven, and more compromising. If we're ever going to attract them, we need to accept that their families are off-limits. Women just won't sell their kids for headlines.

And if that makes for a long, boring election campaign, with a better country at the end of it, it's a price worth paying.

Girls really are a world-class act

I'm not surprised about new research revealing that teenage girls are outperforming boys in schools around the world. The figures are overwhelming - of 74 countries, boys come out top in just three, and none of them are in Europe or North America.

There are, of course, issues to do with maturity; it's no secret that girls mature earlier, which seems likely to mean they'll knuckle down better. But for me, the challenge of teaching a group of young boys literally bouncing in their seats, testosterone charging through them, next to girls who find it easier to sit still, focus and concentrate, is almost impossible.

School simply works better for girls.

TV show murder on the dance floor

Time for a terrible confession. My name is Jane Graham and I watch Dance Moms. I'm coming out about this now to help others in the same situation; you are not alone.

In fact, a quiet survey of friends reveals that lots of us are secretly tuning into the Lifetime Channel's hideously addictive reality show, in which pathologically competitive mothers and a monstrous dance teacher use their dancing daughters as weapons in the battle to prove to the world that they are the best at something.

You could argue it's worthy public service TV, a warning for Irish dance moms out there. The truth is, it's compellingly gruesome. And it shouldn't be allowed. Sigh.

Belfast Telegraph

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