Nigel Farage tweeted after his appearance on ITV’s Loose Women: “Well, I didn’t do too badly on @loosewomen, did I? It was good fun!”
The first of these sentences was true, at least in the strict sense that he did not call his fellow panellists “sluts”, à la Godfrey Bloom, or ask them whether they cleaned behind the fridge. Whether he succeeded in softening his image among women voters was more doubtful.
Things began to go bumpy when Linda Robson opened by declaring: “I don’t know much about politics” – which should always flash a red light since it is often untrue and usually presages a dangerous question – “but can you tell me why you have been voted the most hated man in Britain?”
Farage replied hopefully that this was “probably a compliment”, was it not? And then launched into his usual riff about the “political class in Britain” going to the “same handful of schools” etc, as if the Birds of a Feather star had never heard it – which she obviously had, since she answered: “But you’re one of them, aren’t you?” “No, far from it.” “But you went to public school?” “Well, my life has been fairly up and down since then, believe you me.” (Mercifully, he did not elaborate.)
Weirdly he became, if anything, even more blokeish than normal. Someone inside Ukip has proposed a female-friendly 5 per cent cut in VAT for tampons and sanitary towels. We know this cunning wheeze was in his briefing note for today’s appearance because it was photographed in the back of his car. But he didn’t mention it.
He did, however, blandly assert that women in the City who take six months off to have children find themselves “behind the rest of the pack and earning less money. That is a fact of life. It’s difficult to change.”
But it was his amiable revelling in his, er, lifestyle that seemed to disturb the panel most. As in: “I get up at five o’clock in the morning; I’m rarely home before midnight. I think at lunchtime I deserve a sherbet.”
Well, said Nadia Sawalha: “If I was your wife I’d be giving you a bad telling off for that.”
Even more sharply, Robson asked him: “When do you get to spend time with your wife and your children?’ Well he didn’t, really, “at the moment”, he said, before appearing to question whether the “political class” – or, as he also likes to call them, “cardboard cut-outs” – were quite as family-oriented as they implied with their claims of “how they do the school run and [how] when the babies were little they changed all the nappies… Maybe that’s true, but all I can say is [that in] my life in politics, it’s pretty much impossible to do that.”
People like him, with “ambition” to “change things”, have “got to be fairly selfish to do that. That’s a story against myself but it’s the truth.”
No Nigel! It may be rubbish. It may be brutally honest. But whatever else it is, it isn’t a “story”.
So there you have it. The winner on points of the first – and perhaps only – TV debate was… Linda Robson and those Loose Women.