By Matt Evans, British EST Ambassador. Matt is a final year BA (hons) History and Politics student at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, UK.

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The upcoming June referendum on whether Britain should remain a member of the European Union has once again increased the media’s interest in the UK Independence Party, commonly known as UKIP. UKIP, formed in 1993 as a response to increasing European integration, are generally viewed as to the right on the political spectrum of the governing Conservative Party, advocating British withdrawal from the European Union and an end to what they view as “uncontrolled immigration”.[1] Under the leadership of the charismatic but divisive Nigel Farage, the party has enjoyed recent electoral success, gaining the most seats and votes in the 2014 European Parliament election, marking the first time since 1910 that a party other than Labour and the Conservatives won the largest number of seats in a national election.[2] This article looks at a speech delivered by leader Farage when campaigning for UKIP in the 2015 UK General Election.

            As a part of the general election campaign the infamous Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, went to Grimsby Town Hall and urged the residents of Grimsby to vote for Victoria Ayling, a local councillor, as their next Member of Parliament[3]. This speech exemplifies a large part of Great Britain’s scepticism towards the European Union. Given the situation as it was the general election and Farage was holding a speech in a town known for its fishing, it can be argued that he attempted to ignite a nostalgic and nationalist fire in Grimsby. He begins his speech by stating: “Grimsby used to be a great place”[4]. Already here, Farage is presenting a problem in the United Kingdom namely its lack of sovereignty. It can be argued that this problem is the overarching theme on Farage’s agenda since, in his view, it is the root for the sinking fishing industry in Grimsby because of the Common Fisheries Policy, Great Britain’s declining living conditions due to the Open Door Policy and the British debt due to the European Union membership.

            Farage gives a historical background of why Great Britain’s sovereignty has declined according to his own view, which gives his audience an overview and general knowledge of the problem that Great Britain is currently in. Moreover, it is revealing that Farage had an understanding for his audience. This can be seen, for example, by his focus on the famous fishing industry in Grimsby which illustrates that the speech had a particular audience but also his aggressive quote that “Tony Blair can go to hell”[5] which was received by applause of the audience. He even says sarcastically that he misread the audience when he first mentions Tony Blair, indicating that he knows the audience.

First of all, by igniting the nostalgic and nationalistic fire in the audience, he manages to use the argumentative appeal of pathos. This can be tied into Aristotle’s notion of emotions since Farage sparks dissatisfaction or even anger in the audience where Aristotle argues that if an item has importance, people will eventually get angry[6]. In this case, Farage is able to present a broken Great Britain and acknowledge it, which the residents of Grimsby are attached to. This indicates that the residents of Grimsby find an importance in Great Britain. Farage is able to direct that frustration and anger, and pinpoint the lack of sovereignty as the fundamental problem. This use of pathos can be considered rather successful since Farage’s aim is convince the residents of Grimsby to vote for Ayling because belief and action are intertwined, according to Aristotle[7], and thus by making that certain belief a constituent part of emotion, Farage is able to gain more votes for UKIP.

            Another argumentative appeal is ethos, which he is able to portray through his view of Europe. By claiming that he is not against Europe as countries and people and that he, in fact, likes Europe, Farage is able to illustrate to the public that he is a concerned man of Great Britain rather than a fearful or discriminating man of Europe. In addition, he also presents himself as a moral character by telling the audience that the other politicians have been abusing him due to UKIP’s “sensible” policies as he puts it[8].

            The last argumentative appeal is logos where Farage appeals to the rationality of the voters in Grimsby. This is illustrated when he makes the case that Great Britain should become like Norway and Iceland who have a booming fishing industry and are not a part of the European Union. Also, by giving a historical background of Great Britain’s ties with the European Union, he also appeals to the rationality of the audience since they see a chronological timeline of the developing problem in Great Britain.

Farage uses contradictions in order to portray his policies as appealing. This can be exemplified by his view that controlling the borders of the United Kingdom “immigration once again becomes a positive in our country and not a negative”[9]. By using juxtapositions, Farage is able to make the audience differentiate between UKIP and the other parties, making UKIP more appealing to voters. It is also seen that Farage uses examples as inductions such as his argument for an increase in the defence budget that he compares to house insurance and the comparison that British debt is like maxing out a credit card. At the end of the speech, Farage states that he doesn’t want to sell out nor have a ministerial car but rather wants to “drive the agenda of British politics the next five years”[10]. Here, an odd metaphor is applied in order to contrast what politicians want compared to what Farage want to do if elected but since it is the first metaphor that Farage uses in the speech, it also emphasises his goal of influencing British politics.

The hostility towards the European Union that Farage represents sums up the split in Great Britain. The latest opinion poll by Comres suggests that 49% of Britons want to remain in the EU whereas 41% wants to leave[11]. By analysing a speech by one of the leading figures of the British euroscepticism, we can clearly see that the charismatic Farage is able to adapt his rhetoric to different situations and the issues he touches upon are strong entities of British nationalism. Whether you agree with him or not, “[R]hetoric proves crucial when it comes to invoking discourses in the audience conducive to the claim made by the representative, and downplaying competing discourses“[12] and this is fundamental to the democratic ideals that Great Britain but also the European Union represent. Thus, it is important to acknowledge euroscepticism as a part of British political discourse since it illustrates the antagonism of views in British society.

All in all, Farage focuses on the particular audience by his examples and comparisons that are specific to the people in Grimsby, which helps igniting the nostalgic and nationalistic fire in Grimsby. Hence, the speech can be considered to be successful since it convinces the audience that the sole problem of British politics is its lack of sovereignty and UKIP can provide the solution to make Grimsby a thriving fishing town again.

[1] UKIP Manifesto 2015 “Immigration” p.10

[2] Osborn, A. & Faulconbridge, G., “UK’s Eurosceptic UKIP party storms to victory in Europe vote” Reuters, May 26th, 2014 (accessed: 8/3/16)

[3] Grimsby Telegraph: ”Nigel Farage: Grimsby can once again have a great fishing port” in Grimsby Telegraph, April 9, 2015. <http://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/Nigel-Farage-Grimsby-great-fishing-port/story-26304197-detail/story.html#1&gt; (accessed on October 31, 2015).

[4] Farage, N.: Speech in Grimsby, April 8, 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yn4x-4RcGnY&gt; (accessed October 31, 2015).

[5] Loc cit.

[6] Nussbaum, M.C. ”Aristotle on Emotions and Rational Persuasion” in Oksenberg, A. (ed.): Essays on Aristotle’s Rhetoric. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1996, p. 315.

[7] Ibid. p. 317.

[8] Farage, N.: Speech in Grimsby, April 8, 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yn4x-4RcGnY&gt; (accessed October 31, 2015).

[9] Loc cit.

[10] Loc cit.

[11] http://www.comres.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/ITV-News_EU-Referendum-Poll_15-February-2016.pdf

[12] Dryzek, J. S.: ”Rhetoric in Democracy: A Systemic Appreciation” in Political Theory. Vol. 38, Issue 3. <http://ptx.sagepub.com/content/38/3/319.full.pdf+html&gt;, p. 320.

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