Boris And No Deal Are In -- Still, Adland Wants Farage No-Platformed?

Face it, adland. Boris is the Prime Minister.

A no-deal Brexit is currently on the table and we may all not share Nigel Farage's politics, but his argument prevailed and the country voted to leave. We don't have to like it, but we do have to acknowledge that this is where we currently are.

This is brought into sharp focus by last week's Campaign front cover featuring Brexit Party founder Nigel Farage. In case you missed it, the storm that erupted on Twitter was like nothing I have ever witnessed before in this industry.

While I suspect many commentators were not actually from adland, and were just opposed to Farage, there were many familiar names and faces on long discussions queueing up to denounce the decision, and in some cases, announce they would no longer subscribe to the magazine.

It was clear from most comments that many -- perhaps the majority -- had not even bothered to read the article but simply objected to the face behind Brexit being on the front cover of London's best-known adland weekly. Had they bothered to take a look, they would have discovered three things.



First of all, Farage had some home truths the industry could do with taking on board. Secondly, it was as much a discussion about Farage as it was an interview with many leading lights in the industry being asked what they thought of the politician who forced the issue to secure a referendum. Thirdly, as Mediatel points out, it was a missed opportunity to give Farage more of a grilling in industry issues, such as "that" poster of immigration forcing the country to a "breaking point" and what he felt about new rules on junk food, perhaps even gender stereotyping.

As such, the interview was partially a missed opportunity. Perhaps there were issues he wouldn't discuss. If there were, it would have been useful for them to be referenced. Failing to give Farage a tougher time in the interview with some trickier questions does seem to have been a missed opportunity.

However, the insight adland seems to be ignoring, as it spits venom at an editorial decision to feature a politician they dislike, is that he just may have a point about something rather crucial.

Aside from the joking about adland being a place to have a pint and earn some cash, Farage does point out that the referendum result was only a surprise for people living in London. The country's media, and adland, are so London-centric that they just don't get an understanding of what's going on in ordinary people's lives outside the capital.

I'm no Farage fan, but I think he's bang on the money here. I have worked in the midlands and have a lot of family in the northwest. While friends in the capital thought Remain would win, I used to caution about the conversations I'd had away from London where reasonable people, who were not knuckle-dragging racists, were keen for change. I still thought Remain would win, but believed it would be very close. 

It was the same with Donald Trump. I was wrong about Brexit, but predicted a Trump presidency. The reason? Just as with our own referendum, when you saw people interviewed about the Presidential election, they were generally professional types in big cities on the coast. Trump would call them liberal elitists. When anyone in that vast bit of the middle of the country was interviewed they usually referred to dying industry and no hope, which meant it was time for radical change.

It was the same situation. People outside the capital or the big, affluent cities were keen to try something different. 

So what do you do? If you disagree with someone, is it not better to put those disagreements to them in an interview? Okay, I'm not sure Campaign actually did this, but let's put it another way. Is it right to live in an echo chamber and no-platform everyone who doesn't tell us what we want to hear?

It's that attitude that means London's adland was so out of step with huge swathes of the rest of England and Wales, but in tune with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Just listening to the people we agree with, or only checking out people we disagree with so we can leave rude comments on social media, gets nobody anywhere. So, Campaign has every right to feature Farage, but it did owe its readership a better article. There was no pushing on any gripping industry issues, no mention of his opaque funding that has led to damaging headlines at Channel 4 and a rebuke from the European Parliament.

There was no questioning how he felt that the man behind his opaque funding, Aaron Banks, is suing The Observer journalist featured in Netflix's "Great Hack" documentary on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, out tomorrow.

And so here we are. Boris is headed for a no-deal Brexit unless the EU blinks first. Where we go from there will be down to whether parliament can oppose this move and force a second referendum or general election.

If we do have an election, it will be the first where the opposition party will fight with redrawn constituency borders, which many believe will reverse their traditional over-representation in urban areas. The party can, of course, no longer rely on seats in Wales and Scotland that have moved to the nationalist parties.

A general election could also likely see a Tory-Brexit Party pact that, I suspect the bookies will agree, is more likely to win than Labour. My point here would be that the southeast Conservative seats which voted for Remain could end up voting Lib Dem and throw a cat among the proverbial pigeons.

With all things considered, I would suggest the main opposition party, Labour, is not in a good place to fight an election right now and would be ill-advised to push for a general election but rather a referendum instead.

Going back to the point about no-platforming, Boris Johnson -- the next Prime Minster -- is willing to settle for no deal. Does everyone blasting Campaign suggest he should never be interviewed? No? I thought not.

It's only through the engagement social media was supposed to provide and that news coverage aims to deliver that we can move away from firing potshots at one another over a political fence.

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