Week 20: Hero – James O’Brien

by Jackie_South on May 18, 2014

Radio_HeroThis week, our regular Hero award goes to LBC presenter James O’Brien for Friday’s interview with Nigel Farage

I must admit not to knowing much about James O’Brien before Friday. But like Eddie Mair, he has entered the pantheon of interviewing gods for taking a self-styled maverick right-wing politician down a peg or two by lifting the veil of fake bonhomie to reveal the unpleasant person beneath.

In both cases, it was all in the preparation – well researched questions to catch the interviewee off-guard. Joyously, the radio interview was also filmed, so you get to see Farage squirm his way through his defences of his party associates, getting rattled as his own business affairs were put under the spotlight.

But it was when O’Brien moved on to comments Farage had made about feeling uncomfortable around people speaking languages other than English that  caused the UKIP leader most discomfort. O’Brien pointed out that Farage’s own bilingual wife and children fall into that category. The killer line was when he was asked why he had said that he would be concerned about Romanians moving in next door, in contrast to Germans: “You know what the difference is”. Farage then went on to say that the debate on immigration was about ‘quality’, clearly suggesting that some ethnic groups, such as Eastern Europeans, do not meet that quality threshold and linking them to criminality.

It is worth noting that only 0.44% of Romanians in the UK have been convicted of a crime. Compared with 9.1% of UKIP MEPs.

Which brings to O’Brien’s final question about his MEP allowances and his withdrawn offer to have them audited, as Labour MEPs have done. Farage (pronounced as in ‘garage’ by O’Brien in his farewell as a final flourish) flustered and UKIP’s director of communications tried to halt the interview to close down this issue.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the interview in its full car-crash glory.

Mr James O’Brien, well done, sir. We here at All That’s Left salute you.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Killingworth May 19, 2014 at 6:48 am

Well, it certainly is a car-crash and I doubt that either Farage or any of his minders will dispute that. Hell, he even came within an inch of praising communism at one point. He needs training.

There remains, however, a difficulty – and not surprisingly it relates to the point on which he and O’Brien agreed: that immigrants to this country should integrate with the rest of us. Farage at one point asked – rhetorically, I’m sure – “what is racism?” and we need to face up to the fact that substantial numbers of non-white Brits consider integration to be a racist aspiration.

It has I think taken us a long time to get to grips with this issue – if indeed we have yet – not least because the earliest immigrants, from the Caribbean (think “Empire Windrush”) and the sub-continent had an unrealistically positive view of us Brits and thought that integration was a good thing (if they thought about it at all).

Later immigrants, particularly from the Muslim world and elsewhere, notably Africa, think no such thing. I remember working for Oxford City Council in the later 1980s, and telling the “race equality advisers” I was supposed to manage that they needed to know two things about me, firstly that I believed in race equality and secondly that my children weren’t good enough to marry theirs. As I closed the door the doyenne turned to her colleagues and said: “he’s got to go – he knows too much”. Later, the Muslim – a really nice guy – said: “it is foolish to immigrate. It is wise to conquer.”

I look forward to being told why he – or even I – were wrong to say what we did.


nino May 20, 2014 at 11:15 am

“You know what the difference is” says Nigel. There are 27 “differences” in Europe – some are mere curios and others might lead to the disintegration of the EU. I long ago gave up trying to have political discussions in Italy (founder member of the EU and as traditionally european as you like) once I realised that although I’m fluent in English and Italian we were often talking at cross purposes. The following are “perfect” translations of each other: socialista = socialist, sindacato = union, comunista = communist, etc…but what a person brought up in the UK might think of when using these terms is vastly different from the mental image an Italian brought up in Italy would have in their head. Just to give one example the term “socialista” is now more often associated with Bettino Craxi and others and is almost synonymous with corruption in the First Republic. Hobsbawn’s “The Age of Revolutions” gives a good marxist explanation for such drastic differences.
Sadly, prior to the fall of the Berlin wall the countries in the present 27 EU member states lived on different planets called West and East and whilst the “victorious” West indulged in self congratulation the many issues of racism in all its forms, religious and national antipathy which the communist regimes kept under wraps were ignored and despite the carnage in ex-Jugoslavia we are all still in ostrich mode. I fear that the over hasty expansion to 27 member states on the part of the EU without doing the “due diligence” even on something as familiar and obvious as east european anti-semitism might bring about the collapse of the EU itself and still leave these issues unresolved. The economic differences between North and South in Europe highlighted by the current financial crisis might be as nothing compared to what might come crawling out of the woodwork from both planets East and West in social differences (Nigel Farage being the latest example of such a creepy crawlie).
Interesting Italian anecdote – Poles working in Italy have long been against the inclusion of Romania in the EU because Italian employers prefer to hire Romanians for their more amenable disposition towards their work and not just in terms of cost as the same employers can easily get away with hiring even cheaper labour from the North Africa.
As for the socially and economically progressive Germany I found myself in a small village in Calabria in my local bar where, after a friend had asked me to bring some Humus from North London, we tried to offer some to holidaying Italian emigrants working in Germany and who feel perfectly integrated there. They refused to touch the humus and pitta bread, yep, you guessed…because it was Turkish.


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