Opinion

Nigel Farage and the truth about the viral News Thing knighthood

Nigel Farage's TV knighthood caused a social media storm. Big Issue columnist and News Thing presenter Sam Delaney explains what happened...

My TV show Sam Delaney’s News Thing has been going for 18 months. Each week we’re joined by a panel of funny pundits plus one special political guest for a one on one interview.

Nigel Farage has now appeared on News Thing three times. The first time he turned up sporting a surprise moustache, which generated a lot of headlines for the show. The second time we had him welcomed to the studio by our resident raga MC, Irah. Nigel seemed to like it. Mind you, I don’t think he could understand all the mean things Irah was saying about him in his rap.

For his third appearance we wanted to go a bit harder on him. Some people criticise us for even having him on the show in the first place. I am a deplorable metropolitan liberal and my Facebook feed is full of similarly minded ponces and bed-wetters who get their knickers in a twist every time I post something that isn’t an article from The Guardian. So I thought I better get tougher on Nige this time round or I might stop getting invited to rubbish dinner parties where people sit round getting drunk and crying their tits off about Donald Trump.

So in the interview I accused Farage of being a charlatan, told him he was stalking Trump like a love-struck schoolboy and got the marvelous comic actor Alex Lowe to pose as a weirdo audience member and ask him baffling questions about multiculturalism. Farage totally fell for it. And once we had bewildered him sufficiently, we pressed the button on the big stunt we’d be planning all week.

At the close of the show we told him we were going to give him an honorary ‘News Thing Knighthood’ to make up for the fact that he was never going to get one in real life.

Wanting a knighthood is a childish and pathetic aspiration for anyone to have. To want to subject yourself to a demeaning and preposterous ceremony whereby you kneel in front of an old lady in a bejeweled hat who taps you on the shoulder with a big sword and tells you that you’re special is no way for a self-respecting adult to carry on.

And if you have built your public persona on being proudly ‘anti-establishment’ then the aspiration is not only silly and undignified, it is deeply hypocritical too.

Wanting a knighthood is a childish and pathetic aspiration for anyone to have

Rather than say all of this to Nigel, I decided to make the point more succinctly by hiring a child actress to dress as the Queen and knight him with an inflatable sword.

The resulting picture was designed to neatly undermine the absurdity of Nigel Farage’s infantile lust for establishment recognition.

But the image alone wasn’t enough. So we got our six-year-old actress (who we had spotted giving dating advice to Idris Elba on a fundraising website last month) to say ‘My mummy says you hate foreigners,’ after she had finished knighting him. Why? Because we thought it would wrong foot him a bit. And also because we didn’t want him going away thinking that we had forgotten the horribly xenophobic undertones of his Brexit campaign.

We rehearsed the whole sequence in the studio all morning, using a stand-in to play the part of Farage. Our actress practiced her line studiously. I explained carefully to her that I would act surprised and call her naughty, but that it was all just a joke. “That’s okay,” she said. “It’s all pretend.” Her parents were there with her and endorsed the whole daft escapade.

When it came to it, the little Queen played a blinder, timing her outburst to perfection and Nigel – as always – managed to chuckle the whole thing off without losing too much face.

Don’t get me wrong, I would have liked him to have burst out in tears and renounced everything he’d ever said in his entire political career – but making him feel a bit uncomfortable for a few seconds was probably the best I could have hoped for in reality.

Afterwards, he congratulated the little girl on her performance, shook my hand, thanked the producer and disappeared looking like a man who knew he’d been ambushed but wasn’t too fussed about it.

The little Queen played a blinder, timing her outburst to perfection

The resulting furore blew up online after we released the clip a couple of hours later. The responses we received ranged from the hugely flattering (‘This is the best thing ever!’ Sarah Silverman told her 10 million Twitter followers) to the hilariously confused (one UKIP-supporting Twitter user, who thought I had treated Farage unfairly, claimed that I had ‘indoctrinated and groomed a child’).

Other accusations were more outlandish. Because my show airs on RTUK (the UK news channel part financed by the Russian state) some commentators seemed to think my juvenile prank was, in fact, part of a masterful propaganda strategy devised by Putin himself. How my show might be used to bring down the West, one knob gag at a time, I’m not quite sure. Frankly, I’m flattered that anyone might think we were that influential. To be honest, our audience figures are pretty modest. I’m afraid the humdrum truth is that I am not a spy. But then I suppose, if I was, that’s exactly what I would say.

Alright then, I am a spy.

But I’m not really.

Anyway, now that we’ve demonstrated an ability to get the whole world talking with our mixture of irreverence, chutzpah and immaturity I expect ITV will be soon knocking down the News Thing door, begging me and my whole team to ride in and save The Nightly Show from fizzling out amidst a whimpering murmur of indifference. But until then, you can catch me on Sky Channel 512 every Saturday night at 10.25pm.

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