Nigel Farage slams Angela Merkel and hails Vladimir Putin in fresh outburst
Nigel Farage is leader of Ukip, a party on the riseReuters

The best way to lose an argument is to patronise, dismiss, humiliate or abuse your opponent. No matter how risible, offensive or ignorant their viewpoint, the path to victory is to appeal to reason because most people are ultimately reasonable.

And we should define what victory is. There's a tradition of combative debate in Britain, a culture encapsulated by the absurd bun-fight every week in parliament at Prime Ministers Questions.

The victor here is the person who wins the most points by belittling their opponent intellectually and, more often than not, personally too.

But victory in debate should be something much more profound than that. It should be to win your opponent over to your side of the argument, or at least to soften them up to your point of view. It should be about persuasion rather than punches.

And that's exactly what needs to be done with those who sympathise with Ukip.


It's a popular and offensive condescension among the elite that the masses are political morons, incapable of understanding complexities and nuance who need decisions made on their behalves.

But most people don't have the time or inclination to wonk-up on politics and economics, especially when they're shut out of decision making in both spheres by a self-perpetuating elite of privately educated Spam-faces like David Cameron.

Why bother getting involved past a passing opinion when you know your voice matters not a jot in the purported democracy you live in?

And it's this alienation that is driving Ukip's recent successes in the polls. People who support Ukip feel shut out from politics. They don't think – quite fairly – that anybody is listening to them.

They think they are the subjects of a ruling metropolitan elite. A political class who are all scooped out as tadpoles from the same Oxbridge swamp, bred up through the party ranks and morphed into yet another automaton soundbite factory to be wheeled out on the evening news bulletins.

Farage is a radical in British politics. Turd though he is, Farage isn't polished like the rest of them. He drinks and smokes – and is proud of it. He talks the language of "common sense" politics. He hates the EU, thinks immigration should be tightly controlled, is socially conservative – all of these are populist viewpoints that resonate with a large amount of people.

So when people see someone like Ukip leader Nigel Farage, they associate themselves with him, even if his life experience is nothing like theirs.

That means when Ukip is lazily dismissed by its opponents as racist and stupid, so are the people who associate their views with the party and Farage.

And that's a lot of people from all walks of life. From right-wing disillusioned Tories, to the Old Labourites in northern towns and cities, to a new brand of youthful libertarian.

That's not to say Ukip's many flaws and racists shouldn't be dragged by their opponents from the shadows into the light, because they absolutely should. But tone is everything.

A serious threat

Simply throwing up our hands and yelling "look at the stupid racists" isn't enough, because you are de facto calling everyone who sympathises with Ukip that too.

And it will only reinforce their view that the country is run by a political class that isn't willing to listen to them.

Which is exactly why Ukip's popularity continues to rise unabated, despite the many stories in the media about the various racists and fools creeping around under the Ukip rock.

For those of us who disagree with them, Ukip are a genuine threat. They may well win seats in parliament in 2015 if they can keep up the momentum. And once that door is open, it may be impossible to close again.

So we need to take that threat seriously. Not with smears about the entire party, or a condescending attitude, but by talking with their supporters to change their minds and win the argument against Ukip.

Only by making Ukip supporters feel engaged in British politics will you kill off the party.