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Friday, March 23, 2018

Welsh UKIP leader indulges in childs play

Over at the New European, there is a report of the latest embarrassing episode for UKIP in Wales. They report that Welsh UKIP leader and disgraced former Tory Minister, Neil Hamilton has complained to the BBC over a light-hearted segment on Radio 4's World At One in which children were asked for their views on Brexit:

"The segment was completely biased and absurd," fumed Mr Hamilton, who once danced in a perspex box on TV while Johnny Vegas poured fish on his head.

"Every child who featured on the programme was anti-Brexit and the segment lacked any form of political balance. The interviewer, Tomos Morgan, failed to question any of the patently childish answers given to him."

It's a fairly strong argument from the man who, in 2006, recorded a World Cup song with his wife called England Are Jolly Dee.

Not content with just a letter, Mr. Hamilton decided to raise the matter in First Minister's questions in the Welsh Assembly, generating much mirth on all sides and some AMs placing their heads in their hands in despair. You can watch the actual question here.

Neil Hamilton: Diolch yn fawr, Llywydd. As I was on my way to Cardiff yesterday, I was listening to the car radio, and the World at One was on, and, with some incredulity, I heard that the Welsh Government was consulting schoolchildren between the ages of seven and 11 for their views on Brexit—perhaps it shows the level of maturity of the Welsh Government on this issue—and was going to take their opinions into account in formulating policy. I can't believe that this is true, even though I read it subsequently on the BBC website. Amongst those whom I heard on that programme was a nine-year-old who said that she thought leaving the EU was a bad idea, because, 'One of my friends says she wants to be a singer, and if I want to go around the world to see different music, like, she won't be able to because we've left breakfast'—I think she must be a fan of the leader of the opposition's speech at the Conservative Party conference last year. Surely the First Minister must agree that this is an exercise in total fatuity.

Carwyn Jones: Does he have to use a nine-year-old to fight his battles? Are things that bad in UKIP now that he has to criticise the view of a nine-year-old? I can tell you that that view was more coherent than many of the views I heard from people in his own party in the course of the referendum. He seemed to complain that the news item was a 'mawkish puff piece', playing on the—. And I quote:

'playing on the emotions of the listener in order to support the Remainer narrative that the nasty Brexiteers are stopping our children from being able to play with their friends from abroad.'

Now, if that is the level of political debate that the leader of UKIP comes up with, then give me the nine-year-old any day.

Neil Hamilton: Well, actually, that particular reference—[Interruption.] Sorry, Llywydd. Actually, that particular reference referred to an 11-year-old's comment, also broadcast yesterday, where she said that, if we were to leave, a lot of people who have friends in Europe might not be able to get in. 'I'm aware that people can come into the country who may not always do good things, and they can do bad things, but, on the other hand, they do have relatives and friends. It's better to see them in real life than Skyping all the time and stuff.'

Well, these—[Interruption.] These—[Interruption.] It's not I who is bringing young children into the political debate. It's the politicisation of children that is the exercise that the Welsh Government in engaged on. Is it not inappropriate to politicise children in this way in order to pursue the Government's own political agendas?

Carwyn Jones: How does the leader of UKIP think that the parents of those children think of him now? What they will see is a politician in this Chamber belittling the views of their children for his own political purposes. Now, I don't know whether he is deliberately trying to alienate parents from voting for his party, but he's done an excellent job so far.

Neil Hamilton: It's not to belittle the views of children at all, but the level of maturity that is displayed in those comments of course reflects their age. Perhaps even the First Minister at that age was similarly immature; I don't know. But children of seven to 11, of course, are not yet mature, and their opinions reflect that—even though we all mature and then our opinions are worthy of being listened to, as serious comments in political debate, I find it absolutely extraordinary that the Welsh Government is now proposing to take them seriously. We know that teachers—[Interruption.] We know that political education in schools is important, but it's also important that there should be balance, and children should be taught to be critical. Given that the Times Educational Supplement, in 2016, did an opinion poll of teachers that showed that 88 per cent of them were pro remain—75 per cent of teachers; 88 per cent of university lecturers are pro remain—isn't there a danger that, even subconsciously, if political topics of a controversial nature are taught in the classroom that balance is likely to be lost?

Carwyn Jones: Let's see how many votes the leader of UKIP has managed to lose—the votes of teachers, the votes of parents, the votes of governors, the votes of grandparents, all because he's chosen, for reasons that go beyond me, to criticise the maturity of nine and 11-year-olds. We have spent our time in this Chamber, in all parties in fairness, talking about giving children a voice. Now, he's saying—and, David Melding, I heard him say it, and I think the comment is apposite—that children should be seen and not heard, which is exactly what the leader of UKIP is saying. Perhaps he may want to reflect on the fact, in managing to upset many thousands of people across Wales, that, actually, children do deserve a voice.

When UKIP start to belittle the views of children to make their point then it is clear that they have lost the argument. This was a new low from a politician who has built his career on such embarrassing lows.
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