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By Ray Fleming

NIGEL Farage's unseemly outburst in the European Parliament has quickly and rightly earned him the title of “the rudest man in Europe”. As leader of 14-member United Kingdom Independence Party in the Parliament he is entitled to be robustly critical, but not crude and coarse. His dismissal of Van Rompuy, the new president of the European Council of ministers, as having “the charisma of a wet rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk” was unacceptable and his description of M. Van Rompuy's homeland, Belgium, as “pretty much a non-country” was gratuitously offensive .

The curious thing about Farage's outburst is that his dislike of everything European is such that one might think he would prefer a low-key representative of the EU rather than the high-profile of a Tony Blair who might have “stopped the traffic”, to use David Miliband's phrase, wherever he went. Perhaps, though, Farage's target is not really on Europe but rather on the Buckingham constituency in Britain where he is standing against John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, at the coming election. Traditionally, the Speaker is re-elected unopposed but Farage is ignoring that convention and some analysts think that he has a chance of winning -- Bercow is not all that popular in the constituency. But I wonder if Farage has realised that before he throws insults around in the Commons he must mend his manners and address everyone as the Right Honourable Gentleman.