Joey Barton speaks ahead of his appearance on BBC's Question Time
It has been a big week for Joey Barton and, in his words, “it’s only getting bigger”.
First, his team, Queens Park Rangers, were promoted to the Premier League after a play-off final win over Derby County.
His wife is due to give birth to the couple’s second child any day now. And he is preparing to appear on the panel of BBC Question Time, becoming only the second footballer to have done so (former Burnley defender Clarke Carlisle was the first).
“It’s been quite hectic for the last few days, so I haven’t really been thinking about Question Time,” the midfielder says after an event to launch QPR’s new kit. “I’ll read up on all of it before the show. I’m abreast of the issues.”
Barton, who is possibly now as famous for his tweets citing Nietzsche, Orwell and Plato as he is for his football, was first invited to appear on the panel two years ago, but this is the first week his schedule has matched up with that of the programme makers.
The man the BBC once described as “a philosophical sportsman to rival Eric Cantona in his heyday” - who has one England cap and two convictions on charges of violence - says he is a regular viewer of the programme. “People think I’m a footballer, what opinion can I possibly have - but it’s a good position in life, to be underestimated. I’m a man who has an understanding of the world he lives in and is quite happy to talk openly and honestly about that.”
Which topics is he preparing for? “I’m sure Ukip will be on the agenda because of the progress they have made. For me, I can understand why people would like Nigel Farage. He’s a man who talks common sense around important issues for the British people, like immigration. I didn’t like the way the mainstream media turned round and said, ‘everyone who votes for Ukip is a racist’. That was very unfair.
“But when you look at Ukip as a voter, after Farage there’s very little in the party.”
He adds that the Coalition parties only have themselves to blame for UKIP’s rise.
“I personally think if the Conservative party got their act together we wouldn’t need Ukip. The Lib Dems have basically imploded, they’ve sold their souls so they can get into government. That’s left a space for a party; Ukip have taken the protest vote or whatever it is people want to label them. Whilst it’s dangerous to ignore them, it’s even more dangerous to assume they’re going to become a mainstream party. They’ve only got one issue.”
Barton voted in the European and local elections last Thursday, but refuses to specify which way, saying only that he is floating voter and ready to be persuaded by the arguments of his fellow panelists.
One of these panelists will be Piers Morgan, the former Daily Mirror editor with whom Barton occasionally spars on Twitter. When it was revealed earlier this year that Morgan had been questioned under caution in relation to the phone hacking scandal, Barton messaged him: “Sorry to hear they finally caught up with you Old Boy. Hope you are well otherwise. PS: Remember not to drop the soap.”
But Barton insists the pair are on good terms in real life. “I really like him as a person,” he says. “I admire the way he speaks his mind; I think it’s important that people with big profiles do that. Recently his campaign against the National Rifle Association was a really ballsy stand. Fundamentally it looks like it cost him his job at CNN.”
By the end of this week the 31-year-old will have appeared on Question Time, Newsnight and spoken at the Oxford Union, but Barton insists he is not maneuvering for a career in politics after football. Asked to comment on Harry Redknapp's suggestion that he is looking increasingly like management material, Barton says: “Staying within the game is a distinct possibility for me. I’m interested in coaching, and if coaching leads to management, so be it.”