Nigel Farage’s last political vehicle, the U.K. Independence Party, or UKIP, Mr. Farage assorted the Tory retirees and a Dismantling of ex-fascists and other right-wing cranks, and welded them into a devastating political weapon: a significant national party. That weapon tore such chunks out of the Conservatives’ share of the vote that the party leadership felt compelled to call a referendum on Europe which it then lost. Mr. Farage declared victory and went into some kind of retirement as a pundit.
“I’ve got a feeling you will go down in history, whether it’s for fame or infamy, I can’t tell.” So said Nigel Farage’s teacher to the then graduating high school student. To which Farage replied: “As long as I go down in history sir.”
Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and current leader of the Brexit Party, could go down as one of Britain’s most significant post-World War II politicians if Britain manages to leave the EU.
Farage is the British crisis and struggles in human form. His party, the unambiguously named Brexit Party, which is hardly a party and didn’t exist six months ago, won nearly a third of the British vote in the recent European Parliament elections, putting it in first place and driving the shattered Conservative Party into fifth. Long underestimated, Mr. Farage has done more than any politician in a generation to yank British politics to the hard, nationalist right. He is one of the most effective and dangerous demagogues Britain has ever seen.
While at Dulwich College, Farage joined the Conservative Party at only 14 years of age, even campaigning for the party. He was an admirer of the late Enoch Powell, a controversial British Conservative politician who once delivered what was called the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, warning about immigration and the mixing of the races.
A lifelong Eurosceptic, Farage even admitted to voting for the environmentalist Green Party in 1989 due to its “sensible” Eurosceptic policies. In 1992, however, he left the Conservative Party due to the then Conservative government’s signing of the Treaty of the European Union which locked the UK into a process of further political and economic integration.
Now, almost three years after the Brexit vote, he’s back. His timing could hardly be better. After a “lost decade” of declining living standards and flat wage growth, trust in Parliament and the news media is at rock bottom. The Conservatives are disintegrating; Prime Minister Theresa May is on her way out of office, having failed to secure a parliamentary majority for her Brexit deal. She failed because, rather than seeking cross-party consensus, she tried to placate her own hard right and prevent voters from abandoning the party — again. Unable to do so, she has simply hardened public opinion.
The Brexit Party’s campaign was a one-man show. While it has a sophisticated digital strategy, the party has no members and no manifesto, and none of its candidates were democratically selected. It offered only one policy: a “No Deal” Brexit. Its rallies focus on star performances by Mr. Farage, introduced with thundering motivational music. He is a gifted communicator, verbally dexterous, with a sense of humor.
Since Nigel Farage entered politics he has often seen himself as a man of the people, unshakeable by the political correctness of other modern politicians, with their controlled speeches, slick PR managers and talking points.
Nigel Farage, the straight-talking guy speaking from the gut, with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, his everyday image played well in cultivating the image of an outsider telling voters the truth the elites don’t want them to hear.