Nigel Farage is a fighter, and a stubborn one - GulfToday

Nigel Farage is a fighter, and a stubborn one

Sean O'Grady

@_SeanOGrady

Associate Editor of the Independent.

Associate Editor of the Independent.

Nigel Faraj

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage holds a sign next to chairman Richard Tice at an event, where the Brexit Party is introducing 600 parliamentary candidates running in the general election, in London, Britain. Reuters

Maybe one day, when this lousy Brexit war is over, Nigel Farage will get himself a few gigs on reality TV. After all, as he told Andrew Marr, he doesn’t actually want to be a politician, as it goes. Despite, that is, first putting himself forward as a parliamentary candidate at the Eastleigh by-election in 1994, spending the last 20 years as an MEP, leading two national political parties and playing a leading role in an historic referendum, well no, it’s not really the life for our Nigel, he should have some fun.

Perhaps he should go on the celeb version of the Great British Bake Off with, say, Johnny Vegas and Noel Fielding. Can you imagine? After all, he has already passed his first “Bake Off” challenge —  preparing and presenting an assortment of 600 highly individual fruit cakes — the prospective parliamentary candidates standing for the Brexit Party in the upcoming General Election. Contains nuts.

(I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and yes, I’m here all week).

You may not be much inclined to take Fruitcake Force seriously, but it seems to be putting the wind up their former friends and partners in the European Research group. The Spartans are upset. Steve Baker, the self-styled “hard man of Brexit” says that Farage risks becoming “the man who threw away Brexit”. And just because Farage has rejected the self-same Brexit deal that Baker himself angrily denounced when Theresa May suggested it.

He says Farage is too much of a purist. Funny old world. Much the same may be said for our recumbent Lord president of the Council and leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, with as much of the phoney disdain of the Edwardian gentlemen he can bring to bear, he pleads with Farage to  “retire from the field... it would be a great shame if he carries on fighting”.

Farage is a proud man, and he has not enjoyed being rebuffed and then patronised by this erstwhile friends and allies on the Eurosceptic wing of the Tory party. Now they are attacking him as he attacks them. Mark Francois, for example, the sine qua non of Brexit, says that Farage has “lost the plot”, and “cocked up” the Tory-Brexit Party electoral pact offer “by calling us liars”: “Nigel is a very talented politician but anyone who works with him will tell you he is his own worst enemy”. Obviously, not while Dominic Cummings still draws breath he ain’t (I know this is an old joke told about Ernie Bevin and Herbert Morrison, but it deserves recycling).

Farage responds in the only way he knows how — he doubles down and demands that Johnson drops the deal he has just managed to get through Brussels and the House of Commons (in principle), because it isn’t a “proper Brexit”. The Tories simply assert the reasonable belief that Farage “should not be allowed anywhere near government”, behind which is the fear that he will re-toxify the Tory brand (if that is indeed possible).

Goodness, even some in Farage’s own party, the likes of Arron Banks it is reported, have pleaded with him to throw his lot in with Boris Johnson and his deal, for fear of losing it and letting Jeremy Corbyn in to No 10.

Delicious as the custard pie fight is, it is scant compensation for those looking to a split Leave vote on polling day to “stop Brexit” or win a Final Say referendum. It is true that, as professor Sir John Curtice advises, that for every one vote Farage takes form Labour, he detaches two from the Conservative Party — but, on present showing, that may not be enough votes to make much difference to anyone.

Remember that many of the Brexit Party votes will be won in safe Labour and safe Tory seats, and only in perhaps the tightest of marginal contests might the Farageists make much of a difference at the margin. It might depend on exactly how the effects cancel each other out, and where. With a reported substantial Conservative lead over Labour, Remainers may be clutching at turquoise-coloured straws if they think Farge and the Brexit Party are going to deprive Johnson of power. The only things that could do that are if the Liberal democrats spurt towards 30 per cent of the vote; or if Labour manage to make the gains in public support during the course of the campaign that they did in 2017.

What does Farage think? Well, he will not be trying to get into the House of Commons again. Not in Clacton, Thurrock or anywhere else in the election, as we know, because he believes his talents are best served “traversing  the length and breadth of the country” in support of his Fruitcake Force, the glace cherry crowning each electoral slice of crumbly, Brexity goodness-knows-what-they’re-on-about. All that means is that the rest of his candidates are fruity nobodies and the Brexit Party remains a one-man band.

It’s over for Farage. He knows it. It’s why he arranged that desperate phone call from Donald Trump for the phone-in, and even gave him the lines about working together for an “unstoppable” force. This is Farage’s last hurrah, the last throw of the dice, the last gamble. After this, if Johnson wins, he is out of a job and his party is out of business. He can do no other.

Happy? Well, just remember that we’re still going to get Brexit — and the kind of hard Brexit once advocated by Farage, before he decided to outflank himself.

It is unnecessary to decry him as a coward or born loser, and unfair, because he has had the most astonishingly successful political career, and might be fairly judged the most influential British political figure since Tony Blair quit in 2007. He has, after all, changed the constitution and the destiny of Britain — for good or ill.

From the time he won those 952 protest votes in the Eastleigh by-election a quarter-century ago, through to winning the European Elections in 2014 (for Ukip 4.4 million votes– 26.6 per cent) and then the 2019 European Elections (for the Brexit Party 5.2 million votes — 30.5 per cent of the vote) he has a record to be proud of.

He has, on his own narrow terms, plenty to be proud of, even if his potent brand of populism has polluted all around it. Farage is a fighter, and a stubborn one, even if for some thoroughly dreadful causes. He is about to die in a ditch for Brexit, and frankly, you’d expect no more and no less of the man. When he gets on Celebrity Bake Off he’ll probably decry it as an establishment plot when his souffle collapses, but go on to win the highest vote ever recorded for a showstopper. What a fruitcake.

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