by Samuel Dale
Today Nigel Farage may spend his time glad-handing the US president-elect and partying at the Ritz but it was not always this way.
As he stands down as Ukip leader yet again, it is worth remembering just how far he has come and the impact of his perseverance.
For two decades, Farage has travelled up and down Britain talking to voters, persuading them, standing for office, winning campaigns and losing elections.
He stood up for what he believes is right for the country and tried his best to implement it through democratic and generally respectable means.
It wasn’t always glamorous and it didn’t always feel like he was going to be successful.
I don’t understand why he is mocked for losing so many by-elections. It takes guts for anyone to put themselves on the line and stand for election whether it is Farage, Donald Trump or Ed Miliband.
Ukip has been an incredibly successful political movement. It has shifted debate in Britain significantly whether George Osborne shovelling cash to pensioners before the last election, a harsher immigration policy or leaving the EU.
Farage has been a force in British politics for at least a decade with more influence than most cabinet ministers.
Like all political movements, it has combined a clear persuasive message, effective campaigning, fortunate circumstances and charismatic leadership.
The EU referendum would never have happened without their influence outside the Tory party. Ukip’s electoral successes – and threat to the Tory vote – emboldened Conservative MPs to take a harder line on the EU as well as worrying the leadership about the political implications.
His bombastic media strategy has inserted his views into the political bloodstream in a way that has shaped it and forced others to respond. He has persuaded newspapers and commentators to back Brexit and shifted the Overton window further and further towards his brand of nationalism.
He’s bounced back from setbacks and found new and innovative ways to keep his message sharp and relevant.
He was written off in 2010 when he lost his bid to be an MP; in 2013 when Cameron called the referendum; in 2015 when he failed in his bid to be an MP yet again and in 2016 when the official Brexit campaign kept him at arm’s length.
He has undoubtedly ridden wider trends towards nationalism, populism and anti-immigrant fervour that has gripped the world. But that is what successful politicians do.
I don’t remember anyone claiming Tony Blair and Bill Clinton were irrelevant simply because they rode a post-Reagan/Thatcher and post-Cold War wave for Third Way liberalism. The best politicians shift debate and ride political waves.
It is far easier for those who feel appalled by Ukip to pretend they are unsuccessful.
For liberal Leavers such as Dominic Cummings and Dan Hannan, it is easy to pretend that Farage is a marginal figure in the exit campaign.
For remainers, it is feels hard to give Farage credit when he pushed such toxic posters and ideas during the campaign and throughout his career.
It is easy but it is wrong. There is a sneering consensus growing that Farage is an irrelevance and a joke. Like or not, he has been a serious influence.
We should always face the hard truth and not comforting fake realities in a social media echo chamber.
There is plenty to learn from Farage and Ukip in how to effect grassroots political change. Just as there is lots to learn from other successful campaigns that may not be our cup of tea such as Trump.
Winning matters. A shifting political debate matters. Elections matter. And liberals need to rediscover winning strategies from every avenue.
We can’t just throw our hands up in the air and howl about post-truth politics. Many liberals are so keen to check facts today that they can’t face the biggest fact of all: We’re losing. Again and again.
And Nigel Farage and the nationalists are winning. Again and again.
We need to face that essential truth and work out how to persuade millions back to our cause. How to win.
Swallow your revulsion and look at who is winning in today’s political landscape from Farage to Trump.
Liberals need a clear sharp message, simple and relevant policies, charismatic leadership and years of effort in order to wait for the right moment again. It’s not easy but it wasn’t easy for Farage either.
Sam Dale is a financial and political journalist