Nigel Farage is a winner. Liberals must learn from him

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

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12 Responses to “Nigel Farage is a winner. Liberals must learn from him”

  1. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Not a word I can disagree with. Now all ‘liberals’ have to do is find a ” clear persuasive message.”

  2. Alf says:

    I’m getting a bit worried that the Tory-lite wing of our party are becoming apologists for fascism. I read elsewhere today that Stephen Woolfe (of UKIP punch-up fame) was invited to a recent Blue Labour event. Google it!

  3. anosrep says:

    There’s just one problem with this article: it’s not true. Farage is not a winner; he has never won anything in his life except internal UKIP elections. He has never been elected to Parliament, and under his leadership UKIP has had only two MPs, both defectors from the Tories and one of whom immediately lost his seat. UKIP has only ever controlled one local council, which it lost within a year. Its group in the European Parliament has never been above sixth-largest.

    The Leave side won the EU referendum; Nigel Farage did not. He was not the leader of the official or the largest Leave campaign, and the events that led up to the referendum had far more to do with the conflict over the EU within the Tory Party that has been going on since long before UKIP existed or anyone had heard of Farage.

    That doesn’t mean Farage hasn’t had an impact on our political discourse (though not as big an impact as this article would suggest). He’s been influential – but he’s been an influential loser.

  4. Richard MacKinnon says:

    If you dont think Farage is a winner then you are badly mistaken. He didnt get into politics to become a member of a parliament, and let me remind you he is still an MEP. Fargae has changed politics for ever. UK politics, EU and globally.
    You are so out of touch with reality I really cant be bothered explaining why.

  5. John P Reid says:

    Alf ,Yes Steven Wofle was invited to a blue labour e net, are you saying that Blue labour agreed with his views, or that he’s A Fascist, a mixed race man who’s now joined the Tories? Do you even know what blue labour is, when it takes in concerns of blue Collar working class people who may vote Ukip, do you think they’re Fascists?

  6. David Walker says:

    @anosrep that’s ridiculous. Of course he takes the most credit for the leave vote. Do you think that it was Gove that got the vote out in Wales and Northern England? Whether you like Farage or not, how could anyone argue that he isn’t man of the year? Nobody listens to mainstream party campaigns and right now nobody is listening to Labour moderates. They have no heartlands outside of North London.

    No winners either and the problem doesn’t just lie in Britain. The left is losing everywhere. It’s always worse than the polls suggest, as well. These aren’t shy Tory voters that are telling fibs. They are fearful Tories. They worry that any data collected on them can be hacked and published online. They know the left hates them and don’t want to risk being exposed and attacked.

    They are smart to lie about their voting intentions, as it’s only a matter of time before an organisation like Anonymous does manage to breach the security of a polling company. When this happens, we all know how left-wing activists will react.

    Labour needs someone like Farage. An everyman with a bit of devil in him. Someone who looks like they know how to enjoy life and who isn’t offended by almost everything that ordinary people do and say.

    Nobody who ever worked in a factory would ever think that working-class women (genuinely working-class) would recoil at the thought of a grabbed p***y. That’s the sort of language they use themselves. Making baudy jokes and perhaps even copping the odd feel, is how people make the hours seem a little shorter for themselves as they get through yet another tedious day of industrial labour.

    Farage and Trump both know this. They can get on with these people, despite being very rich. Nobody in Labour’s mainstream has this ability and neither do any of Corbyn’s mob.

  7. Tafia says:

    Alf, Farage is not a fascist – not even close, and UKIP is not a fascist party – not even close.

    Now stop being childish. You aren’t in the Student Union bar.

  8. paul barker says:

    Sarah Olney is a winner, Liberals must learn from her.

  9. Dave Roberts says:

    Your almost there anosrep. Farage is winning if you look at where he and his party where twenty years ago. He has changed the whole political discourse in this country as it is changing across Europe and the world. At the last general election his party won four million votes twice that of the Greens and they seem to be a part of the political landscape in the way that other fringe parties have never been. In fact they are no longer fringe.

    The essential two/three sometimes party system of this country had changed and probably changed forever. Whether that is good or not remains to be seen but a log jam has been broken. What is clear is that the left are nowhere and are standing on the sidelines shouting abuse. For them there is no discussion about the legitimate concerns of a substantial proportion of the population about immigration and the EU. They are denounced as racists and xenophobes by people who would model this country on the former soviet satellites of eastern Europe.

  10. Newark Bloke says:

    Farage lost many battles but he won the war i.e. getting the UK out of the EU.
    Labour is in a vulnerable position. The new UKIP leader has already started to position the party in a “Red UKIP” mode. We can expect to see much policy announcements on subjects such as social housing, job creation, tackling inequality etc. All of this will be aimed at the traditional Labour vote in the north, the midlands & Wales. This will be combined with UKIP’s unashamedly patriotic/nationalist/nativist essence. Over a dozen Labour seats need only a 1% to 2% swing for UKIP to win them. In much of this electorates mind Labour is defined by a leader who won’t sing the national anthem, shares platforms with Islamists & believes in an open door immigration policy. When you factor in the loss of seats because of boundary changes, plus the near obliteration of the party in Scotland, the future looks glum indeed.

  11. anonsaurus says:

    Repeat after me, We, Are, Not, Liberals.
    Socialism and Social Democracy is antithetical to Liberalism.

  12. Mike Homfray says:

    What exactly would a left wing version of Farage look like though? Sounds like some want Farage but with a Labour label

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