Three cheers for Nigel Farage!

by Kevin Meagher

NIGEL Farage is back. Yes, that suspiciously French-sounding, irrepressibly upbeat Euro-baiter par excellence swept up 60% of the votes to retake the leadership of UKIP last week.

This is of course the same job he casually abandoned just a year ago. For big talents on small stages, there is always the lure of something better. In Farage’s case, defying Parliamentary protocol and standing against Speaker Bercow in the general election. That did not work out, so it’s back to the old day job: jolly Euro-bashing and all round right-wing populism.

To many, leading UKIP is a dubious honour. This is, after all, a party David Cameron once described as “a bunch of … fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists, mostly.” But therein lies the point: Farage’s enemies are on the right. The two men in British politics loath to see Farage return to lead UKIP are David Cameron and Nick Griffin.

UKIP’s very existence provides a viable protest option for the Tory party’s unreconstructed elements. A Farage-less UKIP still managed to attract 900,000 votes in May’s election; a 50% rise from the 600,000 they stacked up in 2005. This only amounted to a titchy 3% of the vote; but its where these votes would have gone if UKIP did not exist that’s the point. You can bet your life Mr Cameron would have been grateful to have them when he realised he would stop short of the winning post.

So Norman Tebbit’s backing of Farage as he took on Bercow was telling. The political opinions of elderly right-wing blokes may not be pretty, but there are rather a lot of them. They matter to the Tory party. Like insurance companies, its smart business to pay them some attention. But UKIPs “the country’s gone to the dogs” shtick is what they want to hear. Not cuddly Cameroon compromise.

The cocktail of John Bull nationalism, reheated Thatcherism and general harrumphing right-wingery might make the metropolitan dinner party set choke on their avocado salads, but it is red meat to enough grumbling old-timers to make UKIP a menacing, enduring electoral threat to the mainstream right.

And Farage’s significance goes further. He is an unlikely liberal pin-up, but deserves credit for doing as much to stymie the growth of the BNP as anyone.

Building a credible protest party to the right of the Tories is one thing; but Farage has also turned UKIP into a “respectable” berth for those flirting with British politics’ “very nasty” party. It may be involuntary, but UKIP also represents the last stop on the road to political unrespectability for potential BNP voters.

And the BNP knows it. Their attempts to link up with Farage’s barmy army have always been rebuffed by UKIP. So just as Thatcher saw off the National Front in the 70s by being very right- wing herself, so, too, Farage’s UKIP provides a more palatable option for your average crypto-fascist, stifling the growth of the BNP.

More prosaically, Farrage adds to the gaiety of nations. Whatever anyone thinks of his crackpot politics, he does give the appearance of a man thoroughly enjoying himself. He may be a political dilettante, but he is also an advertisement for sticking to your guns in politics. Admirable in itself.

Setbacks for UKIP are cheerily shrugged off. His breezy insults to opponents belie a certain grace. It’s never personal with Farage. He will look back over a buccaneering career with few regrets. High office is not the point. Bloody-minded mischief is.

All he has to do is keep his feet on the ground (eschewing further aeronautical high jinks) and he could benefit big-time from the coalition’s woes. Disaffected right-wing Tory voters will be welcomed with open arms. As will their MPs. 89 coalition MPs have already broken ranks against the government  – 67 of them Conservatives.

Tony Blair always correctly calculated that there was no hope of sustaining political life to the left of Labour, however reductionist his political offering was. But that is not true at the other end of the spectrum. James Goldsmith’s Referendum party helped consign John Major to the political graveyard in 1997 by nabbing a million votes from the Tories.

UKIPs rightist political punks have followed suit, denting Tory electoral fortunes for the past decade; scooping up handfuls of European Parliamentary seats that would surely have ended up in Tory hands.

Imagine the effect on Labour if a million people voted for Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour party. That is what UKIP do the Tories. Labour leaders have never had anything to fear from leftist rivals. Tory leaders, however, have plenty to worry about on their right flank.

And Farage is no slouch. He has kept a rag-bag of a party together with real skill. He could have had an easier life, gravitating back to the Tory party he left in 1992, in protest at the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, but he shows no signs of doing so.

The complacent Euro-enthusiasts in all mainstream parties who have lamentably failed ever to sell the case for Europe should take lessons from a pro. Farage makes his account of Europe extremely real for many British voters. We may think it’s a fairly loopy version, but where are our pro-European populists? Only Denis MacShane ever seems willing to mix it.

On the logic that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, the left should rejoice at Farage’s victory. Cameron’s headache about leaching support on the right will continue. A rebooted UKIP will deny Nick Griffin electoral traction. The mainstream right divided; the far right denied. Farrage redux is a fabulous result.

As we can be confident they do not proclaim in UKIP circles: Vive le Nigel!

Kevin Meagher is a campaign consultant and former ministerial advisor.

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23 Responses to “Three cheers for Nigel Farage!”

  1. william says:

    Imagine Labour does not win the next election, and Cameron achieves a working majority.He will then be able to think longer term, and deal with UKIP and his own Europhobes once and for all.Think a refererendum on the UK becoming an associate member of the EU, yes to trade ,no to everything else.A significant number of Labour voters would vote for that, game set and match to the Tory inspired referendum, and where would that leave Labour as a future governing party?No UKIP at the last election may have given the Tories 21 more seats.

  2. Farage is a genuine article – a cheerful, cheeky, semi-charlatan – but there are few populist politicians on the right to match him. Tories in a mess on Europe as William Hague’s equivocations and squirming in House of Commons today on Treaty changes which will come in if Chancellor Merkel and northern Euro economies get their way showed. Hague and Cameron hope that if they bluster away and describe themselves as Eurosceptics people will believe them. That said there is little enthusiasm and confidence and style in the pro-European camp with Clegg, Huhne and Alexander seeing, saying and hearing no Europe. Labour needs to define an intelligent pro-European politics. Here’s hoping.

  3. William – even if that was a workable deal – and it isn’t, the rest of Europe would never agree to it and the only thing we can do unilaterally is a full-scale pullout, which would cause a lot of chaos in the sort term – it wouldn’t hurt Labour too much.

    Losing a referendum – even assuming the party universally lined up on the no side, and there’s no chance of that happening – has few political consequences if you aren’t the proposer and by no means every UKIP voter would happily melt back to the Tories.

    The point of the lunatic fringe is that they’re lunatics. You can’t expect them to act rationally. Even if the Europe issue were solved to their satisfaction – and when is anything ever solved to their satisfaction? – they still refuse to vote Tory for plenty of other reasons, most of which boil down to a basic lack of trust.

    The Tories would gain perhaps half to a third of UKIP’s vote. Which would help a little bit, but not a great deal. But people who vote for protest parties will always find something to protest about.

  4. wonkotsane says:

    Funny how you pigeon hole UKIP as right wing. Recently a load of UKIP members posted their political compass results on the UKIP members’ forum and about a third came out left of centre. The myth that UKIP is a party of and for right wingers is just that: a myth. Ideologically the party is right of centre but only because personal freedom and responsibility and a small state are anthæma to the left. Left and right are entirely subjective and irrelevant, the libertarian/authoritarian axis is what matters to people. The demonisation of the term “right wing” is the let’s biggest ever coup, successfully associating the nationalist socialist BNP with the nominally right wing authoritarian Tories and libertarian UKIP has helped stem losses from Labour EU-sceptics but people are getting more savvy – even old socialists – and nothing will stop the rise in numbers of people leaving Labour for UKIP.

  5. Falco says:

    “Labour needs to define an intelligent pro-European politics. Here’s hoping.”

    Sometimes I burst out laughing for no reason at all.

  6. Neil Gregory says:

    “The complacent Euro-enthusiasts in all mainstream parties who have lamentably failed ever to sell the case for Europe…” Kevin Meagher
    “Labour needs to define an intelligent pro-European politics. Here’s hoping.” Denis MacShane

    We have been part of the European Union and its predecessors for nearly forty years and yet even the most enthusiastic EU-philes (the EU is not Europe) have not yet been able to ‘sell the case for the EU (again, not Europe)’ or to ‘define an intelligent pro-EU (yet again, not European) politics’. Why is that?

    The truth is that there is no case for our membership of the EU. We get nothing from it that we could not get from agreements negotiated outside it. There is no intelligent pro-EU politics because our membership of the EU is not intelligent. It is foolish.

    It is foolish for us to allow British subjects to be taken to taken to foreign countries under the European Arrest Warrant without any prima facie evidence that they have committed a crime. It is foolish for us to pay the EU billions of pounds a year for membership of the EU club and then receive back a fraction of what we have paid to be spent as the EU tells us. It is foolish for us to give up the freedom that we enjoyed under common law, with the protection of habeas corpus, the assumption that we are innocent until proven guilty and the right to be judged by a jury of our peers and to accept corpus juris, which is the antithesis of what we in Britain hold dear. It is foolish to allow an unelected bureaucracy in Brussels to tell us how we should live our lives.

    The EU was designed to create an elite who would decide every aspect of our lives. I’m sure that the likes of Denis MacShane would love to be part of the EU elite. When he leaves Parliament, there might be a sinecure waiting for him there. Who knows? Lots of other ex-MPs have managed to jump on the gravy train. Why shouldn’t he.

    The EU is a corrupt organisation which does not even use double entry book-keeping for its accounts. No wonder the auditors have refused to sign off its accounts for 16 years on a row. Do you really want to be part of this lunatic organisation? I don’t.

  7. william says:

    Edward Carlsson Browne, it is a workable deal, if that is what the electorate want,because the UK has a trade deficit with the rest of the EU,and as a consequence a referendum approved opt out of EU farming, fishing, foreign aid ,immigration policies would be a token price ‘paid’ by the full members for the UK being just a trading member.As Neil Gregory reminds us,the EU cannot even produce accounts that would pass muster on a recognised stock exchange.As Wonkotsane points out, UKIP voters are not all basket cases, and come from left and right.Our parlamentary democracy works because the opposition holds the government to account, the media expose the crooks(and the Supreme Court sees that they will be tried), and then you have Brussels.

  8. Ray Finch says:

    Nigel Farage and UKIP will increasingly become a problem for Labour as it moves further away from the concept of social mobility and “A fair go” and towards a client state programme.
    The concepts of freedom and self-motivation are not, and should not be, exclusively the domain of what used to be the Right. Labour was born in a spirit of equality of opportunity. The working class no longer see the LP as supportive of this ethos. The fact that Labour, following the TUC, has sold out the right of the people of the UK to govern themselves via the EU is symptomatic of this change of direction. Never forget that it was Labour who were once the anti-EEC/EC/EU party and the Tories were pro. There was a valid reason for that. If Labour can once again understand the reason why that was the case then perhaps it may once again become a truly popular (in the real sense of the word) party.

  9. woolfiesmiff says:

    Quite a good blog, but UKIP aren’t all “right wingers”. There are lots of left wingers and libertarians too.

    The Labour party will also lose more and more members from the working class who object to losing their jobs to incoming Eastern European workers as well as people who see that we are being asked to live in austere times yet pay the EU billions of pounds to provide…to provide er fish for the Spanish, wine for the French and no hope what so ever for PIGS

  10. NeilMc says:

    You on the left always suffer from sticking your fingers in your ears, whistling and trying to kid yourselves that the BNP are a right wing organisation. They are clearly a socialist party, as were the NAZI party (the Z stands for socialist in German).

    Whilst UKIP will soak up some disgruntled Tory votes, at least as many socialist votes are picked up by the BNP, and in fact UKIP, as many of your average working class voters are anti-EU, anti-immigration etc.

    If you were to see the world as it is and not as you would like to pretend it is, and stop trying to convince yourselves that anyone who isn’t to the left of Stalin is a crypto-facist, you would stand more chance of success.

  11. Overtired and Emotional says:

    I agree strongly with this blog. Farage is a good natured and skilfull debater. You would enjoy a pint with him in your pub (assuming it hasn’t been closed). He shows no sign, like some in UKIP, of being adversely affected by phases of the moon. UKIP did cost the Tories seats, not enough, perhaps, to have avoided the Coaltion, but enough to have made Tories feel better and Labour a lot worse.

  12. Peter Stewart says:

    Farage is the Tory leaders’ worst possible nightmare come true. He is the Freddy Kruger of British politics.

    Like some terrifying embodiment of all the fears that lurk deep within the calm blue Tory subconscious, Farage has cracked his way right out of their skulls in the darkness of the night, just at the time when they thought they could sleep peacefully in their beds.

    Behold! The daylight! Farage has come…just for them! There will be no peace for Tory leaders now. As each day passes and they continue to betray their country over Europe, Farage will be behind them, whispering his taunts.

    And each day that passes, more true Conservative voters will realize there is no point in voting Conservative when they might as well vote UKIP and get the real thing: Patriotic support for British workers.

  13. No william, it’s not workable. Because we’d have to withdraw from the EU then negotiate for an arrangement something like what Norway or Switzerland have.

    As we’re a net contributor to the EU, our withdrawal would not make the rest of the EU happy. If we wanted to establish a decent arrangement, we would need to make them happy. And the only person who’d be happy without us setting up a deal that would be worse for us than actually being in the EU is Nicolas Sarkozy. And he’d only be happy because he’d get to pretend he was Charles De Gaulle as he torpedoed the negotiations.

    You lay out a plausible case for why the other EU members would let us leave and then establish favourable trading relations with us without imposing punitive conditions, and you’ve got something that could be discussed.

    But if we act like we don’t care what Europe thinks and just withdraw unilaterally, that will not help our trade. And without either the EU or a suitable trade-based replacement, we can kiss goodbye to hundreds of thousands of jobs. The EU is expensive, but so is 2% extra on unemployment. If we’re getting rid of the one, we need to make sure we won’t acquire the other.

    This is not to say I’m a Europhile. I’m not. But I don’t see how we back out of three decades of treaties designed to stop people backing out without unleashing a lot of problems for the supply chains of a lot of businesses.

  14. william says:

    Edward CB,The fact is the UK is currently a net contributor to the EU of £6.5 billion pa. Nobody pretends that negotiating a new arrangement would be done in a morning( it took 2 years to join in 1972), but a referendum approved demand for new arrangements gives the whip hand to the side that is paying, not the recipients.In an age of austerity and in the run-up to the 2014 budget,voters are bound to focus, for instance, on the absurd payments made to landowners (check it out on trade balance with the EU is negative in any case, and we would not be threatening illegal tariffs. Because the UK is not Norway nor Switzerland, both tiny countries, but a significant trading economy,I do not think ‘backing out of three decades of treaties’is undoable.

  15. Neil Gregory says:

    If the EU, which buys a great deal less from us than we do from it, were to introduce sanctions against us, it would be acting extremely foolishly. We could return the favour and that would make life difficult for all the French farmers, the German car companies and all the other EU based producers who sell us vast amounts of stuff.

    Outside the EU, we would, of course, be able to trade freely with the rest of the world, which we cannot do now. We would be able to buy many goods much more cheaply than we can now because we wouldn’t be forced to buy them at artificially high prices from the EU. We could trade honourably with African countries rather than dumping our grain, sugar and other mountains on them at below cost price, thus forcing their farmers out of business and making them ever more reliant on Western aid. We could trade with all the Commonwealth countries.

    Europe is a pimple on the face of the earth. Get out your atlas and have a look at it. We can deal with the whole world if we want to. Why should we tie ourselves in to a miserable little cartel of declining countries? Let’s get out.

    There would certainly be problems created by getting out of the EU, but most of them would be dealt with quickly and they would be largely forgotten as soon as the country started to see the benefits of being free from the burdens of EU bureaucratic control and the £45 million to £50 million a day that we contribute towards it. I am very much looking forward to British Independence Day. We should make it a national holiday.

  16. william says:

    Neil Gregory,interesting thoughts.Have you seen what Herman van Rompuy said yesterday?It is hard to keep a straight face,apparently the nation state is dead,kaput in Europe.I assume he is going to abolish the Six Nations rugby competition by an edict from Brussels.God knows what is the future of the Eurovision song contest.We should all be quaking in our boots.I am awaiting a red card from him for our 2018 World Cup bid because the British press is too open…..

  17. Peter Stewart says:

    My dear Edward! Backing out of “three decades of (EU) treaties” is no more difficult than backing out of three decades of miserable wedlock: Not only is it possible … it happens all the time!

    But (of course) neither Britain nor those countries comprising the EU would sever trade links following an amicable UK withdrawal. To suggest such a thing is falling into the “hysterical camp”.

    The benefits of EU withdrawal would be enormous. Because the EU is a GLOBALIST construction, it means at the moment Britsh jobs are expendable. Therefore EU withdrawal would enable us to rebuild our labour base by undoing 37 years of EU globalism.

    Firstly we would regain control of our borders, thus preventing the mass immigration of cheap EU (and EU derived) labour. The benefit of this is MORE BRITISH JOBS.

    Secondly we would be free to impose tariffs on goods manufactured by cheap foreign (including EU) labour. This would enable us to remove the incentive which globalist entrepreneurs currently have for exchanging millions of British jobs for nothing more than cheap foreign goods from which they line their already overflowing pockets most handsomely. Again the benefit is MORE BRITISH JOBS.

    The bottom line on British jobs is that we MUST protect British jobs from the ravages of artificially cheap foreign labour. It is absurd to expect “fair competition” when the infrastructure of other countries is nowhere near as sophisticated as ours.

    I tell you this: Britain needs a decade of protectionism to reverse 37 years of EU-GLOBALIST vandalism. We must rebuild our industrial and agricultural and fisheries base. This can only be done by leaving the EU.

    What Labour SHOULD be doing (but isn’t) is reverting to its old anti-EU stance. If it did that it would win the next General Election by a landslide. What’s more, if Labour were to promise an IN-OUT REFERENDUM, 99% of UKIP voters would switch to Labour!

  18. william says:

    Peter Stewart,adopting a 1975 stance is a little bit extreme.But, regaining control of our borders is a plus,although I doubt , to put it mildly, we could start imposing tariffs(zero sum game ,in any case).The general point, disapproved by the leaders of ALL political parties, who adore attending summits, is that trade yes, everything else no,would strike a chord with voters, as well as being commercially sound in the long term.If Labour were to adopt a policy along those lines, which of course the tory eurosceptics could not disown,there would be the beginning of an immediate schism in the coalition.Your comment about our ‘agricultural and fisheries base’ is well made.We may lose the battles over the deficit and benefit cuts, but this is the Trojan horse inside the coalition.

  19. Peter Stewart says:

    William! Because Britain is in a life or death struggle for democracy (Government of the British people BY the British people NOT by Continentals) we require “extreme” action.

    We took extreme action (1939 to 1945) to preserve democracy. The Tories took extreme action in 1973 when they treasonously aided and abetted the annexation of Britain by a foreign power (the EEC).

    To my shame I voted to stay in the “EEC” in 1975, but who could have imagined that within a few decades, the EEC would have turned into a united states of Europe, with its own flag, currency (albeit now failing), parliament (of sorts), central bank, army, navy, police, supreme court, legislature, control of borders, etc. Had we known THAT back then, we would NEVER have voted to stay in.

    In EXTREME times only extreme measures will save us from an extreme backlash: Mass bloody revolution.

    I reiterate: We are in extreme times. The threat is from EU-GLOBALISTS, greedy, unscrupulous, unpatriotic entrepreneurs who do not care about anything except maximizing their personal profits, however many British jobs they destroy. These people pontificate around highly polished board room tables looking at large maps of the world through their dead pan shark eyes. They have long pointing sticks which they use to select the next “region” of cheap labour. That’s where British jobs have gone.

    When one is faced with such an extreme threat, which has manifested itself only since we were annexed by the EU, then the only option is an extreme counter action. Anything else is absurd. One way or the other that counter action will come, if not through the ballot box, then through violent revolution.

    The counter action which Britain must take is protectionism (for at least a decade). I agree with you that it would be extreme. But it is a necessary extreme. We need to rebuild our strength. It does nobody any good to build up the economies of 3rd world nations while destroying British jobs in the process. REBUILDING REAL BRITISH JOBS MUST BE THE PRIORITY OF ANY FUTURE LABOUR GOVERNMENT.

    Getting control of our borders means not only stopping the mass immigration of cheap EU labour which is destroying vast numbers of young British jobs, but also stopping the mass influx of artificially cheap foreign goods (also destroying vast numbers of British jobs).

    This means proportionate tariffs (perfectly workable) so that British manufactured goods can compete on fair terms with ARTIFICIALLY CHEAP FOREIGN GOODS and British workers can earn a fair wage and help maintain the sophisticated infrastructure we have come to enjoy. Unless we take extreme counter measures (EU withdrawal) then we will sink to the level of a 3rd world nation! It’s time to look after the interests of British workers.

    But I do agree it would be extreme. But then again, by heck, we’re British! We can do it!

  20. william says:

    Peter Stewart, I refer you to EU pledge. com, which seems interesting.The Euro will not exist in its present form within 3 years, and the 2014 EU budget may be the final nail in the coffin of Mr. Heath’s deception of the electorate.As the US is engaged upon devaluing the dollar by printing money in spades, events could travel very fast.

  21. william says:

    Peter Stewart, read the Spectator, page 18, how Chirac’s vanity ,the Galileo GPS system from the EU,the US one is fine,will probably cost the UK taxpayer in our contribution £3 billion.

  22. Kevin says:

    Please stop. My head hurts.

  23. Peter Stewart says:

    Kevin. You said it: “MY HEAD HURTS”. That’s how our unemployed feel as well. That’s how Britain feels because of the treason committed by our three main political parties since 1972/3 and the aiding and abetting of the European Communities Act and subsequent EU enabling acts.

    Now, thanks to such EU legislation (most of it ratified by Tory governments) our borders are wide open to cheap goods and cheap labour. Of course this does not hit those at the top of the pile anywhere near as badly as it clobbers those at the bottom (on whose fortunes we ALL rely)!

    Imagine feeling that any job you are capable of doing has been taken by cheap EU or other foreign labour. That’s what the EU has done to Britain. It has always been about CHEAP LABOUR. Oh boy! My head hurts too, and like you, I will continue to fight for British democracy until it is restored.

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